Note: Some links in this post may be affiliate links. You don't have to use our links, but if you choose to, thank you very much for your support! Please read my Advertiser Disclosure policy for additional information.

CVS Stores Raise Vanilla Reload/Prepaid Card Limit

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:

Points Summary is right!

Points Summary is right!

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.

Alina bought $2,000 in Vanilla Reloads

Alina bought $2,000 in Vanilla Reloads

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!

Summary

  • 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.

Like this post? Why not join hun­dreds of read­ers who receive our blog posts by email? Enter your email address below to sub­scribe and never miss another update or great miles deal. You can also fol­low us on Face­book or Twit­ter.

Comments

  1. keli says

    I thought Vanilla Reload cards can only be redeemed to your Bluebird account at a Walmart store. On your post you indicated it can be done online and on your phone app? Can it actually be done that way?

  2. Ben says

    Data point from Jacksonville, FL:

    (First time buying VRs)

    First CVS would only take cash.

    Second CVS took my AMEX, but entered the last 4 digits of my CC.

  3. danny says

    Are you encountering alot of CVS stores that takes cash only? I tried 12 stores today and only about half accepted credit card payments for visa/amex/vanilla reload cards. It seems that more and more CVS stores are switching to cash only policy in the last few months.

    • says

      I don’t find many CVS stores that have Vanilla Reloads, but cash only is not uncommon depending on your location. But if you can find 6 that have them and take credit cards, that’s great!

  4. Steverinie says

    I tried this for the very first time. Got lucky and first CVS store I went to had the VR cards and accepted credit card payments. Tried to buy two cards for $500 each and the transaction strangely wouldn’t go through. Minutes later I got a phone call for a fraudulent activity warning. Do you happen to know if there’s any way to prevent that from happening BEFORE I try to use a card?

    • says

      This happens to me all the time! I actually have text alerts set up on my cards (can be done by calling) so that when there is a fraud alert, I get a text and reply it is a valid transaction via text and then run the card again to buy VR… the idea is if someone stole my card, he’d have to steal my phone too. Chase messages come through quite quickly, but Citi may be slow at times – sometimes 1 minute, sometimes 30 minutes. Others have mentioned they’ve called the credit card and let them know they’ll be making some large transactions specifically at CVS or drugstores and not to flag that as unusual activity.

      • Steverinie says

        Ah, great advice about the text messages. Yes, this happened to be a Citi card and I had already driven off in frustration by the time I got the phone call. Thanks for the info.

        • says

          Also, if the texts don’t come through quickly enough, you can always call the number on the back of your card and tell them the transaction is valid and you’d like to try it again. We have had to do that a few times. I just casually comment to the cashier it’s a large transaction so I need to give them a call to say it’s ok and I’ll be back in a few minutes :)

  5. traveller says

    Does CV or/and Incomm lose money by selling the Vanilla Reload with a Credit card? Doesn’t CVS have to pay 1.5 to 2% fee for credit card transaction fee to Visa/MC or Amex? Just wondering but I am delighted about the 5k max.

    • says

      That is actually a very good question and one I’ve pondered a few times. I don’t know the real answer, but I always assumed it’s similar to all other purchases from the point of view of the credit card company. That would mean CVS is selling them at a loss and they are hoping to get customers in the store. But again, I am completely unfamiliar with what is the financial agreement between CVS and the prepaid card issuer.

  6. Jerry Mandel says

    OK. Now, I see it is $3.95 per $500 at CVS. However, at Kroger, with the Kroger Plus key chain tag, for the extra (2 x $2 difference=$4 more), I get 1,000 fuel points good for $1 off per gallon at Shell and Kroger gas stations. So $1 per gal would save $12 on 12 gallons to offset the card fees. Nothing offsets the CVS fees. It is probably good at other grocery chains owned by Kroger. The key chain tag is used at the Kroger service desk to get the fuel points and at the Kroger fuel pump (or Shell window) to get the discount.

    • Nish says

      Kroger gives 1 fuel point per dollar spent or 500 points per $500 load gift card.

      Only at Kroger gas pumps, you can redeem 1000 points at a time to get $1 discount for per gallon of gas in single fill. So if you fill only 10 gallons for a small car, you save $10. If you have a large truck which can accept, 25 gallons, you save $25. You already paid $11.90 for two gift cards used to earn 1000 points

      Shell does not give you option to redeem 1000 point but only 100 point so you save only 10 cents per gallon at Shell or $2.50 if you fill 25 gallons.

      If you accumulate large number of fuel points, Shell is not a good option.

      • Rick G. says

        Now now Nish…don’t be misinformative! The Shells where I live are linked to the Krogers and do give me $1.00 off per gallon for 1000 point. Only some Krogers have their own gas stations here.

        So Shell IS a good option for some…just investigate like MP does! :)

  7. Nish says

    There is a lot of misinformation in some of above post. As if people who are writing have not been practicing Vanilla Reloads or Variable load visa gift cards.

    1) Vanilla Reloads by themselves cannot be used but you need to load into a prepaid card like BlueBird or My vanilla debit

    2) Each vanilla reload comes with $3.95 fee irrespective of amount you load. Max load is $500 or 0.79%.

