Advertisement

Manufactured Spending Update: Bluebird and Staples Gift Cards

by on May 19, 2014 · 97 comments

in Uncategorized

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG contributor Jason Steele comes back today to talk about Manufactured Spending, which is the art of creating points and miles without having to actually incur more spend- like buying gift cards and then using them to load Bluebird and then in turn pay your mortgage/rent/etc. 

Things change everyday for those who try their hand at the hobby called manufactured spending. Here are a few of the latest developments:

Staples.com offers $200 Visa cards online

In the last two weeks, the biggest news was that Staples began selling $200 gift cards online, whereas previously they only had the $100 denominations.

Why was this important? Each card has a $6.95 fee, so selling a card with twice the value means half the fees. Although these cards were previously available in stores, the advantage of purchasing them online was that they might qualify for portal savings of up to 6%. During the final days of April and the first days of May, it appeared that many portals were honoring the points or cash back offered for purchases from Staples.com.

Then, in early May, multiple Flyertalk contributors who claimed to operate their own portals said that they had received notices from Staples that portals would not be offering rewards for gift card purchases. To corroborate those reports, one of the more popular reward portals, Swagbucks immediately added special terms that excluded gift cards.

Swagbucks

I used a card that offers 5x bonus rewards for office supply purchases to by some gift cards using the Swagbucks and Upromise portals between May 4th and May 7th and the rewards are currently listed at both sites as “Pending”.  If I end up receiving those portal rewards, I will have made a cash profit on the transaction and earned credit card reward points.

But even if I don’t, I will have effectively purchased the reward points for about two-thirds of a cent each, which is reasonable, but not an activity that I would spend a lot of time doing. I had no problem using these cards to transfer money with Amazon Payments, and I also plan on using some to pay bills with the Evolve Money service.

The circle of life.. or at least manufactured spending

The circle of life.. or at least manufactured spending

Bluebird update

American Express Bluebird is great product for those who eschew credit cards and bank accounts, as well as for those who are into this hobby. Of course, its utility for the later took a major blow in April when CVS stopped allowing credit card purchases of Vanilla Reloads, a product used to load funds onto the Bluebird card.

In searching for alternative stores that still allowed sales of Vanilla Reloads with a credit card, our readers were quick to eliminate many of the chains listed as carrying these products. Nevertheless, two had success at a few smaller region stores. Noah commented that Food City stores in Eastern Tennessee accepted his credit card to purchase Vanilla Reloads, and Mark confirmed that Village Pantry stores in Ohio did too.

If you live outside of those areas, don’t put away your Bluebird cards just yet. You can use a debit (like the Suntrust Delta) or gift cards to load these Bluebird cards at cash registers and customer service counters at Wal Mart stores. The limit is $1,000 per day, and $5,000 per month, per card. So if you purchase $500 gift cards with a $4.95 fee, you are looking at about a 1% loss when you load them onto your Bluebird card and use the funds to pay any person or business, or transfer them to your bank account.

Those with some time and patience could conceivably participate in the $200 Staples offer, and use their gift cards to load Bluebird, and come out slightly ahead. A better strategy might be to buy $500 gift cards where their credit card earns bonus rewards.

Another option would be to use one of the many cards that earn bonus rewards supermarkets. These cards can offer rewards that are well worth paying 1% in fees, and perhaps even a trip to your local Wal Mart.

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.

Previous post:

Next post:

  • Christopher

    What’s the highest denomination gift card you can buy in a Staples brick and mortar store? $200 is relatively low given the $6.95 purchase fee.

    I’ve preferred sticking to the $500 gift cards at CVS, which have a smaller purchase fee and can be converted to money orders at Walmart, for example.

  • SeaBee3

    Yes, $200 is the highest. Even with the higher fees, though, you are still getting the points cheaper (when using the ink cards) than if you purchased cards at CVS with a 1x care.

  • Dean G

    Walmart stopped allowing gift cards to be loaded onto the BB – even the Kiosk doesnt process it anymore from what I have seen. I have been to several WalMart stores (even those that used to work).

  • khad

    I just yesterday loaded up two Bluebird accounts with $1k each from 4 $500 Vis gift cards. You just have to set a PIN and load them as debit.

