How to Make Money While Loading Money onto Bluebird

Over the weekend I explained How to Use Bluebird in a Post-Vanilla World.

It was a simple explanation of what card to buy, and how to put the funds onto your Bluebird, and then get the funds back into your bank account. No Vanilla Reloads required.

It’s $1 more expensive than the Vanilla Reload approach was.

But it requires more work since you need to go to Walmart to load the funds onto Bluebird, and there’s a $1000 per day limit so you have to go to Walmart each day you want to do it.. instead of sitting on your couch at home or desk at work.

Lots of commenters — correctly — pointed out that the economics aren’t ideal for most (other than for Grant, at least).

So here’s how you can do it and cover your costs or even make money in the process.

To review, you can load money onto Bluebird by:

  1. Going to CVS and buying a $500 OneVanilla Visa with a credit card for $4.95.
  2. Going to Walmart and using that Visa to load Bluebird. The card is easy because the PIN number for a debit transaction is automatically whatever 4 digit combination you use first.

The complication is the trip to CVS and then the trip to Walmart. And that some Walmart locations will push back against using a card that does not show your name pre-embossed.

You can add a step and make money in the process.

Buy American Express gift cards online going through a cash back shopping portal. You can often earn 1% (covering the cost of the OneVanilla Visa) or even 2% (making $5 so presumably covering your gas going to Walmart and back).

Over time most readers have had the best luck with rebates on American Express gift cards through BigCrumbs. Sometimes the best deals can be had with Top Cash Back. In either case with coupon codes waiving purchase fees and sometimes free shipping.

Frequent Miler’s QuickDeals today listed current shopping portal payouts and discount codes for these cards.

Here are the current best rates:

  • Barclaycard RewardsBoost 4X (Requires Arrival card)
  • Alaska MileagePlanShopping 3X
  • Delta SkyMiles Shopping 3X
  • TopCashBack 3% Cash Back

    And, here are two codes to try for removing gift card fees other than shipping costs:

  • FPADMIN (through April 29th)
  • SYNCGIFT
  • This adds a step. And your CVS needs to allow you to pay for a prepaid product with an Amex gift card, not just with a credit card.

    As a result, more folks are likely ruled out by the vagaries of individual locations, needing both a CVS that will take gift cards and a Walmart that will as well.

    For me, time is the binding constraint. With Walmart 30 minutes away, an hour of my time kills the value proposition.


    About Gary Leff

    Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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    Comments

    1. CVS asks for a driver’s license and it much match the name on the credit card. Most CVS’ will not let you buy a gift with a gift card. Buying GC anywhere will eat at least 1%, if not 1.5%, and that’s if they let you buy a gc with a gc.

    2. Sigh, while this process has been known for a while with just a little leg work, I fear that each avenue for MS is shut-down more and more people start use the same methods accelerating the pace of shutting down the remaining “easy” avenues of MS without stepping over grey lines. WM looks to be getting shut-down little be little (not sure if it is a corporate policy change, regional, individual stores – does anyone know if regional WM store directors meet to talk shop?), soon the OneVanilla from CVS will go away as people begin to slam this. Oh well fun while it lasts.

    3. Yeah my Walmart gives me a hard time loading bluebird with gc. I think it’s something that more and more stores are doing. Lot of other people are reporting this as more and more bloggers are pushing the bluebird

    4. I think that it is a lot of work but was willing to do it for a couple of months to meet the spend on the 10K AA Exec card. Have not had any trouble with it until today (using Visa gift cards from local grocery to which I would add a pin). Got shot down at Walmart today doing the same thing I had for the last two months. I have to go through a cashier (no automated kiosk, but she was pointed out that I was using a gift card which was not allowed. Did not matter that it showed debit. So do not know if WM has changed their rules or this is a local issue. Tried with another cashier before I left with the same result. The gift card worked fine later in the to purchase groceries.

    5. CVS isn’t the only place you can buy VGC’s.

      For this process to work you need to be going to these places already or they need to be NEARBY. Anything that makes this a significant trip is going to wipe out the economics. As others have said, the only place this still makes sense is for meeting minimum spend probably.

      @Charlotte, nope WM hasn’t changed anything. Did my own cashout of 2 x $500 VGCs this AM. No issue. As always, individual cashiers either reject you or they don’t. WM version of HUCB applies here.

    6. @Gary – In the earlier post, there was a reference to “Union Station” in the comments. Any thoughts on that?

    7. Any idea how long it takes Arrival miles to post to your account after purchasing an Amex GC from their Rewards Boost mall? I bought one two weeks ago and so far nothing. I get nervous whenever it takes a long time for these things to process.

    8. @Steve It can take up to (or even over) a month. I know – it’s nerve wracking having to wait that long, but they do tend to post right around the 4-week mark.

    9. @Steve/@Harlan – Did this last month and it took 3 weeks to post. It is certainly nerve wracking – i find myself checking the Barclay’s portal every day, willing those miles to post.

    10. There must be something I am missing with all this Bluebird business?
      If you have an airline card that earns 1 mile per $1 spend..,and you need 25,000 miles for an award ticket that is 50 Vanilla cards at $500 each with $250 in fees.
      How exactly is that worth the time or money?

    11. Steve,

      In my case (and I’m sure there are many different examples), I want to visit some of the more remote parts of Canada- the Northwest Territories, the Yukon, etc. Well, getting there from Colorado Springs is going to cost around/about $1,200-$1,500 if I want to fly out from COS. So, a $250.00 expenditure is going to net me a ticket (not counting taxes) that would otherwise cost me $1,200-$1,500. I think that’s a deal you can’t beat with a stick. Even if you only redeem the 25K miles for a ticket that would have otherwise cost you $750, that’s still hard to beat.

      And since I can use my Bluebird checks to pay my employees, and (also) use the gift cards to pay my taxes (Property Taxes, W-2 taxes for my employees, my own 1040 taxes) and use Bluebird payments to pay other bills….it just makes near-perfect sense.

    12. So sad my days are over after the reload cards were stopped my CVS they made all sales cash in Hawaii

    13. @thepointsguy wrote something about buying AMEX Gift Card. The biggest problem is if all the bank treat it as a merchant sale instead of cash advance. Some readers reflected that Citi and Chase didn’t treat it as a sale sometimes. So YMMV in this way.

    14. Went thru top cash back to get amex GCs. Purchased GCs on 3/15. Have YET to receive my 3% cash back. Purchased 9K in GCs. Due $270. CC at TCB says “Waiting for merchant”.
      How long should it take? Had problems with TCB before not paying.

    15. @steve: In some cases the fees can be eliminated or off-set as described above, or VR/prepaid debit cards can be purchased somewhere with a card that gives a category bonus for gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.

    16. @Steve, (1) meeting minimum spend for bonuses, (2) meeting annual spend amounts for threshold bonuses, (3) redeeming points for higher-value awards such as international business and first class

    17. @Mark I advise you to take the advice contained in this post. You do know that WM has a store locator, right?

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