I’ve had quite a bit of minimum spend to hit on credit cards recently in order to earn the signup bonuses.
I’m fortunate in being able to meet minimum spend fairly easily through reimbursable business expenses. But a lot of cards in the wallet, remembering how much is left to do on each, does take up brain space. So I like to put them to bed and be done as soon as possible. One less thing, y’know?
I’m also fortunate to live one block from a CVS. (I also live two blocks from a Staples, sadly Office Depot is accessible but not nearly as close!)
My CVS has pretty much everything imaginable, from Paypal cards to Netspend and VanillaOne cards.
And buried down at the bottom on the right, Vanilla Reloads.
Sadly 6 points per dollar at drugstores on the Hilton American Express is going away in May.
But they’re still highly useful for meeting minimum spend requirements.
I needed to hit $1500 more on one card, and my CVS had exactly 3 Vanilla Reloads left. I took them to the checkout counter (first I had to find someone willing to staff a register, this CVS pushes everyone to self checkout and you can’t buy these at self-checkout registers). They rang me up no problem, they needed to do two separate transactions — (2) at $500 per Vanilla Reload plus $3.95 fee per card which is their maximum per one transaction, and then (1) at $500 for the last Vanilla Reload plus $3.95 fee.
My CVS still takes credit cards for Vanilla Reload cards, not all of them do. It seems the ones that don’t, that insist on cash only, often claim there’s a ‘new chainwide policy’ though that usually turns out to be wrong. As of this morning it is still possible to buy Vanilla Reload cards at CVS, at least at some of them.
And of course the CVS in question not only has to be willing to take credit cards for Vanilla Reloads, they also have to have the cards in stock. I’m lucky that this one is one block from my home so I can duck in to check the rack whenever I’m walking by. Sometimes they are in stock and sometimes they aren’t.
With $1500 in Reloads in hand I got onto my computer and went to VanillaReload.com. On that page you enter your Bluebird card number in the upper land hand side and then the PIN off of the back of the Vanilla Reload card (you scratch off the strip on the back to reveal the PIN number). Once entered and confirmed the funds post to Bluebird instantly.
You can only load up to $1000 per day and $5000 per month onto a single Bluebird account through Vanilla Reloads. So I will have to put the remaining $500 from today’s purchase onto my Bluebird card tomorrow (or anytime after midnight tonight).
Then I will take the funds off of Bluebird by having a check mailed through their billpay service — to someone I trust to give me back the money, to my credit card company to pay off the balance, or to various bills with merchants who do not take credit cards.
CVS remains the place most likely to stock and accept credit cards for Vanilla Reloads. But there’s no more 5 points per dollar like we used to get using certain Chase produts at Office Depot for these cards, since Office Depot no longer carries them. (To earn 5 points per dollar you would have to buy, say, a prepaid American Express gift card at an office supply store and then liquidate that gift card by buying a Vanilla Reload at CVS.)
Some credit cards now even say in their fine print that purchase of cards like Vanilla Reloads do not count as eligible spending for meeting bonuses — but in practice I haven’t seen them excluded yet from the calculation and am not even sure how the card company would know what you’ve purchased exactly, with most transactions they just know the merchant you’ve made the purchase at.
But it remains a highly useful technique for those with access to the cards!