October 10, 2013
In the past month or so, Vanilla Reload cards have become more and more difficult to find. Many stores that used to have a ready supply have sold out and have not restocked. What’s going on? I don’t have the answers, but there are a number of clues…
Vanilla Reload website changes and a new card
As Giddy for Points reported here, the website for reloading Vanilla Reload cards has undergone a dramatic facelift. And, the new site shows a very different looking card:
Vanilla Reload website won’t reload
Yesterday, readers reported that the Vanilla Reload website wasn’t working when they tried to reload Bluebird cards. The quick fix is to call to reload:
CVS policy changes
Donnie Law reports here that CVS is planning to roll out new policies regarding how Vanilla Reload cards are sold. No details yet as to what these new policies may be. Let’s hope that credit cards will still be allowed!
Amex Serve rolls out big changes
American Express’ Serve product continues to evolve. Finextra gives a summary of some recent changes here. The part that caught my eye was this:
Free Cash Load Network: Starting this November, American Express Serve customers will be able to take cash to the register at more than 14,000 participating CVS/pharmacy and 7-Eleven stores and add it to their American Express Serve Account. This is made possible through a relationship with InComm and its Vanilla Reload Network.
This paragraph implies that instead of buying Vanilla Reload cards, the Serve card will need to be brought to the register and reloaded there. It sounds a lot like Bluebird “swipe reloads” at Walmart doesn’t it? If so, will this be in addition to Vanilla Reload cards or instead of Vanilla Reload cards? Will they allow credit cards? Debit cards? Will we have to wait until November to find out?
What it all means
It appears to me that Amex has been happy with the Bluebird rollout, but is not satisfied with keeping an exclusive partnership with Walmart. Instead, they’ve made Serve increasingly like Bluebird, but without the Walmart exclusivity. Does this have anything to do with Vanilla Reload changes? Maybe. Amex is certainly big enough to be in a position to convince Incomm to change their product. Of course, the two developments coming around the same time could be coincidental, but my guess (and it is just a guess) is that they’re connected.
It seems likely to me that the CVS policy changes, if they happen, are driven by the need to have a new way to load cards like Serve.
I believe that the current lack of Vanilla Reload cards in stores is due to the fact that Incomm stopped producing the old cards and have not yet rolled out the new ones. Regarding the broken Vanilla Reload site: maybe it’s not working because the new site is designed only to load new Vanilla Reload cards?
Anyone have information or good guesses about what’s going on? Comment below.