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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.

Vanilla Reloads used to be a great way to generate points-earning spend.
Buying Vanilla Reloads can be a great way to maximize your points-earning.

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.

Let me know if you have any other questions by messaging me on Facebook, Tweeting me or emailing me at info@thepointsguy.com.

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

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
5.00%
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.