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Green Dot MoneyPaks vs. Vanilla Reloads

by on May 14, 2013 · 49 comments

in Prepaid/ Reloads, TPG Contributors, Vanilla Reloads

In Part 1 of his series on Green Dot MoneyPaks, TPG contributor Jason Steele introduced us to Green Dot and covered the basics of prepaid reloadable cards. In today’s post, he compares Green Dot to the other popular product in this class, Vanilla Reloads.

Why Green Dot MoneyPak over Vanilla Reloads?

Vanilla Reloads were an incredibly easy way to generate credit card spending…until they became hard to purchase using a points-earning credit card.

Vanilla Reloads used to be a great way to generate points-earning spend.

Vanilla Reloads used to be a great way to generate points-earning spend.

Office Depot stopped carrying these products last year and CVS drugstores typically limit customers to $1,000 of Vanilla Reload purchases in a transaction or a day…when they have Vanilla Reloads in stock at all, that is.

So at this point, there are several reasons to consider purchasing the Green Dot MoneyPaks over the Vanilla Reloads including:

1. Green Dots are available nearly everywhere. Green Dot boasts over 50,000 locations. Check their store locator for specifics, but you can find them at Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, 7 Eleven, Kmart and Rite Aid nationwide in addition to retailers like Radioshack, Ralphs and Circle K among others depending on your location.

By contrast, Vanilla Reloads can only be purchased at a limited number of chains, many of which will not accept credit cards for their purchase. CVS seems to be the most popular place to purchase Vanilla Reloads with a credit card, but stocks of them have become scarce, and CVS has imposed limits on them that vary from location to location but might include only being able to use cash or a debit card, or only being able to purchase $1,000 worth of them per day. There are actually no CVS stores in Denver where I live, which means I can’t get Vanilla Reloads at all with a points-earning credit card.

Instead, I have found Rite Aid stores will nearly always sell me Green Dot MoneyPaks when I am using a credit card. But with so many retailers offering Green Dot MoneyPaks, it is just a question of trial and error to find a store near you that will accept your credit card.

There are other reload options besides Vanilla - here on sale at Walgreens.

Not only are Green Dots available at chains nationwide, but many will let you pay for them using a credit card. Here at Walgreens.

2. There are at least 20 times more reloadable/prepaid cards that take Green Dot MoneyPaks than Vanilla Reloads. Depending on how you count them, there are 5-10 cards that accept Vanilla Reloads, and Bluebird is the only one that features bill pay.

With Green Dot MoneyPaks, there are nearly 200 compatible prepaid cards, and many offer free, online bill pay services such as AccountNow, RushCard and the 247 cards.

Bluebird has a daily load limit of $1,000 and a monthly load limit of $5,000. In contrast, each Green Dot compatible prepaid card has its own load limit, and people can have several different prepaid cards. So with Green Dot, there is no need to depend on the daily or monthly load limits for Bluebird.

3. The existence of a no fee reload. Some Rite Aids have sold special MoneyPaks with no fees.  They were common at Rite Aid stores in the Denver area up until a few weeks ago, and they may still be available near you. The normal cards have a fee of $4.95 with a maximum load of $500. That is still only one dollar more than Vanilla Reloads, so it doesn’t change the value equation of “purchasing” points at a rate of $3.95/$4.95 per 500 that much. But if you can find some no-fee cards, it could be your ticket to earning points and miles on any credit card with no costs.

Sometimes the account access and bill pay interfaces are not as refined as Bluebird, but they are usually very functional and more than acceptable.

Some MoneyPaks don't have fees.

Some MoneyPaks don’t have fees.

Choosing Compatible Reloadable Cards

With so many Green Dot-compatible reloadable cards available, what you should look for in one of these products? I’ll get into the specific cards I use and why in my post tomorrow, but here are my criteria for choosing them:

1. Free electronic bill pay. Obviously, this is the easiest way to cash out Green Dot purchases. Most cards feature this, but always check their fee schedule since some charge you for this feature.

Many prepaid cards offer bill pay services and even issue checks so you can pay off your bills including rent and utilities.

Many prepaid cards offer electronic bill pay services.

2. No monthly fees. You could still make this system work with a small monthly fee, but there are enough products available without a monthly fee that it is not necessary to pay it.

3. High load limits. Each card has different load limits that can vary per day, week, and month. The more you can load at once, the easier it will be and the less you’ll be paying per point you “buy.”

