I’m going to say a bit today about the current status of ‘Bluebird’ and ‘Vanilla Reloads’ as a mileage-earning strategy, and offer some tips for folks that are already pursuing that strategy to do it even bigger while also offering something to the folks that haven’t been able to take advantage so far because they cannot find Vanilla Reload cards in their area that can be purchased with a credit card.

Buying Money with Money

Vanilla Reload cards — the holy grail, the ability to buy money on a credit card and use the money to pay off credit cards while earning points in the process — can be difficult to find in some cities, and folks run into all sorts of different policies when trying to purchase them.

I’ve written about these cards in the past. The simplest thing, once you’ve found them, is to use them to load an American Express Bluebird card.

Everyone should have one of those cards, if they don’t already, they do require a social security number when you sign up but don’t run your credit. They’ll send you a free card in the mail.

It’s a product for the ‘unbanked’ — it’s an online bank account of sorts, combined with a debit card, you can make purchases or use online billpay or take cash out of an ATM.

It’s also the mileage junkie’s best friend because it lets you buy money (Vanilla Reload, or load fundsat Walmart with a mileage-earning debit card) and liquidate the money back into a bank account, my preferred method is billpay since you can have checks sent to anyone you wish.

Finding Vanilla Reload Cards

Office Depot no longer sells Vanilla Reload cards, that’s a shame because you could earn 5 miles per dollar using cards that bonus office supply spend.

One workaround, for folks that have access to Vanilla Reloads, has been to buy American Express gift cards at Office Depot for the 5 miles per dollar and then use the gift card to purchase Vanilla Reload cards at another store. It’s more expensive but still worth the points.

The problem is that Vanilla Reloads aren’t everyone, and not every place that carries them will accept credit cards for their purchase. So it’s a scavenger hunt, some people give up frustrated.

Alex’s local CVS now only takes cash but these policies always seem to vary by store — sometimes stores only accept cash. Other times cash or debit. Some place a limit on how much they’ll sell you in a day.

Here’s a story that shows just how much ‘your mileage may vary’ these policies are. And each store has a different story for what their policy is, why it’s like that, and often they relay that the policy applies to all stores in their chain when you’ll find another store in the same city with a different policy.

Some stores believe these are popular amongst drug dealers. Well, we all need to get our fix somehow. In this case, we’re just mileage junkies.

But bottom-line is you need to visit your local CVS and Walgreens stores especially (although Dollar General works too if there’s one nearby), and then suss out what policy will be enforced.

It’s Worth the Time to Search

Vanilla Reloads — along with free transfers up to $1000 a month via Amazon Payments — remain one of the best ways to meet minimum spend for a credit card signup bonus, and it also lets you do things like pay bills which don’t normally accept credit cards (like rent or mortgage) and earn miles.

That’s because American Express Bluebird cards, where most folks put put Vanilla Reload funds onto, allow you to use those funds with their bill payment option where they send checks. So you can effectively buy money with a credit card, then use that money to pay off the credit card. Or use the money to pay rent or mortgage.

Going Beyond Bluebird’s $5000 a Month Limit with Vanilla Reloads

For folks that are the true ‘haves’ amongst mileage collectors — those that have found stashes of Vanilla Reloads they can purchase with a credit card — the greatest wish is to go beyond the $5000 limit per month that Bluebird imposes.

Those folks should consider the My Vanilla Debit card (“My Vanilla Personal Reloadable Prepaid Visa card”). And others can get into the game, too, even without Vanilla Reloads, which I’ll get to in a minute.

You can load $2500 per day onto the card, and can have a balance on it of up to $9999. There’s no billpay function, they charge for ATM withdrawals, and they charge 50 cents for each transactions. Ouch, right?

No. Because as Dan’s Deals wrote earlier in the month, you can get a cash advance at a bank for 50 cents regardless of the amount you’re requesting.

Some banks will only work with a permanent card if you want the cash advance. You can only get up to 3 permanent cards (per person, they register to your social security number, of course each member of your household can have three).

The permanent cards are what you want if you have access to Vanilla Reloads at a Walgreens or CVS near you. Because you then can go well beyond the $1000 per day / $5000 per calendar month limit that Bluebird imposes. And the cash advance fee of 50 cents is the same, whether you’re taking out $500 or $9500.

Reports are that Chase banks can be iffy for this — some don’t like to do it at all, some won’t do it on temporary cards. Lots of positive results with Bank of America. Really, though, it all comes down to whether you have access to a bank that is willing to participate.

Using This Strategy Without Vanilla Reloads

The best case scenario is to find a bank willing to take the temporary cards that you buy at CVS. There’s a $3.95 fee per $500 card, go to a bank and take out all but 50 cents (the cash advance fee).

And do that without limit, you no longer need to worry about finding Vanilla Reload cards at all.