    3) Amount you earn depends on which cash back card you use. If you use 5% Citi Preferred card then you make 4.21% net or $ 21 per card.
    If you use just 1% cash back card, you get only 0.21% or $1 per vanilla.

    4) Whether you buy one card at time or 10 cards at a time, you pay $3.95 per card so you donot save on fees. Only convenience

    5) If you load VR on Bluebird, there are no additional fees. You can load on vanilla reload website.

    6) If you load on My vanilla debit, there are fees everywhere. If you withdraw cash, ATM limit is $400 per transaction with $1.95 fee for each.
    If you use for debit purchases, there is $0.50 fee per swipe. If you donot use it for 3 months, there is $3.95 inactivity fee

    5) Visa gift card is a different story. You pay $5.95 fee per card- Max $500 but it gives you option to get some of the fee back using fuel points earned so depending on how much you can make use of fuel points, Visa gift cards may or maynot be cheaper than Vanilla reloads

    • says

      Thank you for attempting to clarify, but this is all clear and nothing in my post contradicts any of your points. Additional information is linked to in other posts where I clarify Vanilla Reloads and how to use them, explain the math behind the Citi ThankYou card and also explain other cards and returns. I have no mentions of My Vanilla Debit, but it’s definitely useful to spell out the fees… though I like to link to Gary’s post. Hope your Vanilla Reload adventures are going well… I know mine are :)

  8. DaveS says

    I guess each person has his or her own comfort level, but while I do have a CVS nearby that will take credit cards for VR, I’m reluctant to go too far too fast, changing my CC spending habits radically and perhaps drawing unwanted attention to myself. I’d be interested in knowing what kinds of activity patterns bring about extra scrutiny, either from Bluebird or from the bank whose credit card is used in the transactions. Are people getting financial reviews through this, or having accounts closed? How would one ideally model the “good customer” that they are marketing to, while collecting lots and lots of miles?

  9. gaylie says

    Has anyone heard of CVS discontinuing the vanilla reload cards?? I can’t find them anywhere in Northern Virginia anymore and my girlfriend in San Francisco is having the same issue. She finally asked a clerk at CVS yesterday and they showed her a new diagram schematic of the gift card rack that only had the Vanilla Visa cards on it! Is the gig up? I can’t find anything online about CVS doing this. Anyone, HELP!!

    • says

      The difficulty of finding Vanilla Reloads has been an ongoing problem. Supply seems to go up and down. However, my parents have bought them as recently as yesterday so they are definitely still around. CVS stores also have individual policies and it’s entirely possible a particular CVS store may not stock them. Hopefully you’ll run into some soon :)

      • Gaylie says

        Thanks so much for the quick reply! I actually asked a supervisor at my regiularl Cvs this morning and she told me this: “we keep ordering them but they aren’t coming in”. She also said that all the stores in our area are having the same issue. She told me that they don’t come up as a discontinued item when the store orders so she’s not sure what the problem is. It’s been several weeks since anyone in our area has had them. I’ll keep checking and report back what happens.

  10. Jerry Mandel says

    Myvanilla cards are reloadable. However, you have to load Vanilla Network cards and then transfer funds to Myvanilla cards. No more fuel points for VISA $500 cards in Kroger. See Vanilla website.

  11. scott says

    The CVS by my home in Miami still has VR’s and they accept credit cards. Just bought another last night. The rep initially told me it was cash only, but I explained I had just bought the cards from that same CVS with a CC a few days earlier. She tried my card, it worked and told me she may have been confusing it with Green Dot. Another CVS where I work doesn’t have any VRs. I’m just hoping the one I’m using gets more when they run out.

  12. Ngan says

    I have not seen any VR at CVS lately. Even the VR shelves are replaced with different gift cards. Does CVS quietly shut down the VR selling? I have gone 6 CVS in northern virginia, none has any VR and its shelf has been filled with different gift cards.

  13. Confused in DC says

    I tried to buy a VR today at a CVS in Washington DC using my Chase Sapphire Preferred. I asked for the full $500 limit on the card. The man behind the counter said I could use my credit card. However the machine refused my purchase. We tried it a couple of times and same result each time. I took the VR off and was able to use the same card to purchase the other items I had (roughly $15 worth of stuff). Does anyone know why this happened? Is Chase blocking me from purchasing the VR? Should I not choose “Pay with Credit Card” and choose another option? Totally confused.

    • No Longer Confused in DC says

      Ah ha. Figured it out. Had to call Chase and let them know I was making a large purchase. It was nothing but fraud prevention. Good on Chase. Thanks for your posting!

      • says

        Glad it worked out. It’s actually a good idea to ask Chase to send you alerts to your cell phone where they ask you “Reply 1 if the following transaction is valid: …” That way, someone would have to steal your card and your phone! But it helps resolve the issue more quickly, often while you’re at the register for your transactions.

    • Meghan says

      Hi, Which CVS was this? I’m visiting DC next week and have some free time one day and don’t mind combining sight-seeing with VR purchasing. Thanks very much!

