Update: As of April 4, 2014, CVS has made a chainwide change to not accept credit cards for Vanilla Reloads.
The American Express Vanilla Reload card has increased our abilities to collect miles and points paying our bills. You can: Spend $500 on a miles earning credit card to buy a Vanilla Reload card at your local CVS or drugstore, load the credit onto the American Express Bluebird card and then use the credit on the Bluebird card to pay your mortgage, rent or tuition bill. Normally, these expenses may not take credit cards and this is a good way to earn miles through these sorts of transactions.
The American Express Bluebird card is a free card (without credit pull) that you can basically use as a bank account and debit card. You can use it to buy merchandise, send checks to people or pay regular monthly expenses such as rent, tuition, mortgage and utilities. You can load it directly from a checking account or through a debit card, but the most lucrative way for miles and points seekers is the Vanilla reload.
The Vanilla Reload is sold at drugstores like CVS and works as credit you can load onto the Bluebird card. You can use a credit card to buy a Vanilla reload card and then load the funds onto the Bluebird card. You can then use the Bluebird card as a regular debit card or to pay bills such as tuition, rent, mortgage or anywhere else you can send a check for bill paying purposes.
The Vanilla Reload Basics
How do I get a Bluebird card?
You can order a Bluebird card by going to www.bluebird.com and ordering the card directly from the website. It will come in the mail in about 7-10 days.
Where do I find Vanilla reload cards?
The best place to check for Vanilla reload cards is your local CVS. Since many people are buying these, many locations are sold out. I have not been able to find these cards in NY, but two out of three CVS by my parents’ house in NJ have them. You can buy up to $1000 per transaction although some CVS locations have recently raised the limit to $5,000. It’s been reported that some Walgreens will only accept cash for them so you may have to look in a few different places before you find these cards in stock. That said, your luck may vary and I was able to find a ton of them by my parents’ local CVS.
How to I load a Vanilla reload card onto a Bluebird card?
To load the card, go to www.vanillareload.com. It will prompt you type in the PIN number of your Vanilla reload card and your Bluebird card number and the loading is instantaneous.
What are the limits for how much I can load onto a Bluebird card?
You are limited to loading $1000/day onto the card or $5000/month. This allows you to spend $60,000 a year on the card.
How do I pay my bills with the card?
To pay your bills, log in to your bluebird.com account and go to pay bills. You can add the payee by typing in your bank name and account number. It usually takes a few business days for the payment to process so don’t wait until the last minute. I personally have never had it take more than two business days, however.
The Best Cards to use with the Bluebird/Vanilla reload
I like to use my most valuable cards for paying my bills. Don’t forget, you can also use Vanilla Reloads to meet minimum spending requirements as those rent, mortgage and student loan can really add up!
- Barclaycard Arrival World MasterCard: After the initial $440 sign-up bonus, the card gives 2.2% cash back redeemable toward any travel expense.
- United MileagePlus Explorer Card: The United Mileage Plus Explorer Card gives a 10,000 mile bonus when spending $25,000 on the card in a single calendar year. If you spend $25,000 on your bills and use the United MileagePlus explorer card via Vanilla Reloads, you will get 1.4 miles per dollar.
- Starwood Preferred Guest Card: Starwood Preferred Guest points are very valuable for hotels and transfer to a ton of airlines at a 1:1.25 ratio. That is, for every 20,000 Starwood points, you can transfer to 25,000 airline miles.