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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.
Chase announced to its cardholders on their most recent credit card statements that they would stop selling Visa debit gift cards as of September 22, 2013, and because branches are not selling them at this time, the bank is waiving the standard $4.95 per-card shipping fee.
So for the next two weeks, you can buy Chase Visa debit gift cards here. You can buy cards in any denomination between $25-$500 each, and you can buy up to five gift cards in a single transaction. Plus, if you use a Chase card, you earn points on these purchases like you would any other, so if you used the Ink Bold or Sapphire Preferred, for example, you’d earn 1 Ultimate Rewards point per dollar.
These cards function as debit cards, which is important for a few points-earning reasons I’ll get to below, such as loading your Bluebird account with them, and once you get yours, you can call Chase to set up PINs on each of them so that you can use them like a debit card.
-You must buy them using a Chase-branded card
-Purchases of gift cards count as purchases, not cash advance, so these transactions earn points
-You are limited to $2,600 in gift card purchases per 30-day period per account (though see below, because this varies with additional cardholders and whether you have a business or personal card)
-Additional business cardholders (like the Ink Bold and Ink Plus) get their own 30-day $2,600 limit
-Additional personal cardholders (like the Sapphire Preferred) do not get their own 30-day $2,600 limit – any gift cards they purchase count towards the main account’s limit
-The checkout process involves keying in your social security number, but there is no credit inquiry
-Though they function as debit cards with PINs (when you call to activate them, the system will generate a PIN for you) you cannot use them to withdraw cash at ATM’s or to get cash back Chase branches. It’s still unclear whether other merchants will offer cash back for them, but most reports say they won’t.
-Customers in AR, CT, HI, ME, NH, NJ, RI, and VT cannot purchase them online
Maximizing Points With Chase Gift Card Purchases
The reason this is exciting news is that it can 1. let you meet minimum spend on a new credit card to meet the bonus requirements without laying out any extra cash, and 2. is a great way to load your Bluebird account and earn points that way.
In terms of meeting minimum spending on a new Chase card – that’s pretty straightforward. Let’s say you got the British Airways Visa that requires you to spend $2,000 in 3 months in order to earn 50,000 Avios, or the Hyatt Visa that requires $1,000 spending in 3 months for the 2 free nights bonus, or if you don’t think you’ll quite meet the $5,000 spending requirement on the Ink Bold or Ink Plus for 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points – purchasing Chase gift cards and giving yourself some more breathing room to spend that money over a few more months. Check out this post for The Top 25 Cards with the Lowest Bonus Minimum Spending Thresholds.
To me, the Bluebird angle is more interesting, even though given the time left that Chase will be offering these is only a couple weeks and you will only be able to squeeze $2,600 in value – but that means you’ll essentially be creating 2,600 points (or more, depending on the card you use – for instance the BA Visa earns 1.25 Avios per $1) for free without any fees.
That’s because since these cards function as debit cards, you can use them to load Bluebird accounts at Walmart Money centers -up to $1,000 per day, and $5,000 per month. Then, you can use that money to pay any bill you want, or even use the Bluebird card as an ATM card since that is one of its functions as a debit/checking alternative. That’s a great, quick way to rack up some points-earning spend fast.
As long as we’re talking about Walmart, the huge retailer also allows customers to use PIN-based debt cards to purchase money orders of up to $1,000 for a mere 70 cents each. You can either visit their customer service desk, or the MoneyCenter ATM, so that’s a good alternative for folks who don’t have a Bluebird account.