Free Amex Bluebird Checks Extended Through January 1, 2014

by on August 27, 2013 · 25 comments

in American Express, Amex Bluebird

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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.

Since its introduction last year, Bluebird by American Express – a debit card-checking account alternative – has been one of the most powerful tools in every points collector’s aresenal thanks to the ability to purchase Vanilla Reloads using credit cards and load the amount from the Vanilla Reload directly onto the Bluebird card then use those funds to pay bills and expenses that you can’t usually use credit cards for such as mortgage and car payments.

However, there are a few limits to the Bluebird’s usefulness including being able to spend just $10,000 a month using its Bill Pay feature and only $5,000 to unregistered payees. You can also only pay up to $2,500 per transaction and per month with its Send Money feature, and the fact that you’re limited to loading $5,000 per month onto the card using Vanilla Reloads means there are only so many points you can earn by using it regularly. Still there’s a lot to be said for it as a points-earning tool that can help credit cardholders maximize their points.

A couple months ago, Bluebird added a couple new features that increase its usefulness including the ability for account holders to get actual physical check books. These checks come in books of 50 ($19.94 + $5.94 shipping) or 100 ($26.94 + $6.94 shipping) usually. But for the first several months they were available, Bluebird allowed its account holders to order these checks for free (even shipping and taxes are waived), and while the discount was supposed to end in May, it was extended through August and now it has been extended again through January 1, 2014.

So if you have a Bluebird account, and you haven’t done so already, be sure to order your own free book of checks (and go for the book of 100 since it’s all free). You order these books by logging into your account, clicking on the “My Account” tab and then selecting “Order Checks.”

Bluebird checks

With Bluebird, you are limited to spending $100,000 per year including via these new checks and your total account balance is limited to $100,000 (when first launched it only used to be $10,000), although keep in mind that funds added by methods other than check by mail and direct deposit are still capped at $10,000 of your balance.

Screen Shot 2013-08-26 at 7.20.37 PM

There is a little bit of a process to writing a check from Bluebird which includes pre-authorizing the amount online in your account and getting an authorization code which you need to write onto the check itself. When you spend $2,000 or more that authorization can take about 2 business days, so you need to plan ahead in some cases.

Still these checks are useful tools for most of us since instead of using the card’s Bill Pay function, you can now also just write the check yourself for whatever bill you are paying and there’s no waiting for funds to be deducted from your account or verifying that the recipient actually received your Bill Pay check since you have a physical copy as proof. It’s just another layer of usefulness to an already dynamic product…and one that’s free, so you might as well take advantage of it!

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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  • Drew

    Just as a side note… the CVS I live near in Orange, CA has TONS of Vanilla reload cars and they NEVER question OR ask for my drivers license when I purchase large amounts. Maybe a new trend?

  • Victor

    I had difficulty using the physical checks since they require a code on the check. The check receivers are not used to this system.

  • Shaw

    Any one stop shop that explains how BlueBird and Vanilla Reloads work? The conversations at FlyerTalk are 100+ pages long.

    I don’t understand why I would use this to write a check to a mortgage lender or property taxes instead of to myself or my spouse? Is that not allowed? Does it have to be an actual bill?

  • MM

    Thanks ordered my checks today!

  • Jung

    Really? Lucky you. I have been going around looking for bluebird and they are either cash only or sold out. One of the cashier even told me they stop carry vanilla because they will start carry something else soon….

  • Dee

    Hi, Shaw (my maiden name!),

    I have checks for my Bluebird account, but don’t use them. I do pay my mortgage, utilities and a few other bills from my Bluebird account, just like on-line bill pay with any checking account. The rest of the $5K I deposit each month with Vanilla cards, gets transferred to my checking account in my brick and mortar bank.

    When they first offered checks earlier this year, we were all excited to be able to pay taxes from our Bluebird accounts and earn miles (those of us that are self-employed and have to pay quarterly estimated taxes + property taxes), since tax payments are one payee you cannot set up on Bluebird. I find it easier just to transfer the money to my checking account and write a traditional check.

