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Maximizing Prepaid and Reloadable Cards for Points and Miles: Reloadable Strengths and Weaknesses

by on December 19, 2012 · 45 comments

in Prepaid/ Reloads, TPG Contributors, Vanilla Reloads

Update: Office Depot no longer sells Vanilla Reload or American Express Prepaid cards.

This week TPG contributor Jason Steele took us through the basics of Maximizing Prepaid and Reload Cards for Points and Miles with a series including Maximizing Reload Cards for Points and Miles: Vanilla vs. Green Dot vs. PayPal vs. REloadit and Maximizing Prepaid / Reloadable and Reload Cards For Points And Miles – Choosing Which Credit Card To Use.Today he continues with a comparison of the major prepaid/reloadable cards out there that you can use in conjunction with these reloads to earn the most miles and points possible and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each based on his own experiences using them.

Of all the Vanilla Reload-compatible cards, Bluebird seems to be the most popular.

Of all the Vanilla Reload-compatible cards, Bluebird seems to be the most popular.

VANILLA RELOADS

How many cards are there: I am aware of six different cards compatible with Vanilla reloads.

 What are the most popular compatible prepaid cards available to the general public: MyVanilla, Mio, netSpend, Momentum, the American Express Prepaid Card, and Bluebird.

Which is my favorite: Bluebird is the clear leader because the card is free, reloading it with up to $500 costs $3.95 and it has a lot of features that make it a versatile product.

Strengths: Bluebird bill pay is quick, easy, and free, you can use it as a debit card and to transfer money to other cardholders as well as to issue checks to pretty much anyone else. There is no monthly fee for this card, and American Express seems to have no issues with cardholders using the card to the limits of its stated terms.

Weaknesses: There is a $1,000 daily load limit and $5,000 limit per calendar month, and a total limit of $10,000.

My experiences: I was using the standard American Express Prepaid card before Bluebird was released. I was happy with the Amex Prepaid, but I had to visit ATMs and pay some fees to do so. I have had absolutely no issues loading Vanilla Reloads to Bluebird cards. You can only order one Bluebird card per person.

You can use Green Dot with the Account Now Visa and Gold cards.

You can use Green Dot with the Account Now Visa and Gold cards.

GREEN DOT COMPATIBLE CARDS

How many cards are there: I counted 188 different prepaid cards that are compatible with Green Dot. You can browse a list here. Many of these, such as the ADP Total Pay card are used by payroll services and are not available to the general public.

What are the most popular compatible prepaid cards available to the general public: 24/7 Card, AccountNow, American Express Prepaid Card, American Express Serve, Green Dot Prepaid cards, and Walmart Prepaid Visa Card.

Which is my favorite: The AccountNow Visa Card “Classic” seems to offer the best combination of flexibility and low fees.

Strengths: The “Classic” version of this card has a one-time activation fee of $4.95 that is applied at the first load. After that, loads from Green Dot or the REloadit network carry no charges. ATM withdrawals are $2.50 each, but there is a bill pay system that makes ATM use unnecessary.

Weaknesses: Their bill pay interface is a little clunky to log into, but once there it appears to have the same functionality and back end as bill pay web sites in use at other banks and credit unions. There is a $1 fee for each purchase, so don’t leave home with this card. Also, stay away from their “Gold” Card as it has a $9.95 monthly fee. The deposit limit is $1,500.00 per day, $9,500.00 in a 30-day period.

My experiences: I initially ordered a Gold card that claimed to waive the monthly fee if I loaded $2,500 a month. I loaded nearly $3,000 with REloadit cards, but nevertheless, I was still charged a $9.95 monthly fee. Their telephone representative claimed that I actually had to load the $2,500 using direct deposit to avoid this fee, even though their posted terms clearly contradicted that assertion. I attempted to speak with a supervisor about this fee, but I was hung up on and charged an additional $1.00 for speaking with a telephone representative. The Gold card’s terms have now changed and no longer list such a waiver.

Use PayPal to reload your PayPal Prepaid Mastercard.

Use PayPal to reload your PayPal Prepaid Mastercard.

PAYPAL LOAD MONEY COMPATIBLE CARDS

How many cards are there: Just one – the PayPal Prepaid MasterCard and by extension, an online PayPal account that you link.

Strengths: This card can also be loaded through the REloadadit, Green Dot, and possibly Vanilla reloads.  Vanilla reload cards feature the NetSpend logo and the PayPal website mentions compatibility with NetSpend. In theory, one could transfer funds from their PayPal account directly to their bank account, though this could raise some red flags and get your account frozen.

Weaknesses: No ATM access or online bill pay, although the standard PayPal debit offers ATM access for $1 per transaction plus the amount charged by the ATM owner. Then, there is the fact that PayPal will shut down the accounts of those who they feel are abusing their system.

