Maximizing Reload Cards for Points and Miles: Vanilla vs. Green Dot vs. PayPal vs. Reloadit

by on December 18, 2012 · 47 comments

in Amex Bluebird, Prepaid/ Reloads, TPG Contributors, 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.

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 UseToday, 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.

Purchase Vanilla Reloads with your credit card then load the amount onto your prepaid card online.

Purchase Vanilla Reloads with your credit card then load the amount onto your prepaid card online.

VANILLA RELOAD                                                                            

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.

What is it compatible with: MyVanilla, Mio, netSpend, Momentum, and the American Express Prepaid Card.

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.

Weaknesses: Without earning 5x points at office supply stores with cards like the Ink Bold and Ink Plus, this product loses some of its luster.

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 is another widely available option.

Green Dot is another widely available option.


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 Starwood American Express card at a Manhattan RiteAid.” So your opportunities may vary – share your experiences in the comments below.

You can fund your PayPal account with a MoneyPak.

You can fund your PayPal account with a MoneyPak.


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.

The other major player in the space is REloadit, though it's able to fund far fewer prepaids.

The other major player in the space is REloadit, though it’s able to fund far fewer prepaids.


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?

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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  • DT

    Funny. So far, there have been no crazy folks with pitchforks and torches like they do when Darius posts similar stuff.

    Good stuff Brian, I knew all these methods already but it is nice to share it with everyone else.

  • Drsifu77

    I have had no issue with Paypal thus far. You do have to get the Paypal Mastercard Debit card to put the Paypal reloads to really good use. They are great for re-loading Bluebird or taking cash back when you check-out at grocery stores.

  • lego

    @Drsifu77 – That is an interesting strategy I haven’t seen yet. Paypal Mastercard Debit Card is 1% cashback. If you use Paypal preload on Chase Ink from Office Depot + Paypal Mastercard for spending it down we’re at 6%. Not shabby at all.

  • eddy

    Great post! Do any of the Green Dot friendly debit cards have bill pay or check writing similar to BB?

  • Drsifu77

    No Paypal reloads at OD. I’ve only seem them at the big 3 drugstores.

  • Jason Steele

    The cards is the subject of the next post. The answer is yes. Stay tuned!

  • Jason Steele

    Give it time : )

  • lego

    Dang, I guess it is a good thing that the next Chase Freedom 5x quarterly category is drugstores!

  • Pingback: Easy Guide to Reload Cards: Vanilla Reload, Green Dot, Paypal and Reloadit - Street Smart Traveler()

  • MarkD

    Good Post !

    I was most interested in the use of Starwood Amex since their T&C would seem to exclude credit for this.

    ” Express reserves the right not to award any Starpoints for transactions we determine are not made with the good faith intention of consuming the item charged. Eligible Purchases means purchases for goods and services minus returns and other credits. Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Additional terms and restrictions apply. Merchants are typically assigned codes and categorized based on what they sell.”

    This seems to me to fall under the cash equivalents catagory. They may let this slip on occasion , but IMHO you run the risk of not just having the points reversed, but the dreaded financial review.

    Interesting play but not worth the risk/reward ratio for me.


  • Jason Steele

    There is always a risk of a financial review. I had one years ago after getting approved for several new Amex’s in a short period of time. It’s not fun, but it is somewhat painless. That said, they are worried you won’t pay them back. Keep a low balance at all times and they won’t be worried.

  • EC Coffman

    Can you tell us more about AccountNow? I watched the video and it appears that they have a list of payees to choose from and that I may not be able to pay my mortgage with it.

  • Gravitymaster

    Just something I found on the website:

    Can I pay for a REloadit Pack with a credit or debit card?
    No, a REloadit Pack can only be purchased with Cash.

  • Jason Steele

    Their online bill pay system is identical to the one used at a credit union I belong to. You can pay any person or business, and major companies like Chase Credit cards come up automatically. If it comes up automatically, the bill is paid electronically. If you have to specify the payee, like a person, a check is cut.

    I hope that helps!

  • Jason Steele

    They actually say “cash only” on the front of the card, below the price. But sometimes cashiers don’t seem to notice or care, and the registers are not hard coded to prevent credit card sales.

  • ThatAdamGuy

    re: PayPal reload… I’m curious to get folks’ input re: PayPal will get annoyed if one exclusively uses the reloads to fund the PayPal debit card –> Bluebird reload.

    (for that matter, will Amex get upset if one mostly cashes out Bluebird via paying one’s mortgage or student loan, aka, legit billpay)

  • Jason Steele

    How are you using your Paypal debit card to reload Bluebird? At the store? What are the limits?

  • Solomon Neuhardt

    When using a reloadit is there a preferred debit card onto which I should load the money that has the least amount of fees, highest limits, etc? Thanks.

  • ThatAdamGuy

    Jason, at least in theory, one can use reload the Bluebird at Walmart stores. I haven’t tried this myself, but looks like you can load $1000/day at Walmart from a debit card with no fees.

