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Sunday Reader Question: Buying Vanilla Reloads at Walgreens- Worth It?

by on November 18, 2012 · 44 comments

in Amex Bluebird, Chase, Vanilla Reloads

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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.

TPG reader Ingrid asks:

” I found Vanilla Reloads at Walgreen’s and they let me use a credit card. I used my United card. Is that worth it? It’s my main card and I love United miles.”

First, I also love United miles and have been able to rack up hundreds of thousands of them this year without stepping on a United plane, thanks to Chase Ultimate Rewards, of which United is an instant 1:1 transfer partner. I value United miles at about 2 cents a piece and I would gladly buy them at 1.4 cents or less (like I do with US Airways miles).

Walgreens- Worth It?
I also was able to purchase Vanilla Reload cards at Walgreen’s this weekend, which I promptly loaded into my Bluebird account and then used them to pay my mortgage and other bills.
 These are the same exact Vanilla Reload cards that Office Depot recently stopped carrying. Each reload card costs $3.95 and with it, you get $500 in spend.

Be careful not to accidentally buy Vanilla Visas, which CANNOT be loaded into Bluebird

There are other ways to maximize your spend at Walgreens/CVS and other pharmacies by leveraging Hilton credit cards as well, which I covered in this post. Note: not all Walgreen’s/CVS will let you know purchase these reload cards with a points earning credit card, but I can 100% confirm I was able to do it this past weekend with no questions asked at a suburban Philadelphia Walgreen’s, so if you want to get in on this do your own research and see what works for you.

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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  • PJ

    (1.5 United miles on all spend) = 756 miles, .52 cents per mile how to come out .52 cents per mile?

  • KateFromCA

    PJ – here’s the math: The fee to buy the card is $3.95, and for that, you get 756 miles, so $3.95/756 is about 0.52 cents per mile.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.williams.524 Jim Williams

    I was able to use “any card” at Walgreens for these…I tried at Dollar General (I’m in a small town 50 min. from Office Depot), but they required cash.

    I used the United Chase card no problems. Maybe the small town Walgreens haven’t caught up yet…!!

  • David K.

    Hi, Brian, is the My Vanilla Personal Reloadable Prepaid Card also able to be loaded onto Bluebird? It is by Visa but I’ve seen conflicting reports about this one. Also, they’ve got a few at my local (South Florida) CVS. :) Thanks.

  • thepointsguy

    Nope- ONLY the reload card card be reloaded into Bluebird.
    The others are just regular prepaid and there’s no reason to be purchasing them at stores like CVS or Walgreens

  • Mark

    another idea, just go to Office Depot and buy regular gift card for $500 with $4.95 fee, get 5x the points, then go to CVS/Walgreens and buy the Vanilla Reload card with them. Sure you get hit with total fees of $8.94 but it’s worth 2500 UR points which is worth $25 cash or transfer to other programs. Still worth it in my opinion but adds one extra step and another fee.

  • thepointsguy

    Ding ding ding. I can confirm Vanilla Visa and Amex prepaid cards can be used to buy reloads at Walgreens

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  • http://twitter.com/Mileage_Update Mileage Update

    I notice some places use the term “theres alot of fraud” and then ask for CC and Drivers License to buy.

  • Bobby312345

    I am trying to purchase the card at Walgreens and it is not allowing me to use my credit card to purchase. The cashier tried several times but it would not allow. Any suggestions?

  • Mark

    I actually stand corrected- I hit a snag.

    I went to use the Vanilla prepaid visa at CVS and they said I couldn’t use a gift card to buy another gift card. I went to Walgreens who don’t stock Vanilla reloads so I tried to buy a Green Pak thing for paypal but they only accept cash!

    Not sure how to get rid of these Vanilla prepaid gift cards now! Any ideas?
    thanks!

  • Guest

    Check another CVS or tell the cashier that you have done it before and see if they will try. My local CVS started to balk but then I said I had done it before and if they could just try. Went through like a charm.

  • Guest

    I don’t have the Chase Ink but from all the previous posts, it still appears that the Vanilla/Bluebird combo is bette than nothing when it comes to acquiring additional points? I tend to use my Starwood AMEX card, so 25000+ SPG points for paying bills I’d otherwise have to write a check for seems like a good deal.