4. Referral bonus. Many cards offer a referral bonus of $10 to $20 when another person signs up using a code that you generate. This can come in handy when you recommend this product to a family member or a friend.

Tomorrow, I fill you in on my favorite prepaid cards that are part of the Green Dot network, reloading strategies to make the most of your points (and your time) as well as pitfalls to avoid.

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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  • MrWho

    Be careful with GreenDot though…if you push too far, you get “blacklisted” from GreenDot. They will not allow you to have any of their products like the MoneyPak/PrePaid Debit/GoBank/etc. I’m sure warnings will be in the “pitfalls to avoid”, but I just wanted to say that so people won’t go crazy @ Rite Aids.

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

    I’m sure the next piece of the discussion will be: How much is considered “crazy”.

  • ed

    Agree with MrWho. Also, RiteAid in my area will only sell for cash. Tried several times/locations.

  • Chris

    Can you load a greendot onto a Blue Bird?

  • iahphx

    Greendots seem to have a bad reputation in the “manufactured spending community.” I believe it is due to shutdowns. But if you simply buy them and pay some credit card bills, why would this be frowned upon? Are folks reasonably safe if they don’t “go crazy”?

  • Jason Steele

    I have heard of the Green Dot prepaid card doing that. But this is a separate product from the Green Dot MoneyPak. I don’t use the Green Dot prepaid card because it has monthly fees. Tomorrow’s piece will go into detail about other prepaid cards, and I haven’t had any problems with them, or heard of others who have.

  • Jason Steele

    No

  • Jason Steele

    Bummer, never had a problem in Denver

  • Jason Steele

    Don’t confuse Green Dot’s prepaid cards with their Money Paks. There is no way to be blacklisted from buying moneypaks as they are not registered in your name. Tomorrow I will offer several recommended prepaid cards that accept Money Paks, and none of them are from Green Dot.

  • Jason Steele

    That will be determined by your credit card company. Spread the spending to multiple cards if you are concerned. The Money Paks themselves are not in your name.

  • BartNY

    Thanks for the post!
    I have a question: Bluebird lets me write checks to my mortgage company. How can I pay my mortgage using Greendot?

  • MrWho
  • MrWho

    Since you are loading PrePaids, it doesn’t matter what PrePaids you are loading, the GreenDot can and will look your PrePaid information if necessary. It’s not MoneyPak not registered to your name. It’s where the “target” for the MoneyPak is.

  • Jason Steele

    If you use a Green Dot compatible prepaid card that features bill pay (I’ll list my favorites in another post this week), then you can pay any person or business. Sure, you can pay your mortgage, but you can just as easily pay your credit card account.

  • Jason Steele

    This thread relates to the Gobank product. While it is issued by the same company that makes Money Paks, they are different products. Money Paks are not registered to any person, so there is no way you can be blacklisted. My favorite prepaid cards that accept Money Paks are NOT issued by the Green Dot company. Confusing, I know, but bear with me.

  • Amanda

    This couldnt come at a better time. I am trying to pay my husbands tuition and get points. I tried bluebird but cant purchase with cc. I cant wait for tomorrows post

  • BBD

    Do you know what chase ink classifies Radioshack spending? Telecom? Office?

  • Brad

    Just f.y.i. – Valero gas stations carry Vanilla cards, have no max per day and take credit cards. Using my Ink Bold or Ink Plus, I get 2 pts. per dollar.

  • Brad

    I am in Denver

  • Eric Lin

    I think right now the hardest part is just finding a location that you could buy the Moneypak. So far I was out of luck and couldn’t find anyone would accept my credit card. Checked Kmart, Fred Myer, 7-11, etc. May try Ride Aid later.

  • Jason Steele

    I went to a Valero last week, and didn’t see any, but I’ll keep looking, thanks!

  • Jason Steele

    Brian purchased them in NYC, and I have no problems in Denver, but not everyone has been so lucky.

  • oldmanpeabody

    Jason, found a couple of grocery stores that carry Green Dots. Will obviously take some experimenting to see if they’ll allow payment with a CC, but if they do any thoughts on the best way to leverage that bonus? I know I have a scarcely-used Amex Blue Cash card that offers 5% back on grocery store purchases. And on select pharmacy purchase too (though I’m guessing Green Dots wouldn’t qualify). Any experience with either of those? And/or any other CC that would maximize the grocery angle, if it’s feasible? Thanks for the excellent columns!

  • Jason Steele

    That’s definitely a subject that I will touch on in the series, so please stay tuned.

