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TPG reader Andrew emailed asking about the Amex Bluebird:
“I signed up for a Bluebird account last year in Q4 and have been maxing out the $5k spend per month on Vanilla Reloads at CVS. Here are my two questions:
1) My yearly Vanilla Reload spend on the one credit card (the one that provides the most value) will be $60K. My income is ~$95K a year. Do you think any banks will flag my account since I’ll end up putting around $75K on the card for the year including personal spend? Also, would they flag it for the disproportionate amount of spend at one place (i.e. CVS)?
2) If I diversify my credit card spend on Vanilla Reloads, do any banks charge cash advance fees for these purchases? I did a Google search and heard Citi was changing them for Vanilla Reloads purchased at CVS. Any insight if this is true? So far I’ve been using Chase with no problem.”
Andrew has a great spending strategy that involves purchasing $5,000 a month worth of Vanilla Reloads at his local CVS, loading the value into his Bluebird account (it’s a checking/debit alternative) and then using that to pay his expenses and other bills. He’s just worried that the issuer of the credit card he’s using to buy all those Vanilla Reloads is going to take a closer look at his credit and reevaluate him based on his annual salary versus spending habits.
Just because your salary is $95,000 doesn’t mean you don’t have other sources of income or something like a trust fund, though. Issuers also know that salary that you initially list on credit card applications can change drastically over the years, so it is very unlikely that credit card companies are checking up on you to make sure you’re spending within your means. In fact, credit card companies make money on people spending beyond their means and paying interest on their balances so I wouldn’t really worry too much about that.
I would, however, suggest mixing in other spending and purchases on the your credit cards that you are using to buy Vanilla Reloads. You never want it to seem like you are doing anything illicit like money laundering or anything else suspicious, but simply charging $5,000 per month in reloads should not be an issue.
Now to answer Andrew’s second question. Generally banks do not charge cash advance fees for Vanilla Reload purchases. The purchase of a Vanilla Reload from a retailer like CVS will simply show up as a purchase from that retailer, especially if you tack on a few extra items that you needed anyway. Citi does charge cash advances for some purchases like gift cards, though generally not for Vanilla Reloads from what I’ve heard. Chase will sometimes charge gift card purchases as cash advances but in general I think you’re pretty safe buying Vanilla Reloads.
For more information on Bluebird, check out these posts:
Bluebird From American Express – The Basics
Maximizing American Express Bluebird FAQ’s
Maximizing Prepaid / Reloadable and Reload Cards For Points And Miles – Choosing Which Credit Card To Use
Maximizing Prepaid and Reload Cards For Points and Miles
CVS Raises Daily Vanilla Reload Purchase Limit to $5,000
Maximizing Reload Cards – Vanilla vs. GreenDot vs. ReloadIt
My Permanent Amex Bluebird Card is Active and the Points Are Flying
Ink Plus® Business Credit Card