    Am I missing anything?

  • Brian Cogswell

    I’m convinced these Vanilla Reloads are just an east coast product, haha. I have been to 8 Walgreens and 16 CVS in Southern California and not only do they not have Vanilla Reload, they have not even heard of them. :-(

    Honestly getting pretty sick and tired of the constant stream of Bluebird posts from all my favorite blogs when I am completely and totally unable to participate…

    Depressed in California

  • Brian Cogswell

    Also been to about 20 7-11s which are listed on their site as carrying Vanilla Reloads

  • Lively

    Other blogs have been reporting you have to purchase Vanilla Reloads at Walgreens with cash. Am I missing something?

  • KJKWYO

    Walgreens in Candler, AZ would not accept AMEX Prepaid car to purchase Vanilla reloads. Would only allow fee to be charged to card.

    On the good news front a CVS in a far suburban almost rural area outside of Phoenix did let us purchase Vanilla reloads with mileage earning credit cards. Based on posts, and our experience, it looks like CVS has tightest restrictions in cities and close in suburbs.

  • Jason

    Interesting way to look at the math. I look at it a little differently.
    The way I see it, is that if I value United miles at 2cents each, and get one mile per dollar spent on $503.95
    That means that for each $3.95 fee I pay, I am getting approx $6 dollars worth of FREE United miles for my trouble.
    So for me, it’s not really all that worth it unless I am doing it to meet minimum spend.

  • Ishabibble

    Not at all of them. TPG, at the Walgreens where you bought with prepaid cards, do you check to see if they accepted plain old credit cards?

    I’ve been to about 15 different Walgreens. All refused to accept a credit card for VRs. I don’t have a debit card that earns points.

    Today, I went to Staples and picked up $200 worth of gift cards. Went to a Walgreens, tried to buy a VR, first with a credit card. Clerk said cash only. I asked if a debit card would be OK. He looked at me up and down as if I had just asked to take his 16-year-old daughter out to a biker bar, then grudgingly grunted ohhhh kaaaaaaaayyyyy. I handed him the VR and asked for $195 on it. He said OK, swipe your debit card. I pulled out one of the two Visa gift cards from Staples and swiped it. A screen popped up asking for my PIN. No pin with these cards, I said to him. He smugly replied, well, then you can’t use it like a debit card. I expressed surprise, said I’ve bought them elsewhere with gift cards, asked if he could swipe it or override the PIN requirement. He scowled at me and said no. I apologized, thanked him for his time, and asked him if he would like me to put the VR card back on the rack to save him the trouble. He gave me a dirty look and said no, he would have to destroy the card now, since he had attempted to load it for me. I felt bad about that (hate to see one go to waste), but shrugged, thanked him and left.

    So…I think there’s no consistency with how Walgreens handles these. YMMV.

  • PJ

    dumb me!! 3.95/756

  • JML

    So I take it you can’t transfer money directly from a credit card to Bluebird without the Vanilla Reload? Thanks for clearing this up!

  • PJ

    you can pay $500 tax out of your checking account or can spend 3.95 more to get a minimum of 504 +50.4+10 for each swipe = 564 UA miles doing it for 40 times = 1 round trip coast to coast = less than $160 dollars.. how cool is it ?

  • PJ

    any time when 1% rebate AND amex card is welcome: you pull SPG card off your wallet. buying vanila relaods with AMEX SPG card is a clear winner.

  • PJ

    tks; slowly I figured that out

  • Louis DeNicola

    this may not apply for everyone but i recently

  • Brick By Brick Investing

    I just came across this site and it’s FREAKING awesome! Thank you so much for all the awesome content! I’m signing up for a bluebird account now.