My experiences: I haven’t read many reports of PayPal freezing accounts of those who use it to meet their credit cards’ minimum spending requirements. After TPG’s experience of getting a warning after funding his PayPal account then transferring the funds to his bank account, I decided to stay clear of this technique.

You can use REloadit with 15 different compatible prepaid cards.

You can use REloadit with 15 different compatible prepaid cards.

RELOADIT

How many cards are there: There are 15 different cards that will accept money from REloadit prepaid cards.

What are the most popular compatible prepaid cards available to the general public: AccountNow, Paypal, NetSpend prepaid debit cards. In addition, the PayPower card is usually sold where REloadit cards are sold.

Which is my favorite: Within the REloadit network as well, the AccountNow “Classic” card offers the best combination of low fees, bill pay, and compatibility across different networks. NetSpend cards appear to have many of these strengths, but there are numerous reports of accounts being frozen after exceeding arbitrary limits of loading and withdrawal.

What have been your experiences with these prepaid, reloadable debit cards? Any that work better than others, or have features that you find useful? Share your experiences below!

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • atxtravel

    Let the spoonfeeding begin, followed by the deals dying out.

  • Hmm?

    “You can also order two Bluebird cards per person, doubling your points-earning potential.”

    Could you explain this statement / how it works? This mention is the first I’ve heard about the possibility of an individual acquiring a second Bluebird account.

  • http://www.facebook.com/karolian Matt Karolian

    On Bluebird, you say there is a total limit of $10,000… is that a lifetime limit or monthly limit?

  • Jason Steele

    I think that is an error, you can only get one. You can get two non-Walmart Amex Prepaids per person

  • Jason Steele

    I hear ya, but diversity and availability are the keys. There are so many prepaid cards, and four different prepaid load systems. Then there is the fact that each card and reload pack may not be available in each market, and that your ability to purchase them will vary greatly by store, location, and even by cashier. Therefore, I don’t see this playing out like Vanilla Reloads at Office Depot.

  • Stevento

    I would love to know that too. The application requires unique email address and unique SSN. Is there a way to bypass that?

  • SgFm

    I have three non Walmart prepaids.

  • JakePB

    It is really neither. Your total balance in your account can’t exceed 10k, so you can load up to 5k/month but can’t build your account balance above 10k.

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

    BlueBird isnt the best card for VR’s. Not even close. Far too low a monthly limit.

  • Jason Steele

    I heard that some were able to get more than two, I have had no luck getting more than 2.

  • Jason Steele

    I believe it is the only one with online bill pay. Which do you like better?

  • http://www.facebook.com/karolian Matt Karolian

    Gotcha- thanks!

  • LAX

    Where does it end though? TPG, Frequent Miler, and MMS are writing about this on a daily basis. I’m sorry but if you are too stupid to figure this out the first time then you have no business getting involved in the first place.

  • Kevin

    I’ve found a couple VRs around but the store I tried to purchase them at would only accept cash. Any suggestions on how I can convince them to accept a different form of payment?

  • http://www.facebook.com/toni.perkinssoutham Toni Perkins Southam

    Thanks so much for the awesome posts. I, unfortunately, am one of those who are, “too stupid to figure this out the first time,” and do i have a question. The vanilla reload/bluebird method is not an option. I have tried every single walgreens and office depot in town, and even dollar general and family dollar, and have had zero luck! All i want to be able to do is pay my mortgage ($2000/month to Chase). I’ve read and read tons of posts and information regarding my different options, and i just don’t know which is the best! Could you just tell me, which would be the next bbest option next to blue bird/vanilla to do this. I know there are lots of implications and obviously depending on which credit card i have i will get more or less points, but i just want to know, what is the best reloadable card and prepaid card for bill pay besides vanilla and bluebird?

  • Socalac1983

    I agree with Matt’s question… You wrote “and a total limit of $10,000.” That’s extremely ambiguous and had no idea if you meant 10K in total loads lifetime, 10K in total loads monthly – using different load methods – E.g. 5K Bluebird, 2500 Direct Deposit, 2500 through another deposit tool. I would clarify that for the future readers

  • Jason Steele

    I would try purchasing REloadit cards from a supermarket, and loading an AccountNow silver card. Then, use it to pay any bill, including your credit card bill itself.

  • Jason Steele

    I have only been able to convince them if they are unsure if their register will accept credit cards, not if they have been told it is their policy to only accept cash. Sometimes it helps to let them know that you or others have been able to use a credit card. But I wouldn’t push it too hard, just be friendly.

