Miles & Points
Adventures in Finding Vanilla Reload Cards
Probably most of you have heard about the new Bluebird checking account through Walmart and American Express that essentially lets pay your rent and other things that require cash/check payments with a credit card. You create a Bluebird account, purchase Vanilla Reload pre-paid cards with your credit card and use them to fund your Bluebird account.
The trick is finding the Vanilla Reload cards. They’re pretty much non-existent in the DC area, so I was excited to see the area where my parents live in Florida is awash in them. AWASH. All the Walgreens have 3+ racks, the Dollar Generals even more. No question I could hit my $5K load limit for the month!
Attempt #1. Yesterday I head into the first Walgreens, grab 3 cards and walk up to the register. The friendly cashier informs me due to store policy he can only do $500 a day in pre-paid cards (gift cards are exempt) per customer. Ok, so instead of the $1500, I’ll take $500 and pull out my credit card. He asks if it’s debit or credit, and when I reply credit, he says paying for the pre-paid card with a credit card is illegal and says something about money laundering. I decide to use the same policy you use when booking award trips — if you don’t get the answer you want, try another agent.
Attempt #2. I head to the Dollar General which has slightly different Vanilla Reload cards. Instead of the typical scratch off pin on the back, it’s just a piece of cardboard you take to the register. At this location they had no problems with my request for $1500 nor a problem with me paying by credit card. The problem was the Vanilla Reload card. This version apparently loads the funds directly into your account (no pin required), but the system didn’t like my Bluebird card and rejected every attempt.
Attempt #3. Fortunately there was a Walgreens right across the street so I headed there and tried again to do $1500. This time the cashier called over the manager who said they could sell me one $500 pre-paid card a day due to store policy. No mention was made of paying with a credit card, so I willingly took the $500 I could get. And now I knew the daily limit was a real Walgreens policy but the not accepting credit card payment wasn’t.
Later as I was browsing for real essentials the manager came back up to apologize and explain, saying the drug dealers were making it hard on honest people. Sorry, what!? Drug dealers? Apparently miles & points enthusiasts aren’t the only fans of pre-paid cards. They (I’m guessing Walgreens in that area or in FL in general) were having problems with drug dealers and other “crooks” coming in and laundering money via the pre-paid cards. Hence the $500 limit and extensive training for all the Walgreens employees. Wow.
But at least I now had one Vanilla Reload card and I’ll be heading back each of my remaining days here to pick up additional cards. Just wish I’d known about the $500 earlier and I would have started hitting the daily limit alot sooner!
Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.