Two Strategies for MyVanilla Debit Cards

That leaves us with two ways to maximize these cards:

  • If you can find Vanilla Reload cards that you can purchase with a credit card, max out by getting up to 3 registered MyVanilla Debit cards and you can load up to $2500 x 3 per day. And if you have a bank near you that will give you cash advances, you can take the full balance off each card for a 50 cent fee.
  • If you do not have Vanilla Reloads available near you, you want to find a bank that will allow you to cash out temporary cards. These are the ones you buy at CVS for $500 plus $3.95 fee and then cash them out en masse for a 50 cash advance fee apiece.

If you’re in the odd situation of being able to find Vanilla Reload cards but not MyVanilla Debit cards, you can order a starter card online.

(Some folks may even have one of these laying around, I’ve gotten emails from readers that accidently bought these cards instead of Vanilla reloads on their first attempt to fund a Bluebird card.)

A Word of Caution

If you do lots of these over and over with a single credit card or single credit card issuer they may not like it.

Some folks are afraid of American Express ‘financial reviews’ (they want to see lots of financial information like tax returns to make sure you’re able to pay back the credit they’re extending). This scares or enrages some, I’ve always viewed it as a cost of doing business with them.

And I’m always cautious with Citibank because they have a tendency to consider lots of things as cash advances (which don’t earn miles, but do accrue interest). When I’ve opened bank accounts where the initial funding can be done by credit card, I’ve generally done it with a Chase card rather than one from Citibank (even when the bank I was opening the account with was Citi!). Although I don’t see how these purchases would get flagged that way.

But go slow, mix up the cards you’re using for purchase.

This takes work.

You’re going to have to do some of your own investigations if you want to pursue this strategy.

  • You need to get out in your town, or wherever you’re traveling, and find Vanilla Reload cards and see what stores that have them are willing to take credit cards for their purchase. Be prepared to be refused, then you have to try another store.

  • You need to go into a bank, maybe several. Peronally I’d buy one MyVanilla Debit card and experiment. If I couldn’t ever find a bank willing to give me a $499.50 cash advance for my $500 card, I could always liquidate the card through Amazon payments or fund my Kiva account with it.

This isn’t a ‘sit at your computer terminal, or just hop over to Office Depot’ kind of thing.

It takes investigation and local sleuthing, but when you’ve found the stores that have what you need you’re able to churn out large quantities of miles every month at very little relative cost.

  1. Nun said,

    You wrote “Everyone should have one of those cards”

    My CVS and WalMart still do not sell Vanilla Reload cards which seems like the main reason for getting BlueBird. Yes I could funnel money through a debit card but don’t have a useful one yet.

  2. robertw said,

    I guess you cant fund Bluebird directly with those Amex gift cards from Office Depot then. My CVS sells the vanilla cards and others. Havent checked what office depot sells lately but they carry a decent amount of gift cards. At 5X points it pays for you to get your everyday spend items with gift cards from Office Depot anyway.

  3. Papa Smurf said,

    Isn’t the BlueBird limit 10k/month for deposits?

  4. Evan Rich said,

    can i send money to my bank account from the debit card?
    this is not like serve card or is it?

  5. Simon said,

    I’ve only been able to load $5k/mth on my (and the wife’s) Bluebird.

  6. bluto said,

    What’s your take on whether or not Chase will be closing account holders who charge up a lot in bonus spend while pursuing these strategies? I know they shut down some Chase Freedom perk abusers last year, and there’s now a thread on FT about Sapphire cardholders being shut because of sometimes innocuous point transfers, so I worry it is a matter of time before someone at Chase realizes that something is up with all of the bonus points they’re handing out for gift card purchases at office stores.

  7. redcat255 said,

    @Gary Is there a way to effectively use the MyVanilla Debit starter card as a Vanilla Reload and transfer funds to the permanent debit card?

    Would prefer not to run in and ask for a cash advance off a card with no name on it, since that looks a little shady to me, but it might be worth a try since BofA is right near me.

    Thanks Gary!

  8. SamSpade said,

    @redcat after you register the starter card online, they will send you a permanent one. Once you register the permanent one, the funds will automatically be transferred from the starter

  9. Evan Rich said,

    i am about to start using a serve account! can someome tell me how they process the transaction when you the load the serve account with a credit card? is is cash advance or sale? thank you and happy 2013

  10. Maxim said,

    I think the idea was to buy a number of starter cards and then transfer funds to a permanent card

  11. LAX said,

    The debit strategy is extremely risky. My accounts were shut down after 3 weeks and it’s not like I was doing high volume purchases. As always YMMV.

  12. Maxim said,

    Do you need to register MyVanilla starter card before you request cash advance?

  13. Dan said,

    What about us canadian unlucky guys… ?

  14. Tom / SitInFirst.com said,

    Ahh… someone finally reports the MVD approach beyond DD.

    Any major bank will give a cash advance on these cards. You don’t need an account at the bank. People having trouble at Chase are asking the wrong thing.