  • Jason Steele

    Look, it ends when the deal goes away and another deal emerges. It is the cycle of life, and it went on before TPG, before the Internet, and before Randy Petersen discovered points. It will never end. We can choose to offer information to others, or keep it to ourselves. Either way, mileage earners are a small, small fraction of the prepaid card business. It is my belief that fraudsters, not mileage earners, shut down VR at OD.

  • LAX

    The difference being blogs did not pop up until the last few years. Let’s face it this hobby is not for the average person. It takes manipulation, common sense, and some level of intelligence. If you try to force it down the throats of people that have no business getting involved, things will inevitability go down hill quickly. Since VRs are still available at quite a few stores outside of 5x OD, I have to disagree with your belief. Too each their own. I’m sure some will complain about having an “elitist” attitude but if people would just use common sense and research a lot of information is readily available.

  • Jason Steele

    I think we are largely in agreement. It still takes time and skill to implement these ideas, and I know that most people, even spoonfed this information, will not act on it. These are intelligent people who are just not interested in spending the time and effort on this stuff. So don’t expect to see the parking lots jammed at Walgreens with people seeing VRs this afternoon, this is still a niche hobby.

  • http://www.facebook.com/toni.perkinssoutham Toni Perkins Southam

    You are my hero!!! Thank you so much!!!!!!!

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

    Yes, It is great for bill pay. But the limits are rather small for us FF. Unfortunately 5k limit doesnt pay many CC’s in this hobby.

  • http://www.facebook.com/solneuhardt Solomon Neuhardt

    is anyone here able to buy reloadit with a cc and if so where? thanks

  • BobChi

    I personally think it was the “experts” going all-in that created a big spike of activity and sabotaged the VR at OD opportunity, not the great unwashed being “spoonfed” by bloggers. But there will never be any way to prove anything. We were told it was because of fraud problems, and maybe that really is the reason. And I also feel that most people reading this post and related ones will still feel it’s too complicated, too much trouble, too much time and gas, too much chutzpah, too borderline risky, too prone to something going wrong to follow up.

  • Pingback: Maximizing Prepaid / Reloadable and Reload Cards For Points And Miles – Choosing Which Credit Card To Use | The Points Guy

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  • allen

    so what is the downside of AccountNow compared with bluebird? thx

  • jack

    Jason/TPG or anyone know if Bluebird can be swipe reloaded by AccountNow debit card (it has pin) at Walmart?

  • ThePointsNerd

    I was able to buy $500 at Stater Brothers and $1,000 at Albertson’s in SoCal.

  • Rick

    I bought a netSpend card thinking I could use it to pay bills/send money like BB, but it looks like I can only send money by providing my netSpend card # to merchants (which doesn’t help with my landlord or credit card bills) or send money to other netSpend customers. Or, am I missing something? Since I only loaded it once a few days ago, do you know if I can close my account & get my load money back without incurring fees? If not, I could use AP to send $ for free, or use netSpend as a debit card to get cash back (at $2 per transaction). Any other ideas?

  • Kcabad

    Hi Jason… Would it be possible for me to pay my mortgage w Wells Fargo by using Account Now loaded w Reloadit cards? I have found Reload it in Safeway here in North Cal and would try to purchase using CC. I saw VR in Lucky’s but they only accept cash. thank you

  • Stephen

    Account Now doesn’t offer the silver card anymore, only the gold. Ordered a silver last week and they sent me a gold. Guy on the phone said it’s done. Oh well….

  • Pointsboy

    That’s odd. I got my silver card in the mail yesterday.

  • Stephen

    False alarm, got my silver too. Don’t know what the guy on the phone was talking about

  • Jason Steele

    Yes you can pay your mortgage, but why bother? Just pay your credit card bill itself.

  • Jason Steele

    Accountnow does not accept VR

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  • Julian

    where can you buy REloadadit using a credit card?? Does anyone know?

    From Reloadit site: “Can I pay for a REloadit Pack with a credit or debit card?

    No, a REloadit Pack can only be purchased with Cash.”

  • Julian

    How many Cards can I order?
    An adult over the age of 18 may order and manage up to three American Express Prepaid Cards in total (including if one is purchased for him/herself). Each American Express Prepaid Card User can have only one Card in his or her name.

  • Dorka Veras Gutierrez

    From Massachusetts to all viewers my fondest regards. I love Guate Vision. On behalf of the President Dorka Veras Gutierrez. Do not forget that these services are free.

    Dorka Corporation.

    http://www.dorkacorporation.com

  • http://creamberrydesign.com/ Narine Hovhannisyan

    I was watching one of my favorite movies “Lucky Number Slevin”, really nice film with interesting story and great actors. What do you think guys about this film?

  • KuBa_NS

    :)

  • Julian

    got my silver too

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