Recently, I posted about a memo I received from a reader about CVS raising the limit on transactions with Vanilla Reloads and prepaid cards. Today, I have some updates and some confirmations. The new limit that some CVS stores already have or soon will have is $5,000 per person per day. All transactions over $1,000 require swiping an ID and the limit will be enforced across all stores.
Vanilla Reloads Overview
Vanilla Reloads are prepaid cards sold at some CVS and they can be loaded up to $500 for a fee of $3.95. These can then be loaded online (or even through the internet with your smartphone) onto the American Express Bluebird card with a limit of $1000 a day or $5000 a month. For more information read: The Bluebird and Vanilla Reload cards: Earn Miles And Points Paying Your Bills.
The Bluebird is not a credit card. It’s a card that’s meant to replace a checking account and does not have any fees. In fact, you just sign up for one by ordering it online. There isn’t even any pull on your credit. Once the funds are loaded onto the Bluebird, you can use the card to pay bills such as your mortgage, rent, utilities, tuition, etc. If these are a significant portion of your monthly spending, this is a good way to earn more points and make life more convenient paying your bills.
From what I’ve heard from the cashiers, the biggest issue was people buying Vanilla Reloads with stolen credit cards. The new ID swiping mechanism will allow CVS to track the transactions to the person. Presumably, this reduces the risk of moving money with stolen credit cards, something that CVS may face full liability for and this offers them additional protection. Thus, it’s a positive move. This is completely outside my area of expertise and perhaps someone with more law knowledge like TravelBlawg may be able to comment.
Expecting Changes At CVS
As I mentioned earlier, one of the points of the new policy involves swiping an ID for transactions over $1,000. This requires a new software upgrade, which only some CVS stores have received. Understandably, this won’t happen overnight and some stores may not catch up for a while, if ever. Regardless, many CVS stores are likely to be rolling out the new policy and new software in the upcoming weeks or months so there may be some changes at your local CVS. Stores are likely to fall into combinations of the following categories:
- CVS stores with new software to swipe ID’s allowing up to $5,000 in Vanilla Reloads and prepaid cards per customer per day.
- CVS stores without new software still enforcing the $1,000 a day limit and allowing use of credit cards for Vanilla Reloads and prepaid cards.
- CVS stores that only take cash.
Investigative Work In The Field
When I posted the memo, some people were understandably skeptical:
Everyone knows at this point I like to investigate. My team and I went into the field again. After work, I went across town to the Vanilla Reloads CVS and tried to purchase $2,000 in Vanilla Reloads. No luck there. I was informed the limit is, in fact, $1,000 per person per day and they never heard of any new policy with increased limit. Hey, it could be worse! At least they take credit cards.
On the other side of the country, Alina found a CVS. She picked up 4 Vanilla Reloads and… success! They asked to swipe her driver’s license on the second card, loaded all 4 with $500 each and charged $2015.80 to her credit card. Mission completed and new limit verified.
How This Affects My Point Earning Strategy
A few people asked me what this really changes. There is still a $5,000 limit for your Bluebird so it doesn’t really change the maximum number of points you can earn paying your bills. They’re completely right. You may take fewer trips, but you still earn the same points.
However, I consider time my biggest commodity and this makes my Vanilla Reloads purchases to pay bills far far more efficient. Depending on which card I use, I can buy most of the Vanilla Reloads I need to pay my bills for the month in a single CVS visit and will have the rest of my time for other strategies and travel planning!
- Some CVS stores have implemented a new policy to allow up to $5,000 in purchases on Vanilla Reloads and prepaid cards in a single visit or transaction.
- The new policy involves swiping an ID for transactions over $1,000 and will track purchases across different CVS locations.
- My new strategy will involve putting some spending on the Citi ThankYou card and using additional cards to earn more rewards during a single CVS visit.
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