    If you don’t want to pay bills, mortgage, etc. from Bluebird, no worries. My husband and daughter buy the $5K worth of Vanilla cards each month and just transfer the total to their checking accounts. Completely doable.

    It does take a little digging on the Bluebird site to find where to link your checking account and then find the option to transfer money. Also, they do test deposits that take 2 – 3 days that you have to enter to verify your checking account. Once, that’s done, it takes 2 -3 business days for the transfer to show up in your checking acct.

    Here is TPG’s overview from a few months’ ago about buying Vanilla Reload cards….
    Right now, I think the only place to buy Vanilla Reload cards with a credit card is CVS. You can buy $5000 worth at once (10 Vanilla Reload cards with $500 each loaded on them). Thank you, CVS!!!

    I’ve been on the Bluebird bandwagon for a while now. Let me know if you still have questions.

  • Emmanuel Ruiz

    U R da best! Thx. for keeping us informed my friend. I never let a day go bye-bye w/o reading ur post.

  • AA

    Has anyone had a problem with Bluebird removing the “withdrawal to checking” option in their account? I used this feature several times in the past, but the option appears to have been removed a week or two ago on my Bluebird account.

  • Chris

    Click Add Funds, select add new funding source, click the word HERE

  • Shaw

    Wow, thank you for the details. It sounds like I don’t even need the free checks since I can transfer directly from BB to my B&M bank through BB’s website.

  • AA

    Perfect. Thank you!

  • iris97

    Tried to register online, and got the message “We’re sorry but we will not be able to ship Bluebird Cards to Vermont” Is there a workaround??

  • NYCBK123

    Hi Victor- do you have any more detail on how that works exactly? I’m thinking of paying rent with these checks but don’t want to order them if they’re remotely complicated. Thanks!

  • Jay

    Thanks! Ordered mine today. Still… what can I do with bluebird if I can’t buy Vanilla Reload with credit card? I checked CVS and 7-11 near by (LA County area) and they don’t take credit card.

  • binny

    I have a big problem with the checks: after they are cashed I cannot view them online, it just shows a blank popup where the check should be. Had to call support in India for 35 minutes and eventually they emailed me a screenshot of the check after much teeth gnashing. That was a month ago…still can’t view the checks online. Will not be writing any more. Anyone else experience this or know of a fix? I tried 4 different computers and phone (not app, actual website).

  • Pingback: What is the Maximum Amount I Can Write a Bluebird Check For to Cover a Car Purchase? | The Points Guy()

  • Diotallevi

    I’ve heard you can still purchase gift cards and deposit them into your bluebird account, but you have to go to Walmart to do the deposit.

  • Triplehappiness

    The recipient does not have to do anything with the code. Only you have to preauthorize the check. BlueBird gives you the auth code. If the recipient wants to, it’s possible to call and check that the check has been authorized-that there are sufficient funds. I know I’d rather receive a BB check from someone. Besides, the checks are free right now. Order them and try it out.

  • NYCBK123

    Great. Thanks so much!

  • Leigh

    So, you are saying that I can open an account for free, place an order for free checks, and then use the checks to pay my mortgage (with the objective to earn miles from initial use of my credit card)? Can my mortgage company charge me for using a Bluebird check? I just want to me sure I understand and will not subject myself to hidden charges that outweigh the miles. thank you for information.

  • ryan

    how did you pay your mortgage through bluebird? did you do a bill pay from bluebird or do a withdraw from the mortgage co. from your bluebird account?

  • skippytye

    Next month (January 2014), I was told by a Bluebird rep on the phone that you would be able to use a Green Dot Money Pack to transfer funds into your Bluebird Accounts. FYI.

  • ken


  • okra

    BlueBird checks are free until 4/1/2014. I just ordered mine.

  • Harris Heyer

    Okra, I also just ordered 100 free checks from blue bird. i was under the impression that there was a charge and when i saw there wasn’t I figured I would buy the max. I’m going to be using these to pay rent, where i previously couldn’t get points… now i’ll pay for the vanilla reloads and get an extra 2000 points per month. thats pretty nice.

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