Video SRQ: Does Amex Count Buying Vanilla Reloads as an Eligible Purchase Towards a Spend Bonus

by on May 19, 2013 · 22 comments

in American Express, Amex Bluebird, Sunday Reader Questions, Vanilla Reloads, Video Blog Post

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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.

Our first question this week is from TPG reader Tony who is looking to meet spend bonuses by purchasing prepaid cards:

“Some credit cards, such as the Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express, define eligible purchases as ‘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.’

Given such terms, does the Vanilla/Bluebird method still work to rack up points or bonuses?”

Although the terms & conditions of American Express cards does state that cash equivalents, money orders, and prepaid cards do not count as qualified spend to reach a bonus I have never experienced purchasing a prepaid card and not having it count towards my spend, and I have a lot of reader comments to the same effect.

Buying reload cards like Vanilla Reloads or GreenDot MoneyPaks to put their value on a prepaid card like the Bluebird or Serve cards is a great option to help you maximize your point earning and meet the minimum spend on a card, though as we’ve discussed this week it can be somewhat time-consuming.  If you are concerned that the purchase won’t be eligible and you have a few months to meet your spend, I would recommend buying the prepaid cards in small portions and confirming with Amex at the end of the month when your statement closes that your spend is being met through these purchases.

Aside from my personal experiences buying Vanilla Reloads, I have yet to see anyone report that the purchases are being deemed as ineligible. If you have seen or heard otherwise please comment below!

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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  • Scott Scudder

    I can tell you that Vanilla Reloads do count toward the spend requirement. I went through all my Amex bills so far this year and their stated annual spend so far this year tied to what I had spent (including a significant amount on vanilla reloads).

  • dean

    +1 that it counts here. Called and got “pro-rated” to the $5k spend in stead of $10k and was about $60-ish shy of $5k, but ‘expedited’ my points to me. Can’t say enough good about Amex!! Now what to do with those 80k points ;- )

  • MrWho

    If you use AMEX cards to buy AMEX GCs FROM AMEX, then yes. All those “cashback” portal hacks been closed. That’s what it means. If you buy ‘cash equivalents’, which was always been there in the T&C, from 3rd party like your regular phamacy/grocery stores/etc., you’ll meet the min spend req.

  • Shane

    Last month I was approved for Amex SPG Business, to the meet the min. requirement I bought 4 VR worth $2015.80, bought them 2 different times, week apart, I recently received a call from Amex Financial review team regarding those charges, I said I bought some cash cards and the lady on the line said that I cannot buy those and it would not count towards the minimum spending requirement, bummer :(

  • Jon

    Anyone know if the same is true for Amazon Payments?

  • Steve M

    Amazon payments count as well. I’ve never had an issue with it

  • Charlotte (TYR)

    Anyone have any trouble with using vanilla reloads for making the minimum spend for a Chase Ink Bold card?

  • afterbang

    Cmon man.. stop the spoon feeding. This question has been asked and answered too many times in too many places. If people aren’t willing to put in the time and effort (in this case, about 2 minutes) then they shouldn’t play the game!

  • CW

    Ok, people are not understanding the distinction here. Even TPGs writeup does not cut to the heart of the matter. Which is that NO, VR do not count as eligible spend, BUT they have to catch you to find out you are buying them. AMEX does not get itemized receipts from merchants as far as anyone knows. That is the key there – the transaction is masked as being a purchase from a merchant of goods. So it just shows the retailer category and AMEX considers it a retail good. However, if you call up AMEX and moronically tell them you are buying a bunch of cash cards, yes they will inform you that that is in violation!!!

  • RC

    Just as CW mentioned above, if you actually tell them that you purchased cash cards or reload cards, they will not have it count towards your spend (they probably have the ability to manually exclude it from your spend). Think about it this way, if they knew your purchase was a bunch of reload cards, why would they be calling you in the first place?

    All they are seeing is a high value purchase from a particular store. Now if you were to purchase a gift card from the Amex website, that’s a different story, but hopefully that’s obvious enough.

  • RC

    No…no they don’t count!!! Please follow my directions instead:

    1. stop buying them
    2. If you took a stack of them from your local CVS, please mail them to me


  • Freddy

    +1. Tony could have, ya know, tried it and see what happens. Blog posts such as these only hasten the response of the Cardinals.

  • Elena

    Are you going to update your video? Shane has reported having such spend not count, so it would seem disingenuous to continuing claiming and communicating that you’ve “never heard” of a “single instance”.

  • Annoymous

    I was given retention offer by Citi for purchases are drug stores etc. Over a period of the last 4 months i ramped up spending on the VR… Esp when i was given the offer again on add’l cards recently. I racked up like >10k a month and paid off my balance in full as soon as the charges got hit. Ihave never missed a payment, has close to 6 figure CL from citi and numerous accts w them. Due to these larges charges, there was involvement w fraud alert dept, but those issues were resolved. They (specific dept within Citi) blocked my TYP acct. No word on the reason. I had the CEO office look into this issue–still pending. I have not used Citi cards since- given the uncertainty over my 6 figure TYp balance that are in jeopardy.

  • Mike

    Yeah, yeah, everyone should have the same knowledge afterbang dose. Come on guys – catch up with him!

  • JM

    As a newbie to this forum, I appreciate every single tip. God… old grumpy people suck. And now, I +1 my own post.

  • Fv Ille

    Maybe this point should just be put on a stick somewhere so it can be put to bed once and for all???

  • SJ

    If I buy online from gift card mall, will AMEx know right away it is prepaid card purchase and not count? I read from other posts that people are doing this to meet minimal spending and not reporting if there is a problem. Just want to make sure before I buy more (just bought one yesterday and then found the potential problem). I just started this and got many great suggestions from the forums. However, I found It is hard to find the VR or pin visa card that I can load $500 around where I live. Not sure if many people are doing the samething or the stores just not carry those.

  • goinverted

    All points from my last Business Gold AMEX statement have posted, with the exception of the points associated with VR purchases. Those are listed as “pending”. Same thing with my wife’s account. Strange…

  • Jerry

    can VISA or Mastercard Vanilla cards could be reloaded using an Amex ?

    i’m travelling to Canada soon (Quebec province) and in some places, Amex is not accepted

    i am wondering if i could by a prepaid visa or mastercard and reload it with my amex in order to earn indirectly ?


  • Rusty Longwood

    Seriously! 90% of the time I do a Google search for something FF related I see a thread where someone asks my question and then gets told to search the forum for it! Oh yeah, I totally want to dig through dozens of 15 page thread, most of which could be totally outdated by this point.

  • effinmatty

    I’m with you, Rusty. I don’t know why this community is clad with egotistical folk telling you to go search or thumb through the threads. I’ve been a member for over 7 years, and why this community isn’t the most supportive one out there is still beyond me.

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