  • ThatAdamGuy

    Can you get cash back when using the debit card at the grocery store when using it as a credit card (and earning the 1% credit) or are these benefits mutually exclusive? (e.g., you can get cash back only on a non-1%-earning pin-based transaction)?

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  • Scott

    Thanks for the info. My experience with GreenDot has been completely negative regarding the ability to pay for them with a credit card.When I say negative, I mean the cashier at Walgreens was about to have a seizure when I tried to use my Amex to pay for it.

    Here’s an idea that is really blatant and might not work for some reason or another, but I’d like to put it out there. What about using those credit card readers like Intuit-Go-Payment to just swipe your own CC and pay yourself (or a trusted friend or family member who turns around and hands you cash back for your “purchase”)? Obviously, this is totally not in the spirit which the product was intended, but hey, why not if it works, right?

  • Pingback: Maximizing Prepaid and Reload Cards For Miles and Points – The Basics | The Points Guy()

  • AceTracer

    Apparently Brian has the best luck ever.

  • AceTracer

    When you accept a credit card, you pay about 3% in merchant account fees. Not a viable option.

  • AceTracer

    From everything I’ve read here and elsewhere, PayPal will send you a warning if you do this even once.

  • MeLlamo

    Even though we hate him doing it, it’s slightly less irritating than him pimping his credit card links at every turn.

    Wait …. both are equally disdained.

  • Dieuwer

    How about not using the cashier at all but loading the card yourself and paying for it at a self-checkout register?

  • Pretenderj

    went to CVS today & picked up 2 Vanilla Prepaid Reload cards of $500 with my Chase Freedom with no issues. just a quick call to Chase to verify that my $1K was in fact done by me! ha

  • Chuck Parrish

    Jan 14, 2013, purchased VR in Las Vegas with Amex card, CVS, 10400 West Charleson, Las Vegas, NV near Red Rock Casiono

  • ExitRowSeat

    I’ve got multiple stores near me that let me buy the Vanilla Reload cards with a credit card. My goal right now is just to use the Reload card purchases to fulfill my spending requirements for a few new credit cards, so that I can receive the bonus awards.

    I’ve not really “churned” cards until recently. I had been under the impression that purchases of gift cards are excluded from points/miles-earning on the various credit cards, and that the purchases were categorized at the point of sale so that the credit card issuer knows that the purchase was for a gift card. Is that not the case?

    Also: I just opened a couple of these CC accounts, and a couple more are about halfway through the 3-month bonus earning period. Does anyone know a way to verify with a CC company that the VR card purchases did qualify for meeting my spend requirements? The CC programs say that the points/miles don’t credit to my accounts until 6-8 weeks later. If I’m counting on my VR purchases for my required spending (for the bonuses), and then for some reason they don’t . . . . then it could be too late to find another way to rack up the spending.

  • LynnAynn

    Does anyone know where in Boca Raton, FL you can purchase VRs with a PREPAID reloadable card? All of the 20 plus CVS, Walgreens, Dollar Stores, Cumberland Farms do NOT allow you to purchase the VRs with a PREPAID reloadable card.

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  • Clovertrantravels

    Using INk BOld go to the Ultimate reward portal, buy an office depot gift card on line for 3X, then use that to buy a AMX gift card at Office Depot? That is like 5X+3X=8X?

    Basically, can you buy AMX prepaid credit card with an Office Depot Gift card?

  • greenenvy

    Is account now good> any fees? and can I load with moneypak? How’s bill pay? Thanks

  • greenenvy

    does paypal have bill pay feature like blue bird?

  • tallworldtraveler

    DTW area: Walgreens won’t allow cc for VR, at CVS I bought two VR in same transaction each card $496.00. Did call my CC co first to tell them of large purchases in several various stores, unnamed in next few days.

  • Jasanna

    I’m completely new to this and I really want to meet my minimum spend…I haven’t really looked around for these types of cards but I will now. Will I be getting charged any extra fees by companies because these might be deemed “cash advances”?

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  • Amy


  • John Beeler

    Jason or Brian, I know i’m late to the table here, but can you buy Vanilla Reloads to fund a Serve account?

  • Ray

    I am looking for ways to reach my minimum spend on a few cards. I live in San Francisco. Every CVS or Walgreens I go into won’t allow me to buy Vanilla Reloads on my credit card. I have a Bluebird AMEX, but need a way to load it. Any tips from other San Franciscans who use reloadable cards?

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  • Sam

    Can I open more than one Bluebird account? You know, to spend more than 5k a month with?

  • LA Lisa

    today I purchased a OneVanilla Pre-Paid Visa Card. How does this differ from puchasing a Vanilla card and loading it to Bluebird?

  • Trying to increase

    So I’m late and new ha.. Can I pay cash for the green dot at store then go online an load with credit card without the advance fee ? If not is there a way to do this ? My cc is in Qatar with my GF for 3 more weeks. I have all the info I need. Would be grateful big time for some help!

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