  • khad

    I’m still shocked I haven’t seen this posted anywhere else. Maybe it just isn’t that widespread, but AAA in Indiana is selling Visa gift cards for NO FEE right now. Not sure when the promotion ends, but I was told they do this regularly a few times a year. I already picked up about $8k in NO FEE $500 Visa gift cards. Just call the number on the back to set the PIN and load them up as debit into Bluebird at the Walmart Money Center kiosk. Just did it yesterday. Works great. Enjoy! :)

  • Bob

    You can sign up for visa savings edge to save a further 1% of each of these gift cards as long as a visa credit card is used to purchase on staples.com. This makes each card a effective fee of 204.88.

  • Bob

    Also to add, if you have a Chase Ink card, and go through the ultimate rewards portal, clicking through “Earn Faster”, each purchase on staples.com offers a additional 2 points per dollar spent, while Chase gives 5X on office supply store purchases. So by spending 4.88 using the Visa Savings edge mentioned above, you’d earn 1449 points making for a cost of point of .0034 rather than .0067 which it would be by purchasing the cards at a physical store and without the visa savings edge benefit.

  • Kyle Borut

    how/where do you get those no-fee Visas?

  • Bradjward

    Khad, any AAA location works?

  • SeaBee3

    The problem is that many have reported that Staples has stopped paying out referrals (even with Ultimate Rewards) so that extra 2x is questionable.

  • Bob

    I last received this extra 2x as a email on 5/15 for a order I had shipped originally placed on 5/7. Just made another order last weekend and will wait to see if the extra points will still post.

  • Jason Steele

    It certainly can’t hurt to try a portal, just don’t rely on those benefits to justify the purchase. Look at it as a bonus if it clears.

  • Jim

    So can these Visa cards be loaded onto the Bluebird on the web? Sorry for stupid question…

  • Dean G

    I have vanilla visa gift cards and I cannot set a pin ahead of time. I even tried buying something for a dollar, setting the PIN. When I use the Kiosk – no dice. Which Visa gift cards?

  • Dean G

    Also – I was told by the Rep at WalMart at two stores that because of fraud, they wouldnt allow gift cards to be loaded onto BB. I now have 2 $500 Visa gift cards

  • shannon

    One Vanilla works and so does the visa gift cards sold at Walmart. I loaded two yesterday without any problems at the kiosk.

  • shannon

    No, not on the web. Only in the store.

  • decibel08

    visa savings edge does not pay out on gift cards!

  • Marty

    Works fine here too.. Loaded $600 in 3 $200 staples cards at Walmart.. no problem at all.

  • Eric W

    Can Amex Serve be loaded using a gift card?

  • Maria Paula Straub-Montenegro

    I live in Indianapolis and I called the closest office and said the activation fee is 4.95. What branch did you go to? Is it a reload able type of card?

  • scott

    Not true. I just loaded 2 gift cards yesterday.

  • Joe Kim

    Yes, they can be loaded online, however, capped at $100 / day, $1000 / month.

  • masum

    This article is very helpful and effective. I have found a lot of
    information from this article.thanks to the writer.

    I know another website. That also presenting Business information.

    Business insight

    Start your own business and become the best businessman.

    You can get more information from business specialist.

  • namtuge

    It seems to pay out reliable even on gift cards.

  • K2

    Same here! Please clarify.

  • Christopher

    Yes, at Walmart at the register and some have a Money Center with a special machine for Bluebird and Serve cards.

  • Christopher

    He’s right.

    This is the site for the AAA regional offices near me: http://midatlantic.aaa.com/Banking/VisaGiftCard

    It states the cards are available without a fee. But you need to be a AAA member.

  • Brian

    Don’t load them online. You WILL get a call from Bluebird and may get your account shutdown.

  • Moe

    I am trying to understand, you can use a Staples gift card to load your BB account at Walmart?

  • Hashim305

    I’ve been to one Walmart that had a Money Center. The cashier directed me to the Money Center to load my BB and they wouldn’t allow gift cards. The kiosk didn’t work either. I went to another Walmart that did not have a Money Center and I was able to load my BB there.

