Santa Came… And Allowed Me to Buy Vanilla Reloads at Walgreens!

by on December 26, 2012 · 62 comments

in Amex Bluebird, Credit Cards, 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.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas holiday (whether you celebrate it or not). Whether you were doing last-minute mileage runs to attain elite status or just relaxing at home, this time of year is always a good time to reflect on the year and plan ahead. I had a great time on terra firma with my family, which included a new dog addition, Bruno the German Shephard, which was great because I am a huge dog person, but my erratic travel schedule isn’t conducive to having my own.

This post was written with the help of my Beagle/English Bulldog dog-nephew Capone

This post was written with the help of my Beagle/English Bulldog dog-nephew Capone

While in suburban Philadelphia, I swung by a local Walgreens and was able to purchase four $500 Vanilla Reloads using my Starwood American Express card. A prompt came up on the screen at checkout and I thought for sure I would be told I could only use cash/debit, but I was simply told that I could only buy one per transaction. However, the super-friendly cashier had no issues ringing me up four separate times.



I know many of you have had frustrating experiences finding these cards and actually being allowed to buy them with a points-earning credit card, but I just thought I’d share my Christmas miracle. Please comment below if you’ve been successful scoring any Vanilla Reloads in your area and if so, at what retailer. There have been national shortages, but I hope that they are being restocked and we can continue purchasing them as we enter 2013.

It was a points-filled Christmas after all

It was a points-filled Christmas after all

For anyone scratching your head about why I’m so excited about these Vanilla Reload cards – in a nutshell, you buy them and then load them to your Bluebird account, which is essentially like turning them into cash (you can withdraw money, pay bills and even write anyone a check for free). This means you can create credit card spend for relatively low fees – $504 is 504 points on most cards. Personally, I’ve had no issues at all with Bluebird, though some TPG readers have commented about frustrating customer service and checks not arriving on time. Mine always post in a timely manner and I even tipped my building doormen this year with a check cut from my Bluebird account! Cash is so 2011. Even if you can’t find Vanilla Reloads, there are still other ways to maximize prepaid cards- TPG contributor Jason Steele recently wrote an entire series, so read up on it if you want to maximize your points game in 2013! 1) Maximizing Prepaid and Reload Cards for Points and Miles 2) Vanilla vs. Green Dot vs. PayPal vs. REloadit 3) Choosing Which Credit Card To Use 4) Reloadable Strengths and Weaknesses


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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  • JohnnieD

    The last time I mentioned where I was getting my VR’s, someone came into my local OD and bought at least 15k worth and that was the last I saw of them… This time,let me just say that I will be able to get them for quite some time

  • Linda

    I live in Florida and was able to purchase them using my SPG card at my local CVS :)

  • eric

    pharmacies in houston area let you buy them with credit cards

  • Mileage Update

    The only prob I see with Walgreen is that its hit or miss. So there can be a lot of wasted time in going to a store and leaving empty handed. Most cashiers wont buck the system so it sometimes get tiresome to walk out with nothing.

  • Sal

    I find them great for meeting minimum spending requirements, but too much of a hassle just to earn 1x point per dollar.

  • Cory

    I have never had a problem finding VRs in CVS or Walgreens. I do still shed a tear everytime I go into Office Depot now though.

  • Jay

    um, i love your site, but…. who tips with a CHECK?

  • PJ

    Chase Freedom is offerring 5 % rebate on drug store 1st qr 2013. 1500 per card

  • thepointsguy

    Hah the building manager actually recommended it because they accrue into a pool and then divvy up

  • JohnnieD

    Just tried to use gold amex and was rejected .ink
    went thru no problem

  • Lively

    I wonder if it looks funny spending $500 (or more) at Walgreens. I mean I have easily spent +$500 at OD on printers, computers, etc. But Walgreens….the only thing I have ever purchased there was soda, snacks, birthday card, etc. (never more than $50). Am I crazy to think like this?

  • JakePB

    Vanilla Reloads have been consistently available at Southern California CVS stores. Additionally, I’ve found in instances where the cashier thinks a CC or gift card won’t work, a smiling request to give it a try has worked 100% of the time for me. In a part of the country where mortgages are sky-high, this has been incredibly valuable. Thanks TPG!

  • Toni Perkins Southam

    They are absolutely NOT available anywhere in grand junction, co. I’ve also tried a few Walgreens in the salt lake city, ut area and no luck. I’m headed to Denver this weekend, so I’ll try my luck there! Fingers crossed!