  • TravelBloggerBuzz

    I am noticing that less drugstores are allowing to buy Vanilla with credit card… I’ve been mentioning you in my blog frequently and, surprisingly, you have escaped the TBB wrath…so far:-)

  • Johnny

    If chase shuts down your account – will it take away all your points? Trying to apply for the ink plus + southwest personal + southwest business. Let me know if you guys think doing all that is a good idea. Already have the sapphire, bold, + 1 other chase cards.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andre-Grant/100001104877739 Andre Grant

    Okay Brien, I just got a call from Chase in reference to my Ink Bold and I will receive it in 5 or 7 days. Thanks for the advice. The Rep. wanted to know what kind of business and how long have I been business. I told them I’ll start in January, which is true. I thought this might have others who thinking about applying.

  • Charlotte

    I am not sure AE has all of the kinks worked out with the sending checks side of Bluebird. I have a check that still has not arrived (and it was supposed to on the 16th). So caveat emptor…

  • Vanilla Reload Seeker

    What city/state do you live in? I’m in Boca Raton, FL and there are no Vanilla Reload cards to be found…..

  • Charlotte

    So the check that was supposed to arrive on the 16th, arrived today (21st). That really it not acceptable IMHO.

  • MarkDFink

    I just stopped by OD to pick up some VISA gift cards, planning to get two $500 one to pay for an oil delivery that just arrived. They no longer have any VISA or MC gift cards, just AmEx! I spoke with the store manager, and he said they recently pulled all of them, apparently not just at the local level. Has anyone else noticed that these are none of these at their local OD?

    Next, I went to Staples to see if I could get some VISA gift cards there. The maximum I could find was $200. In order to get $1,000 worth, that would mean a total of $35 in purchase fees. Are there any other 5x points stores where I can get $500 VISA gift cards? It seems as though all these options are just shutting down.

    Oh, and my local Walgreens does carry Vanilla Reload cards, but only for cash, can’t use a credit card to buy them.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/43JOHP2TV6ZJLHNOEO7N2KYXDA Tan

    So, from what i’ve heard, you can’t buy VR at OD to max your chase ink and you had to pay cash at wallgreens, what else can you do to max points..

  • Ian

    I am very fed up with Bluebird. Last week I spent an hour on the phone with Amex attempting to figure out why I was unable to link my Wells Fargo account for my car payment. They gave me a ticket #, but have still been unable to resolve the issue. Now, in an attempt to add my rent company to the payee list I have been receiving the following: “Sorry, we’re unable to add or modify this payee. Please check the information and try again.” Now I have over $2500 in a Bluebird account and am unable to pay my bills through it. Thankfully I am still able to write checks from my Chase account for this month. But BE CAREFUL, there are lots of bugs with their bill payment system right now. You might end up like me, with a ton of money in the account and unable to use it to pay your bills.

  • Jose Augustin

    Same here. I live in Delray Beach. I was able to get hold of some Vanilla Reload cards at OD in the initial few days…but nothing after that. Walgreens accepts only cash and CVS does not have stock. Any ideas on where else I could find the reload cards in South Florida?

  • Vanilla Reload Seeker

    Well, after waiting over a week for the vanilla reloads to be restocked in Boca Raton, they have finally appeared at Walgreens, Cumberland Farms and Dollar Stores. However, looks like the game is OVER since the merchants are only allowing CASH to purchase them. I have spoken with the managers at all of these locations and have watched the register warnings appear as “This transaction can only be a CASH transaction – no other forms of payment accepted”. Anyone have anything to the contrary to add?????

  • Fisherad

    I tried the samething with the visa gift card to but a vanilla card at Walgreens but no pin.

  • Fisherad

    This is what I have seen as well, today just got rejected at Walgreens. Got a VanillaVisa instead and tried to load my Bluebird at Walmart but said it needs a pin number. Seems like the gig is up on this one.

  • tom

    CVS wont let you load the vanilla card with card anymore, just cash….is this true and if so, what would you do to get around it!

  • Steve Jones

    I found that once I removed dashes from all the data entry fields, then I was able to complete the linking process.

  • Brick By Brick Investing

    Sweet!!

  • Guest

    I’m too late… Walgreen’s in Bellevue, WA. allows cash only to fund a Vanilla Reload card.

  • Hello

    Same with Walgreen’s in Mukilteo, WA … you can’t use a Walgreens gift card to purchase Vanilla Reloads either, only cash.

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