  • Alex

    Has anyone had much experience funding BB with PP Bus Debit card? I am unclear how best to try to use this and not set off warning bells at PayPal. I am not sure if it would be best to simply fund BB in one transaction with PayPal debit or spread out the transactions – to PayPal this would look like multiple transactions all to BB. I plan to combine this with Vanilla cards but just trying to figure out another way to use some of PayPal balance as PP Cash cards are only $3.95 fee and really easy to buy with credit card.

  • Brenton

    I know for sure they do offer a reloadable card, the AAA travel money. You pay for it up front, but can load essentially as much as you’d want to on it. HOWEVER, they process the load as a cash advance, so it’s definitely not worth it. But if they’re $500 cards that just count as a purchase with no fee, then you’ve struck gold…

  • decibel08

    I’ve seen $0 back through Visa Savings Edge from my Staples Visa GC purchases on a Ink card, while other things like Chevron have prompted 1% savings.

  • konalansing

    Some people say that one cannot buy gift cards at Walmart using a CC. Where l live, one can buy a visa debit card at Walmart for $4.94 ($500 card) and immediately load that card onto BB. The last four digits of the card are the pin number. One does not even sign for the $500 card. Don’t say to the cashier that you are using a credit card. Only reply to the cashier when asked for the amount to be put on the debit visa. One does not need Vanilla Reload cards.

  • Ash

    Which card from cvs do you get?

  • Chris

    Read his post.

  • khad

    I purchased $3k at the Speedway location and $5k at the Braeburn Village one. It was in the latest issue of the magazine they send out to AAA members. I think it runs through the end of June (or maybe July?). You can call them and ask.

    Brenton is correct. The TravelMoney card looked like a good deal on paper, but the woman I spoke with on the phone actually told me the same thing. They “run it through a different system” (her words) so it is charged as a cash advance. The (up to) $500 Visa gift cards are sold as a retail purchase (no cash advance fees) and are currently being offered with NO FEES. Enjoy! :)

  • khad

    I’ve purchased them at two different AAA locations in the Indianapolis area. Call your local AAA office and confirm. YOU MUST BE A AAA MEMBER TO GET THE CARDS FOR NO FEE.

  • khad

    Maria, which location did you call? I purchased some at the Speedway and Braeburn Village locations, but it is not limited to certain locations. It is a company-wide (or at least regional) promotion.

  • khad

    Dean, I’m using the ones I purchased from AAA. You call a phone number to set a PIN ahead of time. However, I also just recently got married, and we had about a half dozen Visa gift cards of all kinds. I’d say 90% of them just used any 4-digit number. It sets it the first time you use the PIN. There was only one of those that I had to call and set a PIN for, but I was able to load all of them at the Walmart Money Center kiosk/ATM thing. Hope that helps!

  • khad

    Visa gift card (purchased at Staples or anywhere else that makes sense to you). Not Staples gift card. I purchase mine through AAA because there are no fees right now. See my previous comment(s) on this post.

  • Arielle

    What is the name of the Visa card that you are getting through AAA to reload to BB?

  • Sophie

    Khad, How do you deposit $8k into blue bird. Do you do it before your credit card is due?

  • Sophie

    Just to be clear. You say that buying gift cards at staples.com with the Ink is no longer beneficial. (with fees) What is the BEST way to buy gift cards? We have the Ink, and Barcalycad, and United MilagePlus. (waiting for approval from the Sapphire). Do all stores (which allow credit cards on gift cards) allow points for buying gift card? What portal is best.

    If you gave me steps that would be great! I’m a newbie

  • Sophie

    Why just cvs? What about Walgreens? They also sell Vanilla Gift Cards.

  • Sophie

    Also, when I try to use the Barclay portal..they do not allow for the extra miles on gift cards. However, if I buy the gift card at cvs store (or walgreens) will I still get the 2 miles on that?

  • khad

    Sophie, that’s correct. You have at least a month before your credit card bill is due. You can deposit $1k per day into each Bluebird account by loading the Visa gift cards as debit at Walmart Money Center kiosks. It takes a few trips, but you can speed it up if you have access to more than one Bluebird account (i.e. self and spouse). Then you can “send money” from spouse to self and transfer right into your checking account from your own Bluebird account. Easy peasy. Good luck! :)

  • khad

    Arielle, the cards I purchased from AAA are issued by MetaBank. The website to manage the cards after purchasing them is https://aaa.myprepaidbalance.com/ if that helps at all.

