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In case you missed my post about reloadable cards yesterday, the short version is that I had a rough start with reloadables due to some mysterious fraud hold on my account. I was less than impressed with this start down the road of “earning 5x Ultimate Reward points on everything”, but I wasn’t quite ready to give up because a) I had money tied up in the deal so I had to get something figured out and b) I knew how well the system works for many others.
I have now resolved the problem I had at the beginning, and have picked up a few pointers for those who are new to the world of reloadables along the way. So here are a few tips from one reloadable newbie to another:
- Understand that there is a bunch of fraud in the world of reloadables, so everyone from the store manager, to the reload company, to the prepaid card company may treat you and your transactions with a suspicious eye. This doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong, but just be aware that reload cards are easy targets for those with stolen credit cards, those who want to “launder” money, etc. That means you may accidentally trigger some “fraud” alerts along the way. This can result in a higher PITA factor, but many also seem to have fewer fraud alert issues as time goes on, so don’t let an early hiccup sway you completely.
- Keep all receipts for your Vanilla reloads until the money is safely transferred to your prepaid card. Truthfully it wouldn’t hurt to have a folder somewhere you just stash them in for a while in case there are any issues.
- Consider just sticking with $500 prepaid gift cards if you want to avoid some of the potential fraud issues that come with the reloadables. I’m sure it’s possible to hit a fraud issue with the $500 Visa, Amex, and MasterCard gift cards, but I think it is much less frequent. The downside of those is no purchase protection, no pin code, and you have to keep track of various cards. However, if you are just going to do $500 a month in gift cards then this really isn’t a bad strategy. I did it this way for months and never had an issue. You won’t get “points rich” at that rate, but assuming you are using an Ink card to get the cards at 5x from an office supply store, then that is still an easy 30,000 Ultimate Reward points per year. Even a busy family that doesn’t have time to go hunting for reloads should be able to do this method.
- If you do get a prepaid card, it may be best to order the permanent prepaid card from Amex directly. For whatever reason, many people seem to have the best results going that route as opposed to upgrading a temporary prepaid Amex like I did.
- Once you activate your new permanent prepaid card wait 24 hours or so before trying to load Vanilla reloads on the card. Again, for some people like myself this can trigger a fraud alert. I’m betting anytime you move large amounts or do things very quickly the computers get a bit suspicious that you are up to something fishy. Go slowly, have patience, and try to fly under the radar.
- Of course, now that Bluebird is flying, that may be the best way to go. This card sounds even better than the one I just got. My mind is already spinning with ideas. I bet you will still have similar reload issues, but there are more possibilities for reloading and cashing out. Follow Frequent Miler for the most up to the minute info with Bluebird. I can tell you I will be getting a card for sure!
I called in and went around and around with Vanilla and Amex when I got an “error code 83” (a fraud code) after trying to reload my prepaid Amex for the first time, but it is quite possible the problem would have resolved itself after 24 hours without me doing anything. So, my recommendation overall is patience. I have very little of that when it comes to my money being tied up with a fraud code, but I am working on it!
I’ve said this before, but if you aren’t at least dipping your toes into the world of gift cards/prepaid cards/reloadable cards you need to strongly consider doing so. Start small, but don’t discount it as there are very simple and manageable ways to get involved – even for busy families. Credit card sign-up bonuses are huge, but this is right there in a solid second place in terms of easy ways to earn miles and points.
I’d love to hear other tips that folks have picked up along the way. Also, if you have questions about using this type of strategy for earning miles and points please ask. If I don’t know the answer, I bet someone else does.