What is the Maximum Amount I Can Write a Bluebird Check For to Cover a Car Purchase?

by on September 1, 2013 · 30 comments

in American Express, Amex Bluebird, Sunday Reader Questions, 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.

TPG reader Thomas has a question about the Bluebird account from American Express:

“I am planning to buy a new car in 6 months or so. Is it possible to write a check from my Bluebird account for $25,000 or $30,000 after using Vanilla Reloads?  Do you have any other suggestions for obtaining cards with a high bonus / spend?”

One of the great things about Bluebird that makes it such a good alternative to a traditional checking account or debit card is that you can actually cut checks (which you can order for free through January 1, 2014) for free, and whereas there is a limit just $10,000 a month using its Bill Pay feature and only $5,000 to unregistered payees, as well as a limit of $2,500 per transaction and per month with its Send Money feature, the limit of how much you can cut a check for is only subject to the amount of funds in your account up to $100,000 per year – just note that with transactions over $2,000, you need to get a preauthorization code that can take up to 2 business days, so plan ahead.

Checks can be written of up to $5,000.

Checks can be written up to the amount of funds in your account.

So the real question here is how much money you’re limited to funding your account with and the catch is, Bluebird will only let you load $5,000 worth of Vanilla Reloads per month into your account and you can only add up to $10,000 to your account from sources that are not check by mail or direct deposit.

In your case, what you might want to do is this. Since you have six months and are only looking to spend $25,000-$30,000, you can use a points-earning credit card to charge up to $5,000 worth of Vanilla Reloads per month at a store like CVS. Each Vanilla Reload has a $3.95 fee, so it works out that you’re playing less than 0.8 cents per point. That sure beats the 2-3% a car dealership usually adds on when you want to charge your car payment or purchase to a credit card.

Another option is to use a miles-earning debit card like the Delta SkyMiles World Check Card from Suntrust, which you can use at Walmart to load your Bluebird account directly up to $1,000 per day and $5,000 per month.

Then every 2 months you’d have to cut a check for $10,000 (well, at least for the first 4 months and then when you go to buy the car you can see how much the final check should be for) ahead of time, and then have them on hand when you go to buy the car. Clearly this will take some foreplanning and coordination on your part, but it might be doable although not the most elegant solution.

Speaking of purchasing a car using a credit card, I’ve done this in the past myself, and what I’d recommend is first getting down to a purchase price that you find fair, and then at the very end, negotiate to put at least $5,000 of the price on a credit card. The dealer might hem and haw, but they are almost always capable of accepting credit cards (they have service departments, after all), and you might be able to strong-arm them into accepting credit card payment without any additional fees.

However, Bluebird is a great option if you’re not restricted by the load limits in place.

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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  • Thepointskid

    I thought you a limited to a $10,000 balance in your bluebird account at any one time exclusively loading with vanilla?

  • Gustav

    There is a huge point being missed here by the question asker. Why would you ever pay cash for a car with interest rates what they are right now? PenFed offers 1.49% and I have seen as low as .89% from USAA. At those rates, you should finance as much as possible and make the term as long as possible. Then take the rest and invest it. Even at only 4-5%, the net interest margins will net you hundreds over the life f the loan. This would only be smart if you had 10 cards to meet spend on….

  • Jane

    I thought you were limited to debiting your account by $5000 per month

  • Dee

    You can transfer the money from your Bluebird acct into a regular checking account.

  • cStyle

    @bc7a464fdcb68f473da2b04caeff994f:disqus some people like to have no debt and don’t care how low interest rates are. This strategy means you never buy anything until you have the money for it, which is a great strategy.

  • Santastico

    What card do you recommend to use for a large payment (more than $25K)? I have to replace the roof and other parts of my house due to hail damage and the insurance company already sent me a check that I deposited in my bank account. The company that will do the work accepts credit card so I can take advantage of that. I have Chase Sapphire, Amex SPG, etc

  • Jim Miller

    I’ve done 2 large BB checks, both said pre authorization would take up to 2 days. Realistically, they emailed me both times within an hour. It also gives you a phone number to call if you want to do it faster.

  • Mr. Cool

    how plz?

  • Larry

    Back when interest rates were higher, and I had the cash for a down payment, I was able to put the $10,000 down payment on a miles earning credit card then just pay that off when the statement came. First negotiate the best price you can and don’t bring up the credit card down payment question until the very last minute. They told me “no” so I got up and told my wife “let’s go” then the finance man said they’ll do the credit card. It was a quick 10,000 miles earned.