  • Tony

    Dean before posting this you should really make sure you are correct. I as well as many others have no problems using VGC to load onto BB… Just because it didn’t work once, doesn’t mean it doesn’t always work…

  • Tony

    Never show the WM employee your VGC, and if they want to see it, have your regular debit card out to show them…

  • Tony

    No

  • Tony

    You and everybody else, but this all changed about a year ago…

  • Arielle

    Thank you — I’ll try to find it.

  • khad

    Tony, I have never dealt with an employee. I always use the kiosk. But, if it helps, the gift cards clearly state DEBIT VISA on them. :)

  • AlanB

    Bought a MC debit gift card Sunday went to Walmart money center today, the employee tried to help me load the card but it kept saying “tender not accepted”.

  • Jack

    I had the exact same issue, and showed an error code 14. Really appreciate a hint (select the “change payment” doesn’t work at all).

  • Sophie

    Thanks so much for your response. If you don’t mind me asking another question (im a newbie). This article is confusing. So is the Staples.com vanilla gift card still earn 5x points with Ink? or do I have to use a special portal?

    Also, I have Barclaycard..Will I still earn 2x points if I buy the vanilla gift card at say, Walgreens, or cvs (does it matter).
    What is the best way to go about doing this?. Just makes me nervous to spend $4k on gift cards and fees then not get the points in the end. (for example, through the Barclaycard portal on staples.com it specifically says “not eligible for gift card purchases”) But will it work (or is it worth it) to buy them for $400 at walgeens/cvs and would I still get the 2x points thats for all purchases (can they tell that I bought gift cards)

    Thank you so much for your help. Was anyone else very nervous when starting this ‘hobby’?

  • AlanB

    Went to a different Walmart tonight, got a great employee at the money center, we kept getting the tender not accepted message, she tried swiping the card in front, at her register, and manually entering the card number-no dice. Called over a co-worker/supervisor still no go. She did tell me/show me she had successfully loaded other debit cards to Bluebird tonight, specifically Vanilla Visa Gift Cards. She said if I found one of those in the store she’d try to transfer my funds to it. I looked at every empty register, didn’t see any. Went back to the supervisor asked her is she was sure they carried those, she said she hadn’t seen any. Only thing I can think of is I didn’t register the card at mygiftcardsite.com which it said was necessary to do before making an online purchase. I didn’t think transferring the money to BB was an online purchase but who knows. Maybe my mistake was the MC debit card instead of Visa? I’ve seen others say the cards aren’t active for the 1st 24 hours but it’s been 72 now. Wish I had put $100 on it instead of $300 but will try again probably with Vanilla Visa Gift Card.

  • khad

    Sophie, I’m happy to help. We were all “newbies” at one point. :) If you purchase anything from Staples (or Staples.com) with your Ink card it should count toward the 5X bonus category as “office supplies”. That includes Visa gift cards. I actually haven’t done it myself, but that is my understanding. I find the NO FEE cards at AAA (since I am a AAA member) to be a better deal at this time.

    If you have the Barclay Arrival Plus (or whatever they are calling the one that earns 2X everywhere) then, yes, you will earn the 2X everywhere. :)

    From comments further down this thread it appears that many of the portal bonuses are not being applied if you purchase gift cards (as the terms state). Your mileage may vary, but I’m sticking with AAA for now.

    The best way to get started is to do a smaller denomination first to make sure it all works the way you expect it to. Then once you are confident and comfortable, you can do more. Baby steps to miles and points! Haha! I hope that helps. Have a wonderful rest of your week.

  • Sophie

    Thank you!!

  • Bax

    I just called my local AAA and they will sell a Visa Gift Card for $3 up to $500. They said at Christmas they did not charge a fee.

  • Marshall

    Alex, can load 100/day 1000/mo on BB thru PP MC debit card.
    However, must be same name and address on PP card and BB card.
    Go to BB acct and link the PP card to the BB account to “add funds”.
    !st time you do, will get message to call BB. Call them and they will conference in PP CSR and confirm same name and address. Will need both cards so can confirm acct numbers. It is no big deal. Once done that, can load the 1000/mo 100 at a time.