  15. beachfan said,

    Hi Gary;

    Thanks, another great post. Interesting about the cash withdrawal for 50 cents. That makes the cost per mile only the cost of the initial purchase if you do a big enough withdrawal.

    Do you know the cpm for the various options using a card without bonuses? Also if one used Amex HHonors (which has a 6x bonus on CVS). And then compare that to how you value them?

    Bottomline, is the cpm for HHonors points (with the bonus) a better or worse deal than the Bluebird option (when there is no bonuses, but the miles are valued higher than the HH points).

  16. Jeff said,


    Sad for us!

  17. Murtuza said,

    @Gary: “And do that without limit, you no longer need to worry about finding Vanilla Reload cards at all”

    Would it not raise any flags for myvanilla debit if you keep taking cash advance again and again?

  18. Zaephod said,

    I have not seen the MyVanilla cards in stores (Vanilla Reloads, yes, but no MyVanilla cards). What chains sell them? (I’m hoping someone other than CVS, since we don’t have any of those in my state). Thanks.

  19. ArizonaGuy said,

    Oh good. Now 25,000 more people know about this.

  20. AC said,

    It says 3 MVD per SSN..how can you get over this rule and keep buying the temp MVD card beyond 3 cards?

  21. Michael said,

    I would advise everyone now to get cash advances from temporary cards. You are asked for your identification and everything is put into a system.

    You really do not want to deal with a suspicious activity report (SAR). IT does not matter if you go to another bank. It will really cause a mess.

  22. Carol k said,

    I would like to know also what AC asked

  23. liz said,

    Will banks provide cash advances against visa or mc giftcards like the visa vanilla card in always see on the racks?

  24. JohnnieD said,

    “Well, we all need to get our fix somehow. In this case, we’re just mileage junkies.” LOL – I cant stop laughing!

  25. SJ said,


    was this your own little secret? haha

  26. John said,

    Are you going to give The Frequent Miler Credit for your post….it seems like you just copied one of his many posts???

  27. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    FWIW, this post contains a LOT of misinformation. You state:

    “If you do not have Vanilla Reloads available near you, you want to find a bank that will allow you to cash out temporary cards. These are the ones you buy at CVS for $500 plus $3.95 fee and then cash them out en masse for a 50 cash advance fee apiece.”

    This is totally and blatantly false. It will NOT work. This is because the “unregistered” temporary cards can NOT be cash advanced. I know this because I have tried it myself (in different permutations and at very cooperative banks), have you? Where did anyone even say that this works? Now, you can cash advance a temporary card once its registered, however, you would only be able to do this 3 times per person/SSN since you can’t register more than 3 cards in your name, and would certainly be able to “cash out en masse” like you claim.

    If this post is “retaliation” for my comment the other day, I think that is fairly hilarious. If you want to post about this, then no one can stop you as its your blog, but I think at a minimum I’d consider verifying something before posting it like its gospel, or at least update the post to correct the misinformation…

    FWIW, FM always personally tests things before posting them, and doesn’t just make stuff up and post it (even MMS, the lowest standard among blogs IMHO), usually tests something himself before posting about it….

    So, your claim that someone can “enter the game w/o VR’s” is mostly false. I’m not even going to get into some of the other inaccuracies in this post, I’ll let you and/or your readers discover them for yourselves, I’d say about 10% of what was posted was actually accurate though without getting into more details.

    I don’t really think doing this to rack up miles at 1 cpm is worth most people’s time either when factoring in gas costs, time standing in line, etc., given the low transaction limits, or even “using this to meet spending requirements”. The tactic of “using a GC” to buy a VR takes even more time, gas, and money, and has such an extremely remote chance of working it is worth almost no one’s time IMHO….

    There are much more time and cost effective ways to spend on a CC IMHO. That won’t get posted about here though, since exposing 25k viewers to such tactics at once would kill most of them due to overexposure. Like someone mentioned the other day, most FT threads take weeks and/or months to get 25k page views. I wouldn’t post about it at FT either though as its a public site anyway though…

  28. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    This ought to be completely removed from the post as well, as it is impossible IME:

    “The best case scenario is to find a bank willing to take the temporary cards that you buy at CVS. There’s a $3.95 fee per $500 card, go to a bank and take out all but 50 cents (the cash advance fee).

    And do that without limit, you no longer need to worry about finding Vanilla Reload cards at all.”

    One more piece of blatantly false info in this post:

    “(although Dollar General works too if there’s one nearby)”

    FALSE, Dollar General (system wide) does NOT allow CC’s to be used for VR’s, system blocked by the register, so even if the cashier somehow attempts it, the register will BLOCK it IME. I’ve even tested this at a DG in Florida (in addition to elsewhere).

    This is common knowledge and AFAIK no one has claimed otherwise. If you actually read “heelsfirsts” post completely, you would know that she did NOT actually succeed in purchasing a VR or loading a prepaid at a DG, the reason the transaction did not go through is that the register blocks use of a CC, nothing to do with whether or not the cashier is willing to try it….