  • Diotallevi

    This is interesting and new to me, so let me know if this is correct. Say I want to by a PC for $1,500. I can go to Walmart, get a Bluebird card and put $1,500 on it using my Mileage Plus Explorer card. 1,500 miles in the bank. Then I go buy the PC with the MPE card, and gain another 1,500 miles, then use the Bluebird card to pay off my MPE credit card? Let me know if I’m missing something hear, because it sounds like a good way to get double miles on a lot of everyday purchases.


  • Danny

    This is an excellent post. Sometimes maximizing points is NOT the best financial solution overall, just like in the example above. If you have the cash to buy a car outright, you probably have very good credit and can get a very low interest rate. Sometimes dealerships even run with literally 0% interest. If the interest rate is super low, invest that money! You may lose a few miles but the actual investment returns will dwarf that.

  • Jonathan

    But you’re still on the hook for the original $1500, so you’re only doubling your points because you’re doubling your spend. The car purchase example is different because unless you have a $25-$30K credit line, you couldn’t buy a car outright. The assumption above is the person already has that money on hand to buy the car but wants to get the miles/points bonus for the purchase

  • Jonathan

    Do you have a particular trip planned? If not, pick a transferable point system (Chase UR, AMEX MR, even SPG) so you can decide later. It would suck to have the points/miles to a particular program and then suddenly it becomes devalued.

  • thepointsguy

    Interesting point.. I don’t give financial/investing advice so I stick to the basics of the question, but something anyone who is buying a car should consider.

  • thepointsguy

    Exactly what I did. Always get the best price then use it as a last minute deal maker/breaker

  • thepointsguy

    Sapphire Preferred gives 1.07x on regular purchases (1x base plus 7% annual bonus) so I’d probably do that unless you’re low on SPG points. Check out this post for other card ideas for large purchases

  • Justin

    Those are new car rates, I’m assuming? From a purely financial standpoint, a new car is itself a poor financial decision in most cases…

  • JD

    get bluebird checks, make one payable to yourself for the amount you want to put in your checking account. drive to the bank and deposit the bluebird check into your checking account. voila, instead of having that balance in your bluebird account, it’s in your checking account.

  • Lyonspetroleum

    You will still have a $1,500 balance on your MPE card from the purchase of Vanilla Reload cards.

  • gps_navigator

    I actually bought my car with my Mercedes Benz Amex and received 5 points per dollar. Once I bought the car I went to Pen Fed and asked for a car loan which they gave me at 1.49%. I highly recommend this route since I netted 250k points and got a great rate on a car loan.

  • Mr. Cool

    good point

  • Lively

    I think the same way.

  • Diotallevi

    Thanks for the response. Yeah, I got a little confused there and caught up in my own voodoo mathematics. I think I’ll start trying the bluebird/vanilla reload method to pay my mortgage. I called my local CVS here in NJ and they said they had Vanilla Reload and I could use my credit card. Hopefully they’re right. I’ll find out soon enough.

  • itrade4

    How would I pay a school loan of $3,500 with Bluebird? They do not accept credit cards. I have a CSP, and the Ink Bold cards. Right now I just send a check. The payments started in July so I’ve only lost 2 months worth of points.

  • vortix

    There is an easy solution: take out a car loan and pay the loan off with Bluebird checks over time.

  • vortix

    Not necessarily. The new vs. used decision should be based on many factors (depreciation, how the car will be used, how long the car will be kept for, etc.).

  • vortix

    Bad idea. This likely goes against the Bluebird terms & conditions. AmEx could see this as money laundering activity and shut down your account (or worse).

  • rrj

    What if I write the check to my spouse? Amazon Payments allows paying a spouse, and many married couples have separate finances. Anybody simplify the whole check writing thing with bluebird by just returning the money to your bank account?

  • r0m8470

    Can I use Blue Bird bill pay to pay an individual, including myself, from my own Blue Bird account?

  • Arielle

    How in the world did you do that because I Amex gave me approval to pay for our daughter’s BMW in cash and BMW wouldn’t let us do it. They said they don’t allow the car to be paid in full by credit card. We were only able to put under 5,000 on the card and then rest had to be check or cash. Lots of points lost. I was so disappointed. But they said with the Amex return policy, I guess they got screwed in the past with someone returning a car past the normal allowable days by dealer

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