  • Maria Paula Straub-Montenegro

    It is a regional promotion. I tried to buy them with an Amex GC and that didn’t end well. Basically, they sent out and email to all the branches saying that it was a possible scam because I tried at a couple locations! WTF? They said you could buy with credit card, but I’m not sure if it gets handled as a CA??

  • Maria Paula Straub-Montenegro

    You don’t need to be a member for indiana at least. Confirmed since I spoke with the director of operations

  • Maria Paula Straub-Montenegro

    Khad,
    can I have your email? i’ll share some info you might like to return the favor

  • Chris

    Opinion/math question.
    If I buy enough $200 GC from Staples to cover my mortgages and meet my Ink spend ($4000 per month) that’s 20 cards x 6.95 for an extra ~$140 per month.

    Are the 5x points worth the $1600 per year?

    Does $4000 x 5 points x 12 months pencil out in my favor?

  • Chris

    Opinion/math question.
    If I buy enough $200 GC from Staples to cover my mortgages and meet my Ink spend ($4000 per month) that’s 20 cards x 6.95 for an extra ~$140 per month.

    Are the 5x points worth the $1600 per year?

    Does $4000 x 5 points x 12 months pencil out in my favor?

  • Chris

    Opinion/math question.
    If I buy enough $200 GC from Staples to cover my mortgages and meet my Ink spend ($4000 per month) that’s 20 cards x 6.95 for an extra ~$140 per month.

    Are the 5x points worth the $1600 per year?

    Does $4000 x 5 points x 12 months pencil out in my favor?

  • Sophie

    Anyone have an issue with being asked for a second pin number on the bluebird. After entering the debit 4 digit?

  • starstaple

    Hi
    I read your blog. Its simply super. You have very good content. See my blog also Industrial Staple Pin Manufacturers

  • starstaple

    i read your blog.. U have very good content. Thanks for sharing this
    PVC Ball Valves Manufacturer

  • starstaple

    I read your blog. Its simply super. You have very good content. See my blog also
    CNC Punched precision sheet metal components | KK Industries Bangalore

  • kkindustriesbangalore13

    I read your blog.. Its really good. very good content. Thanks for sharing this
    Structural Glazing Manufacturers India

  • Joe P

    I can confirm that Walmart in both MA and NH (and I tried them both
    tonight (5/29)) would not load pin-enabled Visa GCs onto Bluebird.
    There is a register hard stop, and both stores cited a new policy to due
    alleged “money laundering”, with people loading GCs to BB only to use
    BB to extract cash. I had previously loaded my BB card this way several
    times at the MA Walmart to pay bills, so this method of loading BB is
    CONFIRMED DEAD. Any suggestions?

  • misterb

    Interesting. I did just this in GA on the 28th and loaded 2×500 VGC from the kiosk. The day before, I did it from the Money Center desk and had no problems. How can they tell it’s a gift card?

  • scott

    Now I’m finding this to be true. Just tried two Walmarts and neither worked. I was told gift cards are now blocked.

  • justthebest

    I’m sure the computers can tell. My understanding from a lot of online research today is that the WM system has now been hard-coded not to accept giftcard reloads onto BB. Damn.

  • Marty

    I just tried doing a few $200 Staples Visa’s onto BB. No go. Didn’t have anywhere near the $5000 load for the month. Now trying to figure out how to liquidate them… Grrr!

  • Dean G

    Tony – obviously it isnt working for everyone and I wanted to give a heads up bc this was my experience at 5! WM; in Georgia and Missouri.

  • starstaple

    Hi. I read your blog. Its nice to read. Hope very helpful to all. See my blog
    also Industrial Staple Pin Manufacturers Bangalore | Star Corporation

  • Preston

    I have noticed that this does not work for me at Walmart in Jackson, MI. I tried to use my Staples purchased gift card and it was declined. The person at the Money Center desk informed me that the system sees prepaid cards as “credit” now, no matter how you run it.

  • Paul A

    I’ve been able to sucessfully load OneVanilla Prepaid Gift Cards onto my BB at walmarts for a while now, but last week I went into a store and the reload wouldn’t work. I did everything the same, but the keypad said that the transaction could not be processed. I then went to the other WalMart in town and it was the same story. Has anyone else had this problem?

