Update: Office Depot no longer sells Vanilla Reload or American Express Prepaid cards.
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.
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.
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 (some cared like the Hilton Amex cards in the first quarter of 2013 give bonuses for drugstores/pharmacies). I value 504 Starpoints at over $10, but I only pay $3.95 for them, so if you multiple and can rev up the amount of Vanillas you buy, you can create a solid amount of points and credit card spend on the cheap (note there is a $5,000 a month funding limit per Bluebird account). 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
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