  29. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    Lastly, you linked to Dans Deals post on cash advancing temporary MVD cards. Once again, if you had actually read that post, you would know that he did NOT CA an unregistered card, but only did so AFTER he registered it. So, w/o VR’s, that strategy will be limited to 3 cards lifetime per person, not exactly “unlimited” as this post claims….

  30. DaninSTL said,

    I hate to be negative but if you abuse this you will ruin it for everyone plus take a chance on shutting down your accounts, points, miles, etc. It’s like speeding down the highway. It’s 55 so you are getting by at 65 without a ticket but if you push it to 90 it’s just a matter of time.

  31. bf said,

    Be aware that some banks charge a fee for a “cash advance” from a credit or debit card not issued by that bank. One of my banks gave the $500 cash advance for no fee (except for MVD’s separately charged fee of 50 cents), but the other bank had a $5 fee for the same cash advance. YMMV.

  32. Jack said,

    So if the max load per card is $9999 per month and you can get three cards then it looks like a person could push about 30k a month of spend through using this method. Load up 5k, go to a bank and withdraw and keep repeating with all three cards. Will be able to meet a lot of minimum spend with that!

  33. Gary said,

    @Have you even verified… Yes I have verified, yes this works, Dans Deals’ post was predominantly about registered cards but I’m explaining beyond his post that many banks will do cash advances on unregistered cards. Sign the back of the card before going in :)

    I did correct the Dollar General throwaway comment that I had made, having misread the Heels First experience on that.

    And yes i know who you are but i am posting you comments anyway this time (you are the only person I’ve ever chosen to more or less ban from commenting here). You are posting quite incorrectly, you absolutely can cash advance unregistered cards.

  34. Gary said,

    @John – in this case I gave Dans Deals primary credit, I consulted his post and the comments extensively. I like the Frequent Miler, I read the Frequent Miler, and I give him credit for a lot of things in this space. But I didn’t learn this from him, and I am not sure he had a blog post that was on point (though he may well have, I just didn’t see it or consult it). Clearly not claiming all thought here is mine originally, as you’ll see in the post I link to a few other blogs.

  35. Gary said,

    @Michael I really don’t see the problem you are fearful of

  36. Gary said,

    @AC – well there are some folks that seem to have ways of registering more than 3 cards, but as I explain in my post some banks will cash advance unregistered cards in which case there’s effectively no limit

  37. Gary said,

    @Zaephod – if you have access to Vanilla Reloads, you can jsut order a MyVanilla online you don’t need to buy one in store — just buy the vanilla reloads, load onto myvanilla, and cash advance
    @Murtuza – not if you’re doing it on unregistered cards, what flags? who is doing it? :)

  38. RJ Brown said,

    So $3.95 to load a maximum of $500. So your per M cost of miles is now $7.90. Then you have to find a way to use it. “IF” the bank would accept it and deposit it on a credit card payment of 50 cents the My Vanilla site still posts a transaction ATM limit of $400 daily. So the practical value of this approach appears limited at best.

  39. Gary said,

    @Dan my advice for Canadians is sadly limited. Nice country, though! A bit cold for my tastes. :)

  40. Gary said,

    @bluto – I know of Chase shutting down folks scripting very large numbers of 1 cent online transactions. And Sapphire Preferred folks transferring points to folks ineligible to receive them. I haven’t heard of verified cases where Chase has shut anyone down for taking advantage of category bonuses.
    @Simon – that’s the maximum you can load in Vanilla Reloads onto Bluebird in a calendar month, correct.

  41. Gary said,

    @RJ Brown if you are earning 5 points per dollar on the purchases . . .

  42. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    Gary, thanks for the followup. The only possible explanation I can come up with is that my vanilla and/or Bancorp (card issuer) recently started allowing unregistered (which is done online), temporary/nameless cards to be cash advanced…

    Within the last month, I’ve tried at least half a dozen banks. At all locations, the tellers were more than willing to process the transaction with or without the back being signed on the nameless cards but did not get an approval when running the transaction through, it was declined. Once the card was registered with online access though, the nameless card could then be cash advanced at the same bank….

    So, IME you CAN definitely cash advance the nameless/temporary cards (no need to wait for the permanent/personalized card in the mail) which are “unregistered” in a way since they have no name, but only after registering them online first, and since you can only register 3 per SSN online, that seems to be the limiting factor…

    Given your experience otherwise though, I may need to try additional banks or try again as they could have updated their policy like I mentioned above. FWIW, I tried BOA, Chase, PNC, and several local banks…

  43. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    I also just reread the comments at dans deals and unless I’m missing something, no one has reported being able to cash advance a “nameless”/temporary card there without first registering it online (still no need to wait for the permanent card though). Interested to hear if anyone else has done this at this point though since you’ve been able to do this…

  44. tim said,

    Gary – I’m missing something here. You get 5x/miles from Office Depot for buying the initial three Vanilla Debit cards, but then you’re refilling them at 1x/mile with Vanilla Reloads from CVS – if you’re lucky to find them with a credit card? This isn’t worth the effort.

