Update: Office Depot no longer sells Vanilla Reload or American Express Prepaid cards.
Yesterday TPG contributor Jason Steele took us through the basics of Maximizing Prepaid and Reload Cards for Points and Miles with a series including Maximizing Prepaid and Reloadable Cards for Points and Miles: Reloadable Strengths and Weaknesses, and Maximizing Prepaid / Reloadable and Reload Cards For Points And Miles – Choosing Which Credit Card To Use. Today, he takes a closer look at the various reload card products out there, where to buy them, and how you can take advantage of them to rack up those valuable points.
In the first post of this series, I outlined how reload cards and prepaid reloadable debit cards work together. In this post, I will describe the four major reload card/pack products sold at retailers and relate my own experiences using credit cards to pay for them.
What is it: A reloadable card that can be purchased in increments up to $500 with a fee of $3.95. These cards can be applied to select prepaid products including American Express Bluebird.
Where you can buy it: Several different drugstores, gas stations, and convenience stores, but not Office Depot. Some Walmarts also sell this product. You can find a generic list on the VR homepage under Reload Locations.
Strengths: Using these cards to load Bluebird is quick and easy, as is the Bluebird bill pay system. Purchasing these products at grocery stores and drugstores with credit cards that feature these retailers in bonus categories makes sense, as does using a card you need to make a minimum spending requirement on and then using the Bluebird to pay off bills.
My experiences: I have been able to purchase Vanilla Reloads at only one of the six Walgreens I have tried in my area. Even that store limits me to one per day, and they are almost out of stock. TPG reports good luck using credit cards to buy these at CVS stores, and TPG just purchased four of them using a points-earning card at a CVS in West Hollywood this weekend – though he was limited to two $500 reloads per transaction.
GREEN DOT MONEYPAK
What is it: This is the most popular reload product sold today. Some retailers have cards that can be loaded up to $500, while others can load up to $1,000. The fee is $4.95 and these cards are available for purchase at over 60,000 locations in the United States. They can be used to reload 188 different prepaid cards. In addition, TPG discovered that Green Dot MoneyPaks can be loaded to an American Express Serve account.
Where you can buy it: Major retailers include Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Kmart, Rite-Aid, 7 Eleven, and the Kroger family of stores. View their store locator here.
What is it compatible with: There are a total of 188 different prepaid cards that are compatible with Green Dot reloads, including Green Dot’s own line of prepaid cards. These reloads can also fund various credit cards, bank accounts, and other services. See the full list here. This product can also be used to fund a PayPal account.
Strengths: Available nearly everywhere and there are plentiful options for unloading.
Weaknesses: Many retailers will not accept credit cards for payment.
My experiences: This would be an excellent vector for mileage earning if I could find a retailer who would let me use a credit card for the purchase. I have attempted to purchase these products at several different grocery stores and drugstores in my area, and have been told each time that these products can only be purchased with cash. One cashier simply barked at me “Green Dot Cash!” On the other hand, Brian reported having “absolutely no issues purchasing $500 versions of Green Dot MoneyPaks with my Chase Freedom and Starwood American Express card at a Manhattan RiteAid.” So your opportunities may vary – share your experiences in the comments below.
PAYPAL LOAD MONEY
What is it: PayPal is the large electronic payments network that everyone is familiar with, but they also market these cards at many retailers as a way for customers to fund their accounts, presumably with cash. These cards are for sale in increments up to $500 for a $3.95 fee.
Where you can buy it: Many different supermarkets, drugstores, and other retailers. Search your area here.
What is it compatible with: You use it to fund a PayPal account.
Strengths: This product can be used to meet minimum spending requirements and makes sense for those who purchase these products at retailers where their credit card earns multiple points or miles per dollar spent.
Weaknesses: The problem here is that PayPal does not like users who load up their accounts and transfer the money to their checking account. For example, Brian was sent a warning letter from PayPal, but his account was not shut down. In addition, PayPal is notorious for being difficult to deal with once they have frozen your funds.
My experiences: I have long known that PayPal has strict, and undocumented, rules regarding these types of transactions. After reading of Brian’s experience, I have chosen to stay clear of these activities.
What is it: REloadit products are similar to Green Dot, but they are compatible with a much smaller group of prepaid products. They are for sale at major retailers and can be purchased in denominations up to either $500 or $950 with a $3.95 fee.
Where you can buy it: These cards are available at supermarkets such as Safeway, Albertson’s, Vons , Pathmark and Pavillions.
What is it compatible with: There are 15 different card partners, many of which offer bill pay.
Strengths: Low fees per dollar value when purchased in $950 increments.
Weaknesses: They have a limited number of retail outlets and are missing from some major cities. For example, they are not for sale at all in Atlanta at this time.
My experiences: I have had off-and-on success purchasing these products at Safeway stores. I have been using the AccountNow card for loads, which features electronic bill payment.
What are your experiences with purchasing reload cards? Have you been able to use your credit cards? Where and with which ones have you had success?