  • Pingback: Christmas Miracle: Vanilla Reload Cards at Walgreens - Street Smart Traveler()

  • Dad To Go

    I’ve got plenty of options at both CVS and Walgreens here in central California!

  • dae

    this is a great deal cause for the Starwood location I would most likely use this on my next vacation the redemption rate is over 10 points per dollar. Cat 2 hotel in Vietnam $189 a night. 1600 points + $30 cash for points and pay. Since your getting 90 points for paying $30.90 (90 cents is foreign transaction fee)

    So $189 (after currency conversion rate) – 30.90 = 158.10 / 1510 points = 10.05 cents per star point =)
    Also if you want to fly under the radar of $500 purchases you could always do split payments on two cards if you really wanted to. and you could bring some extra cash to offset even numbers. like $244.50 and $223.50 transactions and bring $32 cash. Your getting Starpoints which is a minimum of 3 cents per dollar so your taking $15.12 redemption worth of points for Starwood hotels for $3.95, or if you use it like I will this summer than your getting $50.62 value for my hotel stay for $3.95

  • Jose Augustin

    I was not able to find VR at any CVS till last week. All of a sudden allmost all South Florida (Boca Raton area) CVS stores have VR in stock. I have purchased enough to net 40K in HHonors points :) This really is the holiday season!!

  • seekingpoints

    Hello. I am a first time poster…Love your site! What is the difference between Amex Pass and Bluebird? Appreciate all your help.

  • Brian

    I suppose that depends on how you define “Southern California”. I am in Santa Barbara/Ventura area and there has never been a single VR available at any of the stores in this town. :-(

  • Confused

    Why would you pay $5 to buy a reload card that will earn you 1 SPG point per dollar when you can earn the same amount just making normal everyday purchases?

  • Guest43

    Because certain things, like HOA, mortgage, are usually not able to accept a credit card as payment. So basically you are earning points on purchases you otherwise would have to pay by check or cash.

  • Lea

    In the Nashville area I was able to buy VRs with a credit card at the CVS in Brentwood (though it took several hours to activate – maybe because it was Christmas Eve?) and at the CVS in Bellevue. The cashier in the Bellevue store didn’t think I could pay with a CC but I politely asked to give it a try and it went through with no issues.

  • Lea

    Because you can use the Amex bill pay feature to pay for things you normally can’t pay with a credit card – like mortgage/rent.

  • JakePB

    Brian, I’m about as far South as one can get – San Diego. Sorry to hear about issues in your area – I looked high and low in the San Jose area while on business and didn’t find a single one!

  • HeavenlyJane

    I can routinely buy VRs with a credit card at my local CVS in Atlanta. I always call ahead to make sure they are in stock before driving over.

  • Dad To Go

    I’m in a similar location. From SB. Agree with you there but try down in the Thousand Oaks area. There are PLENTY!

  • Franklin Chau

    How did you get so lucky? I went to walgreens. as soon as they rung it up, it said on the screen about accepting only CASH. Shouldn’t this be uniform all over the country??

  • Michelle

    Where in SD? I’ve tried the two CVS stores in San Marcos with no luck, but haven’t ventured elsewhere. (There are never any on the shelf, just blank space.)

  • Juh

    I got a vr in boca on Xmas. Made my day for min spending. The Walgreens down the street only accepts cash per the checkout screen.

  • Ddowj

    There’s 6 CVS within a 10 mile in my town so I checked out all of them. All expect for 1 had them. One told me can only do 1,000 dollars worth per day but the rest of them, had no problems. Their system only accepts 1,000 per transaction as there’s at least 30 in stock when I checked this week. I live in Vegas so it’s a good way to “gamble” rather than slot machines. (Finding them and searching it in the stores). I kinda like the adventure of finding them (:

  • Susan

    I live in Arlington, TX (the DFW area) and I successfully purchased Vanilla Reloads card at both my local Walgreens and CVS with absolutely no problem! No questions asked! I used them to pay off the remaining balance on my car. It took about three days after making the payment with Bluebird for it to post to my car loan account. But definitely worth the wait to get the points!

  • JakePB

    Hey Michelle – well south of you. Multiple CVS stores in Mission Valley, and I’ve had luck in Del Mar and Pacific Beach. Haven’t checked anywhere north of Del Mar though!