  • Eugene Tunitsky

    I managed to load my bluebird with staples gift cards on two occasions last month, however I had to get significant upper management approval to make it happen. It wasn’t easy at all and I don’t plan to try it again. All the cashiers mentioned all “Gift cards” were not allowed to be loaded onto a bluebird, even if they had a PIN.

  • uneasy

    I just loaded one Staples purchased Visa gift card to BB and it worked and no call yet. I registered the card prior to loading. Does that help or are all gift debit cards flagged?

  • Jmichael

    The $200 Staples Visa gift cards mentioned in the article work a-ok at the Walmart Money Center Kiosks, Redeemed a few 1 day ago.

  • James Walker

    my area Walmart stores in Memphis, TN are no longer accepting VISA gift cards for RapidReload, for Bluebird or for Money Order purchases. kinda stinks. now I have to figure out how to deal with the gift cards I have in hand..

  • Josh

    AAA I visa gift card problem BB:

    I purchased a $500 + 4.95 fee AAA Visa gift card today in Virginia, had it activated in store, then want to Walmart down the street, went to a cashier and tried to load onto my BB, but no luck. I didn’t realize I had to call to set a PIN, so I went outside, called, set a PIN, and tried 5 minutes later at cashier…no luck…

    What happened? Not enough enough time after setting the PIN?

  • Josh

    Khad, I went to my local AAA yesterday in Virginia (mid atlantic), and purchased a $500 card with a $4.95 fee b/c I’m a member, more expensive if you’re not. I made the purchase with my Chase Explorer card. They mentioned that around holidays they offer them for NO FEE. They had two cards, one that was a VISA that could be purchased with credit card, and then a more debit-like card that was cash advance. I may have made a rookie mistake but in small print on the back of the card it says “NON-RELOADABLE.” It was activated in the store for me. I went over to Walmart down the street, handed the cashier my BB card, discretely swiped the AAA gift card, and the transaction did not go through! I didn’t realize I had to call the number on the back to set a PIN, so I did that, waited about 5 minutes, then tried again, still not authorized. I’m assuming all the AAA cards say “NON-RELOADABLE.” Does it take 1 or 2 hours for the PIN to be linked to the card? Thoughts?

    P.S.: I contacted Chase customer service b/c I was curious if AAA counts as a travel vendor, and they do. I get 2 points for travel with the Explorer card, but only on United. Had I known before, I would have used my Sapphire card, which is 2 points for any travel vendor (not specifically United), but either way, I had to hack away at my minimum spending to get the bonus miles threshold.

    If I can get this card to work, then AAA is the way to go!

  • Josh

    I tried again today with the AAA visa gift card at the money center machine at Walmart, and it worked just fine. I think it takes a while to link the pin.

  • Josh

    I’m pretty sure the limit has gone up to $2k/day, which can be loaded at Walmart on to BB. Other blogs are saying it’s a recent change. Today, however, I started to load my $200 gift cards at Walmart and I was able to load more than $2k in one sitting, I was able to load $2100. I was expecting the machine to tell me I reached my limit, but no. Anyone have a similar experience?

  • Kayoss

    Does Staples allow you to buy Visa gift cards with Staples gift cards? Online its greyed out but people have claimed success at retail stores.

  • Justin

    Hey Khad, can you elaborate on cashing out cards with bb? You can withdraw via ATM and also transfer to your checking? Won’t this get you flagged?

  • Mtek

    This was posted in several places. Buyer beware US Bank tracks these cards. I was denied my 3rd purchase after I MS’d thru BB

  • Eugene Tunitsky

    Anyone have updates on loading bluebird at walmart with staples visa gcs???

  • ericdabbs

    How long does it take Visa SavingsEdge to post onto your account?

  • Russ

    khad,
    I just recently got a credit card that requires a 2K spend threshold in 90 days and would like to know a bit more about the BB card and the re-loading process in detail. I plan on going to my local AAA office and purchasing the visa cards ($4.95 fee for me on each card as they do not have that no fee special in my area). I know they sell 2 different types of cards at the AAA office. The one that acts like a cash advance and the one that gets treated like a retail purchase and this is the ones I will buy. Also, can anyone else confirm that this is still working as the last post was 4 mos ago??? Thanks to all.

Print This Page