I’ve shared with you a few times my love of Vanilla Reloads (VR) and AmEx Bluebird (BB). For those of you who are new to this blog, you can go to this site to read up on it in more detail but very quickly VRs are a transfer means. What I do is to go into a store that sells VRs and they MUST look like this: Load them
up to $500 each with my credit card that I am either trying to meet the minimum spend on for the sign up points or a credit card that I am trying to get more points on. I then transfer the money that is on the VR to my Bluebird (BB) and I am able to do it online in the comfort of my home. Once the money is in my BB account, then I can pay bills electronically. BB advertisers itself as a debit and checking alternative.
Last spring BB introduced free checks. To use one of BBs checks, you enter the check information on the BB site. Basically what BB does is preauthorize the check amount and they debit it from your balance. You can never be in an overdraft position because the check has to be pre-authorized. This is also handy because some payees do not accept credit card payments (IRS, anything I pay at City Hall, church donations, etc).
You can order free checks now until January 1, 2014. You have a choice of 50 or 100 checks and since they are free, I would order 100 checks.
If you go to the VR site you will find a list of stores that supposedly sell VRs. Now I say supposedly because WalMart is listed and as far as I know they have never sold VRs. Click on all the stores because there are many names that I did not recognize them but they were the “holding company” and some of their stores were ones that I was aware of and had shopped at.
You’ve done it. You have applied for a new credit card and after you spend $3000 in three months you’ll receive 40,000 points or whatever the card you are applying for is offering. The problem is that you don’t need anything to purchase using a credit card that will total $3000 in the allotted time. What’s one to do? Hang on, I’ve got the answer to your dilemma.
Every month most of you have to pay rent, home mortgage or some other bill that you have to write a check for since they won’t accept credit cards. Keep this thought in the back of your mind as I move forward with this thought.
American Express came out last summer with an alternative to checking accounts and debit cards. It is called the American Express Bluebird. You can pick one up at WalMart where they are exclusively sold. At my WalMart they are found a a display near the cashiers and cost $5. You then go home and log on to their site www.bluebird.com and register for a permanent card OR just go to their site and order a permanent card for free. You should receive it in the mail in about 10 days.
You will now need to “fund” it – in other words put some money on this card.
There are several ways to do this. If you purchased it at WalMart you will need to put some money on it at the register. If you have a SunTrust Delta debit card, you can use that and get Delta points for every dollar you put on the BB. The same goes for the Alaska Air debit card.
Another option is the Vanilla Reloadable Card available at CVS and now at 7/11 stores. *** Update – as of 4/14/14 you could no longer purchase Vanilla Reloads at CVS when using a credit card. I have not seen Vanilla’s at 7/11 in a long time. If you go to the Vanilla Reloadable website you can click on the tab for reload locations. I primarily use CVS since they are always in stock at my stores near me. You will find them in the gift card carousel. There are a lot of cards that are called Vanilla – some are debit cards, some are gift cards – make sure your Vanilla Reloadable looks like this:
You can “load any amount from $20 to $500 all for a $3.95 fee. I use whatever credit card I am trying to meet my minimum spend on or whatever card I want points or miles on. I bring my card home and scratch off the silver bar over the pin number on the back of the card. I then click on the VR website and enter the number of my BB card. Below that I enter the pin number of my VR card. After I submit it, it is instantly loaded onto my BB card. You can only load $5000 per month and $1000 per day and you can only spend $5000 per month. Basically the VR is a transfer mechanism for putting money onto your BB and getting points at the same time.
Once you have done all this you can then pay your bills just like you would with online banking. You enter the payee, the address, account number and the amount you want to pay. You cannot schedule a payment though. So, now I can get points and miles from purchasing VRs and then loading them onto my Bluebird and having the BB pay my bills for me. For your minimum spend, buy your VRs, load them onto BB, and then have BB send a payment to the credit card that you just used to purchase your VRs with. This is called manufactured spending.
I personally would not take out all my money but rather do a mixture of debit for purchases and money out at an ATM. I tend to use mine exclusively for bill payment.
Other methods are getting a Serve account and doing the same thing that you could do with Bluebird.
I would enjoy reading your comments and finding out if you find this helpful. Please consider leaving a comment on this blog.
NOTE: Since this was written there have been various methods of meeting your minimum spend that have come and go. What I do now is purchase VISA gift cards in grocery stores, Simon Malls, etc in $500 amounts. These are variable gift cards that you can load from $20 to $500. Make sure they are issued by US Bank or Meta Bank. IF US Bank, call the number on the back of the card to set a pin. If Meta Bank, the pin is the last 4 digits on the card. I then take the card and purchase a money order using the gift card, now operating like a debit card. I’ll deposit the money order back into my bank account to be able to pay for the gift card that I initially bought.