Reloadable Follow-up and Tips for Reloadable Card Newbies

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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.

Comments

  1. Good ending to your story. I bought 2 Vanilla reload cards for my AMEX prepaid. Will use it to pay my property tax coming up. i never had a problem loading it. I am wondering if it is considered an “alert” for AMEX for me to have the Bluebird as well. What do you think? Is the bluebird or AMEX prepaid cancellable?

  2. @FM, me too. Fingers crossed that I got my hitch in the road over quickly.
    @Sil, I have no clue, but I am holding off getting my own BlueBird for a little bit because I just loaded enough to last me a while on my Amex Prepaid, but also because I don’t see any reason to even risk setting off another alert by getting a different account so quickly. I’m going better safe than sorry, even though it may be unnecessary.

  3. Great Mp, glad it worked out! Hopefully you will get more comfortable and really start flying high. Use the card a bit, withdraw the money, rinse and repeat.

  4. Glad it worked for you. My question is what if you don’t have the Ink card b/c you don’t have a business? Then it is no longer such a lucrative option, right? I understand a lot of things can be characterized as a business, but I really don’t have one…

  5. The part I understand is getting 5X pts buying an Amex gift card at OD. The part I don’t get is how points are accrued when using a reloadable card. Am I to understand that if I move money from my checking account onto a reloadable card Amex somehow credits my Ultimate Rewards account with associated points?

  6. Sorry for the beginner question: are “Vanilla Reload” cards just the regular $50 cards they sell at Office Depot, or do they say “Vanilla” on them? I’m a little confused about how to buy them and then load them to the BlueBird product. I’ll read your posts again to see if I’ve missed something obvious. I’m new to having an Ink Bold (thanks again for the sign up link–you are awesome!), but am loving all these options!

  7. If you don’t have an Ink the deal is not as good, however it can still be helpful meeting min spend. And don’ forget how hard it is to get SPG points.(no bonus points mall etc )I think most will still find this useful .

  8. @Tim, thanks – I’m okay flying in the mid-range. 😉
    @CU, you may have a business and not realize it. Have a blog? Ebay things? Do small home repairs? Etc? It can work if you have a card that gives bonuses at any store that sells reloads or gift cards, but this the Ink/OD is the most consistent use.
    @ford, the 5x is earned when you buy the reloads at OD with your Ink card. If you just move money from your checking account that won’t be all that helpful for earning points. The new BlueBird may open up some new avenues, but the basics currently usually involve buying reloads at OD with Ink.
    @Michelle, see the linked post at the top of this post for a picture of a Vanilla reload. They are different than other prepaid cards. You can each Vanilla reload with up to $500 at OD. I haven’t used BlueBird yet, but for the Amex Prepaid, you just go to the vanilla website (listed on the reload) and enter your reload number and Amex prepaid number and the money gets transferred (see screen shot in this post). Congrats on getting the Ink Bold and thanks for your support.

  9. Jim, yes it is still potentially helpful for hitting spending requirements on other cards (and BlueBird may turn out to be even more helpful for that).

  10. I know Hilton points are not nearly as valuable as UR but if you are in the market to stock up on Hilton points like I am and don’t have an Ink card, this can be lucrative. With the no fee Hilton card you can earn 6x per $ at gas stations and grocery stores. The racks at my local gas stations are always full of vanilla reloads.

    • @Lee, correct any time you can use a card that gets you a bonus at grocery stores, drug stores, gas stations, etc. you can potentially take advantage of this. 🙂

  11. Hey MP, First question – I do not have an OD near by. Do Staples carry these cards and will they allow me to purchase them with my Ink card? Secondly, I am with some of the others and need more clarification about the BlueBird card. Do I take the money from the cards I purchased at Staples and transfer the money to the BlueBird? Then what? I think that is where I am confused? How are they helping me obtain more points than I am with by just using the card I purchased from Staples? Thanks!!!

    • @iamamy, OD is the only office supply store that currently has Vanilla reloads (according to the Vanilla site). The 5x is earned on the front end by buying reloads. So, you get say $500 on a reload you earned 2,500 points for that purchase. You then load it on a prepaid or Bluebird and spend the money you earned 5x on when you purchased. Essentially then you are earning “5x on everything”.

  12. I know Amex wants you to use the prepaid for purchases, not just withdrawals, but what are the suggestions on withdrawals so as not to trigger a closure? My credit union charges $3 for max. $200 WD. Can you do this once a day and keep reloading as long as you use the card for “real” spend? BTW, we buy all our gas at Costco using our prepaid. Fantastic!

    • @Jon, the prepaid Amex is great, but to reload it at 5x and have a “permanent” card is pretty awesome. You can put more on there, have a pin number, use an ATM, have purchase protection, etc. However, I just used the $500 prepaids by themselves for months, so that is also a good strategy.