  • heavenlyjane

    Before I go out to my local CVS, I always call ahead to make sure the VRs are in stock. Then I call my credit cards to alert them that I am going to make a $520 purchase in the next 30 minutes. Doing that has removed any surprises, like the major on-the-phone, over-the-counter grilling I got from Chase fraud detection the first time I made a purchase.

  • Nathan

    CVS in Ohio and Pennsylvania have been taking credit cards for VRs. It’s a great way to pay tuition!

  • Kristin

    I’ve had success buying VRs at a handful of separate CVS stores in Overland Park, using a credit card. Walgreens turned me down for cash, and the cashiers at Dollar General didn’t know what they were doing, and insisted on needing to swipe my BB card to *purchase* the VR, so I just gave up and left.

    CVS is gold, thus far.

  • Kristin

    Overland Park, KS.

  • Brad Kaellner

    Brian, when did you buy the vanilla reload cards at Walgreens? It appears they’re now only accepting payment in cash. CVS Pharmacy on the other hand…

  • PHL

    Care to share which suburban part of PHL?

  • JakePB

    Michelle, hope you’re still tracking this. The CVS in Poway @ 12358 Poway Road Poway, CA 92064 has about 30 Vanilla Reloads as of 3pm on Saturday the 29th.

  • JakePB

    About 30 Vanilla Relaoads at the CVS @ the 12300 blk of Poway Rd in Poway California.

  • Robert

    I actually found quite a number of ‘vanillas’ in 11378. Here’s my question, can I use Bluebird account to fund an IRA account with OptionsExpress?

  • Rick Spam Carranza

    Robert, have you been able to buy the VR cards using a credit card?

  • Rob

    Not yet. Waiting for a BlueBird card.

  • Rick Spam Carranza

    Thanks. If you can keep us posted!

  • Sammy

    Do you mind sharing where in 11378?

  • Robert

    do you mind’ing :) NYC, NYC…

  • Points Surfer

    Don’t want to be the bearer of possible bad news, but just bought a couple of Vanilla Reloads at a CVS in NYC and noticed that the look of the card was bit off.

    When I got home I compared it to previous cards I had bought before and the AmEx logo was ominously missing from the participating partners logo. It is also missing from the Vanilla Reload website.

    I was still able to recharge Bluebird with these new cards, but I am afraid AmEx may end support. Does anyone know anything about this? Anyone notice this change? (Picture attached with new card on the right)

  • Rick Spam Carranza

    Robert, where you successful in buying the Vanilla Reload cards at the CVS in Maspeth?

  • Robspl

    I got 4 of them some time last week but need to look for more locations.

  • seanstill2002

    I have not had any difficulty buying my reloads on credit cards yet. However, I was recently told that they were not allowed to sell me two $500 cards due to a federal law. They claimed they were only allowed to sell a maximum of $999.99 per person per day because of this law. Has anyone else heard such a thing?

  • Fred
  • Dude

    He said “Where in” not “Where IS”

  • anggie

    I went to a CVS in Newport beach and they would only take debit/cash, all these lucky posts are from a month ago.. do you think anything changed?

  • Tom108

    we have reload card in our local Pleasanton Lucky grocery store, but cashier said that we can only buy it by cash since it is a cash card and said that this is vanilla policy.

  • Jim Williams

    Hey Gang, Is this deal dead now??? I recently attempted 2 separate (on separate days) purchases at my Walgreen’s and was unable to use either my AMEX or United Mastercard. I couldn’t find them at the Office Depot near me, so I was just wondering where we are on this card?


  • Robert

    My last 2 attempts in two different locations resulted in the same response and look from a manager: ’75 dollars only and the rest in cash’. Shit!

  • Robert

    how far from NYC in PA? Is it still working?

  • Nathan

    Western PA so a bit far.

  • Nathan

    Just bought some today, but could only do one per card.

  • CSM

    I was able to locate VR packs at CVS in Millersville, MD today. Had to make two transactions but was able to secure both for $500. Surprised the lack of mentions of using Chase Freedom this quarter at the CVS for these…

  • tallworldtraveler

    Ditto in So CA. Purchased with CC. You’ll need to go to the neighborhoods you would normally avoid at night.

  • tallworldtraveler

    Thanks Brian for the tips. Now in Detroit area. Hitting the places I’d normally not be in alone at night. Plenty of VR and with CC, no problem.

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