  • Grant Thomas

    According to the visa merchant website (http://visa.via.infonow.net/locator/usa/supplier/NewSearch.do) Radioshack is classified as ELECTRONIC SALES/REPAIR -5732, so you would probably not earn any bonus points.

  • Bill

    This is a great post! I’m currently using BlueBird and was using Paypal as a secondary means of point-earning reloads, but was scared off when I read all the warnings to avoid Paypal reloads. AccountNow seems like a good reload service. How does AccountNow compare to BlueBird?

  • foomanchu

    Greendot WILL shut you down for this – GUARANTEED (ask me how I know). They are like paypal.

  • Jason Steele

    I think it compares favorably, and I will get into that more detail this week.

  • John V

    Electronics store. That’s actually an opportunity for the US Bank Cash+, which offers Electronics Stores as a 5% category.

  • Jason Steele

    Please note that Green Dot Money Paks are NOT the same thing as Green Dot prepaid cards. Their prepaid products will shut you down, but there is no way to be shut down when purchasing Money Paks for use with non-Green Dot issued cards. There are many cards, and I will discuss them in future posts this week.

  • Eric Lin

    Finally got luck in Rite Aid. Thanks for your suggestion Jason! You are so helpful!

  • Jen

    Wait…in the post, you say that a Green Dot MoneyPacks can be loaded onto Bluebird. Not true? Thanks.

  • Nick

    Do you get greendot at Stationary stores so that can be used with Chase Ink to get 5x points

  • Dave L

    I’m confused on what the limits are. I mean both official limits, and limits that might get you shut down. I currently have two greendot cards I’m loading with moneypaks. Is it 2500 each? 5000 total? 5000 each? Unlimited?
    Also I am loading large amounts and need to withdraw from ATM, since bill pay is not an option for my current deal. Do you know if they shut people down for immediate withdraw after loading… or what lag one needs?

  • http://www.streetsmarttraveler.com/ Marcus

    Quote: “With Green Dot MoneyPaks, there are nearly 200 compatible prepaid cards.”

    Wow, you were not kidding. Ha ha! I went to the Green Dot website and clicked on “Prepaid Cards.” The list just went on forever.

    Green Dots definitely have an advantage in availability. Just need to find a prepaid debit card that takes GD loads, and has Bluebird-like features. Looking forward to your next post.

  • ben

    Hi, can you share where in NYC did Brian buy the MoneyPaks with a CC? Been trying to do so with no success. Thanks.

  • ben

    Eric, u mean in NYC? If yes, where?

  • jimster

    what am i missing? It says right on the package that these items are available only on a cash basis. What do you do just take it up to the counter and hope the clerk doesnt know that or doesnt read it or doesnt understand it? So what happens if they refuse you? Just say ‘nevermind’

  • Jason Steele

    The ones available at Rite Aid in my area have no such language. I usually get refused at grocery stores, and I do just say ‘nevermind’.

  • Jason Steele

    I never bother with ATM use, since so many cards have bill pay. I have never been shut down on any green dot compatible prepaid card.

  • Jason Steele

    I wish! Please let us know where you can do that.

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  • 徐雁

    hi, Jason, is there any no fee moneypak available in Denver area recently? many thanks!

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  • Mysterious

    Hi Jason,

    I’m very interested to learn more about which cards you use. Have you posted the follow-up article to this as promised?

    Thanks for the great information so far!

  • AGTL .

    Hi, See, I am from Venezuela where we have fucked up currency control. This means that if I go to USA, I will have my money (USD) inside my Venezuelan Credit Card and no other option available.I also need to use the USD within the period of my stay in USA. The idea is to transfer the money from my Venezuelan CC to any prepaid CC so I can use it later in case I dont want to spend all money in the trip and use it however I want.

    I want to get an AMEX PREPAID CARD OR MANGO PREPAID CARD, go to a top up place, and ask the guy to top up $500. I will pay with my Venezuelan Credit Card (pin and signature).

    Can I do this??? Are we talking about the same stuff?

    Regards

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  • Rachel

    Hi. I asked the cashier at Dollar Tree that I wanted to purchase the Moneypak card, but he gave me the Green Dot Prepaid Card instead. I asked him again if I can use it for paypal and he said yes. I had a gut feeling and knew it wasn’t. I can’t get a refund because it’s a dollar tree store. I will have to contact Green Dot to request a refund. It’s been a hassle.

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