Earning 5x Points on Everyday Spend With Visa and Amex Prepaid Cards

by on November 8, 2012 · 27 comments

in Amazing Deal Alerts, American Express, Amex Bluebird, Chase

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Update: You can no longer purchase Vanilla Reload cards using a credit card and Vanilla Reloads are no longer available in Office Depot.

There’s currently a shortage of Vanilla reloadable cards on the market- many TPG readers are reporting their Office Depots are either sold out or no longer offering the card.  This is causing a lot of frustration for those looking to leverage Bluebird to earn miles and points by paying everyday bills with extremely low fees and I’ve gotten a lot of emails asking whether there’s an angle without Vanilla reloadable cards.

And the answer is YES, there are still ways to maximize your point earning at Office Depot by buying non-reloadable cards for nominal fees. You still get the 5x points for shopping at Office Depot, but you lose the flexibility to reload in larger quantities or to use Bluebird to pay any bill or make free ATM transactions. However, at the end of the day you can still convert more of your regular spend to earning 5x points, which is great.

Amex Prepaid cards are often next to the Vanilla Reload cards

One option is to buy a OneVanilla Prepaid Visa cards at $500 intervals with a $5.95 fee. Since they aren’t registered to your address you may have an issue shopping online where you need to verify your address, but for simple purchases at retail stores and restaurants you should have no issues.

The angle here is that  you earn 5x points when purchasing these pre-paid cards so even though you don’t earn base points when using them, it doesn’t matter because you’ve already banked the 5x points for purchasing them on the front-end. This is not a new concept- my friend and fellow blogger Frequent Miler pioneered the Prepaid/Vanilla movement and has been blogging about this technique all year- especially with his “award winning” post “One Card to Rule Them All” on May 1.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Anonymous

    Please proof read your posts before putting them online!

  • Mileage Update

    Only problem is that these other Vanillas cant be offloaded easily. Or at least when they are it comes at a considerably higher price.

  • Mcasolara

    Is there an error in the Vanilla Visa calculation? Should it be 2530 ($500*5 pt/$ + $5.95 * 5pts/$)? Or do you only get 4 pt/$ for some reason… thanks.

  • JohnnieD

    FYI…..If you return something to a store for a refund, they will credit it back to the gift card. If you think you have drained a Vanilla Visa Gift Card, you will now have money put back on it. This just happened to me with a return to Home Depot. I save all my used cards and was checking them when I found one with about $67 on it from a Home Depot return. You can get around this at Home Depot by requesting that your refund be placed on a store card…..

  • FlyingDoctorWu

    I can’t seem to find vanilla reloads in my area unfortunateky. Which is a shame because I would love to use BB to pay my mortgage. I currently spend about $500a month at amazon (I get a lot of household items from there).My new plan is to get an ink card and buy gift cards at an office supply store. No fees at all..

  • Marianag

    One good way to offload gift cards (as per frequent miler suggestion) is to buy Amazon gift cards with whatever is left in your gift card and just apply it to your amazon account. Most of us spend enough in amazon to justify the transfer of funds. Amazon allows you to buy their gift cards at any amount (.01 ct, and up).

  • Michand1

    If you do manage to find Vanilla Reload Cards I read earlier you can only charge $1000/day. Does that mean you can only charge $1000/day in Vanilla Reload cards to your Ink card or that you can only load $1000/day into your Bluebird account? Can anyone clarify this? Because I’d like to know the maximum I can buy at one time of Vanilla Reload cards if I happen upon them. Another facet of the question that’s a little delicate: can you keep some Vanilla Reloads and return at another time to charge them–or is that shoplifting? Could the store just let you keep some blank ones for later? Technically they have no value until charged.

  • Mohsin

    Is there a limit as to how much I can load on the One Vanilla prepaid VISA? I make large purchases in excess of $10K – it would be worth it for me if there are no limits

  • RP

    Some ODs keep the V. Reloads off of the sales floor. Ask a manager if you don’t see any on the gift card rack.

  • Grant

    I’ve done this before when my name is on the card, but what about the temporary cards with out a name? Does it still work?

  • Angel

    You can buy as many $500 Vanilla cards as you want on 1 day. You can only add $1,000 a day to your Bluebird account. I hope this helps!

  • Marianag

    Grant, do you mean gift cards? yes, they don’t have name but as you are buying Amazon gift cards with your visa gift card, you just add your name as the owner. At least that has been my experience and i have done it without a problem.

  • Whereitsnows

    I’m not sure I understand where these 5x points come from? Do they come from actually using the bluebird card or from using a Chase card to load the bluebird card? Or are you using a Chase card to buy a Vanilla reload card to put funds into the bluebird account?

  • Kevin

    What makes the vanilla reload special that you can load it onto bluebird? Can you not load with Visa or Amex prepaid cards and why not?

  • Jubin25

    5X is when you use Ink card to buy Vanialla card ( reload and regular gift card). Not for using bluebird or to load blue card.

  • Fanfoot

    The Vanilla Reload cards can be used to load money onto another card. So you can have a single Amex reloadable card (Bluebird being one of those), and buy a series of Vanilla Reloads over time to load onto that one card. So, if you ignore Bluebird, you have the advantage that you have a single card that you can charge with, leave on Amazon or PayPal or whatever and use over and over. You can return things and get credited onto that card, not that Gift VISA that you just tossed into the trash thinking it was empty, etc. So there’s the convenience.

    Then there’s Bluebird, which you can use as a bank account–you can pay things like mortgages that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to pay with a credit card, and without exorbitant fees. With a regular credit card you can pay your mortgage through something like WilliamPaid, but they’ll charge you like $50 for the privilege, and they’ll take a couple of weeks to deliver the check too.

    Add in ATM access (pay the Baby sitter and earn miles) and the other benefits of Bluebird and you start to understand how you can increase the amount of your normal spend that you can get 5X points for.

  • thepointsguy

    What Fanfoot said

  • thepointsguy

    What Angel said!

  • thepointsguy

    That was a typo- fixed

  • thepointsguy

    $500 is the max you can load at time of purchase

  • Fanfoot

    Hey Dude,

    I’m just parroting from you. I actually am finding it difficult to find OD stores selling Vanilla Reloads, and the reminder that I don’t have to use my Bluebird is helpful. Sure it doesn’t get you everything but its still pretty damn good. I’ve got the Ink Bold on the list for my next churn as a result of this. I was almost swayed to try to do a Freedom and a Chase Checking RIGHT NOW because the 10% kicker thing might be going away, but once I realized I probably couldn’t get it set up in time, and the bonus on the Bold is so much better and articles like this pointing out you don’t HAVE to find Vanilla Reloads to get some value out of the Bold. Its settled.

    p.s. Any sense that the current 50k bonus on the Ink Bold is going to go away any time soon? I’d like to wait since I just had a few hard pulls from Citi and I’m only 60 days or so out on those, but if you think the offer might disappear I might be inclined to violate my schedule and get the Bold in gear. And yes, I’m watching for the rumored reduced spend we might see on Sunday…

  • PY

    To use for online shopping, you can tie your debit card to Paypal as some merchants do accept Paypal as a means of paymemt.

  • Hello

    Would it be possible to double dip on bonuses by purchasing office depot gift cards online w/ INK through Ultimate Rewards portal? Then using the office depot gift cards to purchase the vanilla reload cards?

  • whereitsnows

    Ok, I see how it works now. Thank you!!!

  • Kevin

    My apologies, I should have been more clear with my question. I understand what’s amazing about bluebird itself. What I meant was, why can’t you use an Amex prepaid card to load onto bluebird since there seems to be a shortage of the vanillas?

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