  45. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    Bluto, it is not common, but yes it has happened. I know of at least 3 people including myself who have been closed down (all accounts) by Chase for “spending too much at OD/OM/Staples”.

    I was closed down in October (5 accounts total) after purchasing XXk in VR’s at OD over a period of a few months. This accounted for 50% or so of the transactions by volume on my Ink Bold card. I know this is specifically why I was closed down because I escalated the matter to the Chase executive offices and received multiple written replies from their office stating as such.

    If you do not believe this Gary (or anyone else), I will be more than happy to email you scans of the letters I received from the Chase executive offices in November regarding the closures after I contacted them.

    That being said, I think limiting and spacing OD activity out more and having it be a low percentage of your overall spend on a given Ink account will reduce the risk, but no way to eliminate it entirely IMHO…

  46. Nancy said,

    Are we willing to share the locations that sell Vanilla Reloads with a credit card? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part. I purchased two cards in one visit in early December. When I returned this week, I was told that I had to pay with cash. I tried two other stores in the area and both require cash as well. :(

  47. Joshua Pickles said,

    Sounds like marathon man posting here! Take his information with a grain of salt.

  48. Gary said,

    @tim actually I was talking about buying the debit cards if you can find a bank that will do cash advances off of unregistered ones

  49. Ike said,

    I wish anyone doing this luck but it seems a little risky for me.


  50. JettyBoy said,

    Gary, can you please take up the above commenter’s offer to email you the letters he received from Chase, so we can put that urban legend to rest once and for all?

  51. Gary said,

    @JettyBoy he is a troll who certainly has my email address. He has also lied repeatedly in the comments here.

  52. Do no Harm said,

    All the CVS’s around me in Northern Virginia are now cash only.

  53. Getting spending up without the Mint - Page 307 - FlyerTalk Forums said,

    […] here is doing this already. I'd like to know more if anyone has any insight to share. PMs welcome. http://boardingarea.com/viewfr…eload-cards-2/ __________________ DL Upgrades: 2012: PM (19/21); 2011: FO (6/11); GM (8/11); PM […]

  54. No, I will not be trawling banks for $9,998.50 cash advances - Rapid Travel Chai said,

    […] read about this method to earn miles on View from the Wing, which drew on a post from the realm of those who push the outer limits, […]

  55. No, I will not be trawling banks for $9,998.50 cash advances - Rapid Travel Chai said,

    […] read about this method to earn miles on View from the Wing, which drew on a post from the realm of those who push the outer limits, […]

  56. Curtis said,

    Yep, would love to see these “emails” from Chase…

  57. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    Curtis, they are NOT “emails” but physical letters from the Chase executive offices in Illinois…

    My offer to email scans of the letters to Gary would be under the condition that they are not publically posted, as from the personalized content of them, anyone reading the blog from Chase would be able to make the connection, as they are not form letters, and were individually written by certain people at Chase who signed them. If Gary agrees not to post them, I have no problem emailing him scans though as I think he is trustworthy. Without confirmation that they will not be posted though, not going to email them…

  58. Tri said,

    Just black out/remove your personal info in those letters.

  59. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    Tri, right, the problem is that the content of the letter, i.e. the specific wording of the sentences is personalized and would still be easy for anyone from Chase to identify if reading the blog, even with name/address/acct number/etc. blacked out. And FTG has previously posted that Chase admitted to him that they read all the blogs daily:


  60. Curtis said,

    Agree with Tri. Black out anything you want in scan. At a min send to Gary though.

  61. Gary said,

    @Have you seen… I would be happy to summarize the letters you scan and send to me, I will not post the letters themselves.

  62. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    Gary, thanks for confirming, I will get them scanned and emailed to you by tonight then.

  63. Jose A said,

    I walked into my local Chase branch and asked for a $500 cash advance with my temporary (no name) MyVanilla Debit card. Got it, no issues.

    Maybe I got lucky, but it can be done.

  64. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    Jose, but had you registered it online first before cash advancing it or no? That is they key difference being discussed here. I think everyone agrees that the nameless cards can be cash advanced AFTER being registered online (no need for the permanent card)…

  65. guessing said,

    Jose, $500 you say? Hmmm, guess there’s a priority access with no fee option?

  66. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    Ok, just emailed scans of some of the Chase account closure letters to you Gary. Please confirm that you received them ok when you get a chance.


  67. Gary said,

    @Have you even… did email scans of correspondence. They indicate that his accounts were closed for violating the rules of the program, but the letters do not detail what activities were undertaken that led to the closure.

    So there’s nothing new in the letters as far as I can tell. We’ve seen account closures for transferring points from Chase personal cards to people outside the household of the cardmember. And we’ve seen account closures for setting up autoscripts to make large numbers of 1 cent purchases using Chase Freedom cards that were earning a minimum of 12 points per transaction through the Chase Exclusives program.