  13. @Jon, can you get the $500 Amex prepaid cards at OfficeMax or are you thinking of the Amex gift cards (that top out at $200)? I’ve never seen the prepaid cards at OfficeMax. If they carry them, that’s great!

    • @Tommy, you can buy gift cards at groceries or even some gas stations when Freedom has a 5x bonus category at those stores.

  14. Very helpful post, MP. Before Vanilla Reloads, which $500 prepaid gift cards did you buy over and over, and what were the fees like? I have Ink but no place nearby to buy Vanilla Reloads. Thank you!

  15. MP as stated on the other blog post I am glad this worked out for you now. It is a PITA and I run into those sorts of things all the time.
    .
    Here’s my daily rant that others may surely agree on some or all of:
    .What bugs me the most is how these entities–which are assuming or calling OUR ACTIVITIES fraud–are in a way committing a bit of it themselves by being so allusive and unresponsive. I mean, the way you knew the CSR changed when seeing error code 83, or how Amex was telling you that you must have gotten the wrong card, etc… or how you had to sit there on the phone for not a few minutes to sort something out that you could do in your own world if asked to with your eyes closed, but instead for what was probably a lot longer and more frustrating period of time! I mean, the kids need ya, the sauce is boiling over, the dog is barking… and honey I really thought this CS call was only going to last a minute–and oh wait what’s that? Um oh yes my account number… again??!?! I just gave it to the last guy who speaks with an accent I cant really understand and who I had to wait in silence for 15 minutes on hold while he checked with some supervisor who was probably just the laughing co worker at the desk next to his, etc etc etc…
    .
    I think THAT is fraudulent. NOT US. Period. (consider NS and what many faced with them)
    .
    Our only defense? Luck, and the ability to keep finding ways to win one against them before they git us!
    .
    Of course, like I’ve said elsewhere, there will always be those (sometimes, sadly, even peers walking among us) that claim something obtuse such as: “Well dood, if YOU have these ‘problems’ then obviously it’s YOU who are doing something wrong, cuz it didn’t happen to meeeeeeeeee!” To them, I say: You are lying or you will soon find out as well and I’ll be there to save you from drowning while I should be pushing you further under.” But really, I hope they dont have to suffer too, but when that happens, the whole thing gets me blood boiling.

    .So anyway, I hope you make some good Chase 5x to make up for lost time with this PITA factor here.
    .
    .
    PS I also had never tried to get those blue looking Amex PP temp cards you mentioned… I didn’t even know that was an option. I have no OD near me (have had others close to me get VNs for me as AU Ink holders) but would be willing to explore the option if it’s worthy. Also, for my area there really are no good ATMs, but sometimes the fees do get outweighed by the benes.

  16. Can the Vanilla Reload card also be used as a regular credit card? Or does it only function as a way to fund a permanent card such as Bluebird?

    I notice I can get a $500 Vanilla Reload card for $3.95, whereas a regular $500 prepaid Visa costs $4.95. Hey — every dollar counts!

    • @Seymour, the reloads just reload permanent cards. Every dollar does count, so that is another reason people like that method.

  17. Hey. I’m new to this whole gift-card thing. Today I wandered into Safeway and discovered that while they have $500 Lowes cards and $100 & $200 Visa/MC gift cards, if you want a larger Visa/MC card you need to get something that is marked $25-$500 and presumably have the cashier activate it for the amount you want. Anyone else every use one of these? I also noticed them in Staples & Office Depot, as well as the Vanilla cards at OD.

    Thoughts?

  18. The cashier at Walmart didn’t let me use my sapphire to buy the bluebird today Told me I can only use cash or debt to but the card.

  19. I’ll answer my own question above. Stopped at Safeway, bought one of the 25-500 cards with my Flexperks Visa. The cashier activates it with as much money as you tell her, and you pay $5.95 for the privilege.

    It *claims* to be Visa Debit, although there is no PIN. We’ll see when I try to use it (and a few more) to pay my quarterly taxes…..

  20. I am interested in paying my quarterly taxes and some other taxes as well with a card. This is going to be quite a large amount. I would love to maximize the 5x at office supply stores with both mine and my husbands ink bold but I don’t want to cross the line. I have bought a few $500 visa credit card cards but haven’t gone with the reload cards. I was afraid to buy too many and put up a red flag. I think it is time to “jump in “. We pay alot of quarterly taxes. I have been put some of my state taxes on my ink card. Our state doesn’t charge a fee on their website. Guess it is time to order a bluebird.

  21. I am new to this. Is there statement from Bluebird showing all transactions/purchases on the prepaid card (like credit card)?

  22. Newbie here. I want to get my grandchildren cards for their trip in june. I have 6 grandchildren going. they are all having 500.00 each. Witch one di you think would be the best? Thank You

    • Kim, for their convenience I would just get them Amex/Visa/etc that you can load $500 on. These are often available at drug stores, grocery stores, etc.

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