    These letters do not detail exactly what behavior triggered the closures in this case.

  68. Mow said,

    Do you need a pin for cash advances?? I can’t seem to find a pin on my vanilla debit card which I applied months ago.

  69. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    Appreciate the followup Gary. My accounts were not closed for points transfers as those people received form letters which some people posted, my letters have nothing to do with that. You are correct, the letters do not list “OD” by name in them. However, in the 3rd letter in the 2nd paragraph (personal letter from an assistant VP at Chase), it states “based on a thorough review of your transactions, we believe the account and rewards program were not being used in accordance with rewards program rules and regulations.” That is pretty strong statement that indicates they did not like my transaction activity. If I were to email you my Ink statements, it would show approx. 75% of the transactions (by volume) were done at OD, so interpret as you wish there.

    Further, on in the 3rd letter (2nd to last paragraph) it explicitly states at one point, “if there is any fraud or ABUSE related to the ACCRUAL of points. So, they clearly stated they did not like my transaction activity after thoroughly reviewing it and stated they believe there was “abuse related to the accrual of points”…

    I apologize if I made it sound as if OD was mentioned by name, but the letters explicit wording quoted above, combined with the activity on my account made it quite clear to me why they were closed, in addition to personal telephone conversations (which the letters repeatedly reference) with AVP’s and VP’s in the Chase executive office, who were not easy to get a hold of, and the last VP who did mention verbally (OD transactions on account #XXXXX at one point during one call).

    So, I guess the bottom line is its clear the accounts were not closed for points transfers (those people all got form letters referencing that), and I have no idea how to script thousands of one cent charges, nor did I have the checking account required for that. Short of sending you my Ink statement, I’m not sure what else could be done to convinvvce you or anyone else. So, I guess interpret it as you wish, but I thought the personal nature and individual wording of the letters along with the quoted wording was pretty strong evidence.

    In any event, thanks again for allowing me to email you the letters and summarizing them for readers….

  70. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    “These letters do not detail exactly what behavior triggered the closures in this case.”

    I think that is a fair statement. Only thing they explicitly listed was that they didn’t like my transactions after thoroughly reviewing them and that there was “abuse related to the ACCRUAL of points”. Of course its possible I could have been using another abusive way to accrue points, but given this was on an Ink card, the easiest way to accrue points as everyone knows is at OD, OM, etc. As usual, at the end of the day I think everyone has to decide for themselves what level of activity and/or risk if any they are comfortable taking. Thanks again.

  71. Tri said,

    @70 Thank you for sharing the info. I agree with you on this part “As usual, at the end of the day I think everyone has to decide for themselves what level of activity and/or risk if any they are comfortable taking.”

  72. Gary said,

    @Have you seen… I guess my reaction was, I’m not disbelieving you, but I could read those same letters and think you were one of the folks who was running scripts to make one cent purchases with a Chase Freedom card, earning 12 points per purchase.

  73. 77w said,

    I maxed out my 50k office supply bonus category by October last year and my ink bold account is still alive and well. I haven’t looked to see if there is a ratio of office spend to regular spend but I’m sure the office spend is a high percentage.

  74. Amit said,

    the “holy grail” part of this is being able to cash advance without registering MVD online. i tried at 2 banks today and both transactions were declined. i’ll have to register first.

    looks like i’ll be limited to the availability of vanilla reloads which are in short supply at the 8 or so CVS locations I frequent. Only 2 carry them and they are often out of stock.

  75. Gary said,

    @Amit – which banks did you try and what region?

  76. Amit said,

    Western PA / Ohio: FNB & PNC

  77. Amit said,

    also – it didn’t seem like it was the bank’s call. teller swiped as expected, the receipt was printed from the device and it came up “declined”

  78. Peter said,

    I went to FIVE banks today in DC and each ran the unregistered MVD and each came back declined. I have $499.50 on the card and asked for $499 at the banks. Are we sure the fee is only $.50?

  79. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    @ Amit – agreed that is the key element for sure….

    @77w – Thanks, sounds like your activity was more spaced out than mine (10 months verses just a few in my case). Unfortunately, like FM says, no way to know what level of activity is “safe”, and no idea how my account was originally flagged (maybe a fraud alert?) as Chase would never release that info, but once it was reviewed, it was clear they didn’t like the activity….

  80. Dan said,

    @have you ever… When you say your OD purchases were 50-75% of total by volume does that mean dollar amount or number of transactions?

  81. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    @Dan – I meant by total dollar amount of spend, sorry for any confusion…

  82. Jose A said,

    I should have read more carefully before commenting. The temp MyVanilla card was registered before I got my cash advance.

  83. RJ Brown said,

    WORST ADVICE EVER……….I am certain Gary has a financial interest tied to Vanilla………..only way to promote this worthless card……….

  84. Gary said,

    @RJ Brown I have no financial interest in Vanilla. It’s just a technique for earning lots of miles.

  85. StevenTravel said,

    Thanks for the advice, always good to have another trick for minimum spends.

  86. Mike said,

    Tried two different banks (not just branches) and NO go. They both got error messages regarding authorization. NW Ohio

  87. Amit said,

    Since I’m not able to cash advance unregistered MVDs or find vanilla reloads, i was wondering if there are any other cards at CVS that are cash advanceable? Anyone try the amex prepaid or green dot cards that are abundant at CVS?

  88. Robert said,

    I found something. I have loaded $500 into MVD in CVS. Not registered. First try cash advanced 499.50. no go. Second try, 499, no go. Thrid try 498.5, no go. Last try, 200, it went through! Does that means there is certain limit on MVD temp card that you can cash advance?

  89. Mike said,

    Perhaps to piggyback Robert, my last failed attempt was at $300. Did not try any lower.
    Robert, was there a 50 cent charge for the $200?

  90. Simon said,

    Data point.

    CVS has stopped allowing me to purchase Vanilla Reload cards using my Hilton Honors Surpass AMEX; I can use any other credit card, but anytime I attempt to pay with my HH AMEX, there is a message – something like “another form of payment required”.

    I called AMEX today, and everything on their end is fine. So, I’ll have to take CVS to task tomorrow.

    Anyone else had an issue with hitting a limit/threshold at CVS using a specific credit card?

  91. Simon said,

    Should have added to post #90 – until I was “cut off”, I had made 8 x $1,007.90 (2 Vanilla Reloads at $500 a piece + fees) between 12/18 & 1/2.

    Tomorrow I will try my wife’s HH Surpass AMEX (her card is linked to my account), see what happens, and report back.

  92. Jason said,

    @Simon – The “Another form of payment required” message at CVS indicates that the card was declined. As far as I know, the ability to use credit cards for VRs at CVS is alive and well.

  93. Simon said,

    @Jason – the card was not decline my AMEX; they had no record of the attempted transactions when I called them.

  94. Simon said,

    “not declined by AMEX” I meant to type…

  95. Sasha said,

    What are the RISKS in doing this?

    The way I see it…
    (A) The credit card companies profit tremendously because you are spending a ridiculous amount on your cards. They will definitely be on alert for fraud and will occasionally decline purchases, but this is a minor headache at worst.

    (B) The merchant stops carrying the cards. That means end of the game for sure, but its not a “loss” scenario

    (C) Getting cash advances becomes difficult. This is definitely the worst case because then you are stuck with useless illiquid MyVanilla Debit Cards, but all it really means is that you have to pay a slight premium to liquidate your funds

    So…. unless I’m mistaken, as long as you can afford the loss of liquidity and time commitment, theres no reason not to do this

  96. Tranx said,

    @Have you ever…

    Although I’m sure there are many factors that go into Chase’s determination of when to investigate an Ink holder’s spending, I’m pretty confident that one factor is sheer $$$. That is, I’m guessing that someone who is only moving a small amount of $ thru Inks @ OD > VRs is much less likely to get scrutinized compared to someone who is moving massive $ through the same channel, even if their % spent is similar.

    To make your story more useful, can you give us a ballpark on how much $$ you moved thru Inks @ OD? Without knowing something about the scale, your story is interesting but not very useful to most of us.

    Thanks for sharing.

  97. Dizzle said,

    I too would like to know. Thank you!

  98. dangus00 said,

    I just called a ton of walgreens, walmarts, and 7-eleven’s in my area (97214, Portland) and IF they still have VRs, they only accept cash…some debit. One Walgreens rep. said that Walgreens was recalling VR’s this month to comply with new banking regulations.

  99. Have you even verified any of this before posting it? said,

    @Sashe, partially correct, but wrt A you are definitely incorrect for cards that have high category bonuses, such as 5x on the Ink cards at office supply stores. Chase is taking a huge loss on the 5x category as they do not get more than 2% back in interchange fees from large, national bigbox retailers and usually only get 1.7%-1.9% in interchange fees from merchants like Staples, etc., so they are losing out on $XXX and $XXXX size transactions. Just read the last few dozen pages (starting in 1/12 or 2/12) of this FW thread where hundreds of users were shut down after large dollar amounts of purchases on aarp CC’s which paid 5% on any purchases with no limit for 6 months:


    @Tranx @Dizzle – Agreed. FWIW, I put a little under $40k in OD spend on my Ink card before it was shutdown along with my 4 personal CC’s at the same time. I completely agree that anyone just purchasing $XXX or some other low amount per month at OD/OM/Staples is highly unlikely to be shutdown, especially if that is not the only spend on the account….

    @Dangus00 – Why would you call WG inquiring about forms of payment accepted? This is like calling an airline wrt a mistake fare IMHO, horrible idea. The only way you’re going to find out if a particular store allows CC purchases is by testing it yourself in person as it will be different at most stores and there is no rhyme or reason to which locations will allow it, and just because someone on the phone says it isn’t allowed either, doesn’t mean that it might not actually work at the store either…

  100. Different Ways to Create Spending at Little Cost to Earn Miles and Signup Bonuses - View from the Wing said,

    […] New Year’s Day I wrote about MyVanilla Debit Cards and the ability to walk into a bank and take a ‘cash advance’ back off the card. The […]

  101. Vaidy said,

    @ Gary,

    You have mentioned this on your blog a few times – “When I’ve opened bank accounts where the initial funding can be done by credit card, I’ve generally done it with a Chase card rather than one from Citibank (even when the bank I was opening the account with was Citi!)”

    I just want to check if this option is still available ? Am asking this as I’ve also read reports about Chase marking such transactions as ‘cash advances’ & not as ‘purchases’… thanks in advance !

  102. Gary said,

    @Vaidy Chase hasn’t flagged such transactions as cash advances in my experience, do you have a link you can point me to?

  103. Ken said,

    Who sells the MyVanillaDebit cards?

  104. ddi said,

    Seems like the only way to make this worthwhile for everyday spending (not just meeting signup requirements) is to get at least 2-3x, hopefully 5x points. Obviously Ink comes to mind.

    The problem is this requires so many steps and all the breaks have to go your way. You have to get an OD or Staples or whatever that will sell you an AMEX or Visa GC on your Ink. Then you have to find a CVS that will take CC (that AMEX/Visa GC) for VR. Then you load your VR to your MVD. Then you have to find a bank that will cash advance your temporary, unnamed MVD.

    So 3 errands at friendly stores/banks. It’s not worth it to just go CVS(VR)->MVD->Bank as there is no big multiplier at CVS…

  105. Al said,

    What’s wrong with buying 1000 Starpoints or UR pts for $7.90?

  106. Alex said,

    @Al thats what Im doing.. buying 1008 UR / Amex / SPG points for $7.80. This way I figure its nearly impossible to get shut down. If you are repeatedly doing this with 5X or 6X then the card companies are bound to hate you.. but with only 1X, the card companies are still profiting off you so have no incentive to shut you down

  107. Alex said,

    Of course, someone please let me know if Im wrong ;)

  108. Al said,

    @Alex, 6x (AmEx Hilton) is really only 2x since basic spending earns 3 HH per $.

  109. StevenTravel said,

    Any limits that anyone has found with Hilton Surpass and Drug Store Purchases?

  110. junkyjunkjunk said,

    Why did you cross out Dollar General?

  111. junkyjunkjunk said,

    Per the website it states: – What are the ATM withdrawal and load limits on the MyVanilla Card?
    You can load a maximum of $500.00 per day onto your Card, and thethere is a $2,500.00 total maximum deposit limit per day from all deposit sources (loads and ACH direct deposits). The daily ATM withdrawal limit is $400.00. Please review the online Cardholder Agreement for the most up-to-date information about your MyVanilla Card. This is different then the 2,500 per day you states?

  112. junkyjunkjunk said,

    I dont understand your two strategies in your blog. I understand the first one but not the second one. the only way this makes any sense is if you can purchase the my vanilla debit card pre loaded with the 500 dollars with a rewards credit card. IF the store don’t have vanilla reloads or wont sell them using a credit card but do have the pre filled 500 dollars debit card and will sell them using a credit card it makes sense. but if the store wont sell the reloads with a credit card surely they wouldn’t sell the preloaded my vanilla debit cards with a credit card either. am i missing something?.

  113. CHRIS said,

    i am seeing at myvanilla site that *Some retailers have the ability to apply your funds directly at the register.

    has anyone experience with this?

    and, can someone tell me how to combine 3 my vanilla debit cards into 1?

  114. Some My Vanilla Debit Accounts Being Put on Hold said,

    […] which are much higher limits than Bluebird has (you can read more on this card from Gary Leff at View from the Wing). The MVD card is/was as good as […]

  115. Timo said,

    Regarding the HHonors Surpass AMEX card being declined at CVS, I have had the same thing happen. AMEX said it wasn’t them.

    One time when it was declined, the clerk said “Let me swipe it on the register… sometimes the (customer remote swipe thingy) doesn’t work.” So she swiped it at the register, and it worked. Last couple times I used it I asked the clerk to swipe it, and both times it worked fine.

  116. gene said,

    am i the only 1 whos unable to transfer $ from vanilla to bluebird??? plz advise. thanks

  117. JetsetterFL said,

    OK – So, which cards provide 5x or 6x for drugstore purchases? Are these Vanilla no longer available at Staples or OfficeDepot? I can then use my Ink card…

  118. Earning Miles with Reloadable Giftcards - La Viajera Morena said,

    […] Buying Money for Money with Miles [View from the Wing] – January 2013 […]

  119. How I Earn Miles for Most of My Spending With Merchants Who Don't Accept Credit Cards - View from the Wing - View from the Wing said,

    […] wrote about this a year ago. But not every bank is helpful with […]

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