      • Jerry Mandel says

        It varies from CVS to CVS. Even their computers aren’t synchronized. I gave up on reload Vanillas. Buy only ONE Vanilla-no other kind of Vanilla. They are already debit cards-not gift cards. The $4.95 fee is worth it to me. Example: For a $1,000 minimum spending, I buy two $500 ONE Vanilla cards for $1009.50. (Yes, in CVS.) I pay 68c fee in cash at Walmart service desk. Use last 4 digits on each card for PINs. Deposit $1,000 MO in bank account to pay off the charges. So, for $10.58 in fees, I get *SAME DAY* recycling of funds to get the big bonuses. No messing around with Amazon, Bluebird, Serve, PayPal. Latest one got me two free nights in ANY Hyatt in the world. Even those at $800, $1,000, $1.200,….per night. Maybe in Walgreens and grocery stores. Ask.

        • Jerry Mandel says

          I always call up when I get a new credit card and tell them I will be making BIG gift card purchases and ask to have the card unblocked. Otherwise, their computers don’t believe you are buying $500 or $1,000 or….of groceries or drugstore stuff and will decline your card.

  14. ang says

    hey tmp!

    i tried to buy some vanilla reloads today and i wasn’t able to. when they scanned my license, they said it was unable to process and to try again in a few min. i waited a few min and my license scanned, but then it wouldn’t scan my CC. i read the error message and it said unable to process at this time and to void the transaction. the guy said it wasn’t my card, but the system. i asked to tried on another register, but they said all the registers were connected to the same system and it wouldn’t matter.

    have you heard of this issue before? i found it odd. i was scared i got banned for a second.

    btw i am back from milan and i loved it! i did 2 days there and decided to do a day trip to rome. boy am i tired! i loved the duomo area.

    • says

      I have heard of sometimes licenses or cards not being scanned, but I would not worry about it if it’s an isolated incident. CVS has system issues on a regular basis.

      Hope you had a great trip to Milan. It was great when I went! Rome is very ambitious for a day trip from Milan. I am definitely impressed.

      • ang says

        thanks tmp =) i went back today and it worked! i read on flyertalk that a few people were also having license scanning issues on the same day as me so maybe it was a cvs system wide thing. either way, i am very happy that it works again.

        yes, haha rome was very ambitious. i took the 6am train to rome and hopped on the hop on hop off bus and basically did most of everything. i even did the entire vatican (of which i spent 5 hours). i ended up getting the 7pm train back to milan. boy was i pooped. i will have to return to milan sometime in the future since i want to see lake como.

        now to go hunt for the waldbaums/pathmark that will accept credit card so i can take part in that deal. this stuff is sure addicting haha. thanks again!

  15. Marz says

    You mentioned you use a Citi card to buy Vanillas at CVS… I was under the impression Citi identifies this purchase as a cash advance. Is this not the case? Thanks!

    • says

      Citi will treat as a cash advance if you, say, transfer money via Amazon Payments or order Amex gift cards online through the Amex website. But Vanilla Reloads and other purchases are simply treated as any other drugstore purchase. That’s a good question, though!

  16. Steverinie says

    Wanted to share an experience from Sunday. Had been having trouble finding VR’s in a particular store until I noticed some in a bin of gift cards yet to be opened. Asked if I could purchase some and was told those don’t go up in the display anymore; they are kept behind the counter. Reason was that supposedly some people were taking cards, somehow able to hack them, and then putting them back up on the display for some poor soul to get ripped off. I don’t know the technical details of how the scam worked, but just thought I’d mention this so that others can ask if the cards are behind the counter at their local store.

      • Steverinie says

        Wow, that’s scary. The only advice I have for people who want to continue buying VR’s is to ask the cashier to open a new pack. When I saw them in the bin, they were sealed in bunches in plastic (I don’t know how many in a bunch; probably 10 or 20). Hopefully the cashier will be okay with this, especially if one is buying 10 cards at once. Obviously this still isn’t foolproof, but it could help.

        As for those who will send $200 to a stranger from Instagram who promises to send back $2000 … well, they should know better.

  17. Oleg says

    Was told today that Starting April 4th all Vanilla Reload will go Cash Only in my local CVS (Vernon Hills IL)

    Walgreens yesterday would not allow me to get Serve Reload on credit.

    Speedway told me when I was trying to buy a Vanilla Reload on my AA Executive card that they got an error code that this item is not valid for purchase on this card.

    :(

    How else could I possibly try to get to the 10K bonus? :(

    • says

      Although we lament the loss of Vanilla Reloads to “cash only”, there are other options. It remains to be seen whether Visa and OneVanilla gift cards continue to work at CVS, but another option for loading Bluebird:
      - Buy $500 OneVanilla or Visa gift cards with a credit card at a CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid or a grocery store that sells them.
      - These work as PIN enabled debit cards and the last four digits can be used as a PIN.
      - You can then visit Walmart and load your Bluebird at the cashier. The limit is $1000 per day this way or $5000 a month.

      Although we’ve been doing this with no problem, it may not work 100% at every single Walmart so it’s best to try smaller amount cards to make sure it all goes smoothly. You don’t want to get stuck with $500 gift cards!

    • The Other Jason says

      One thing that may help you out is to prepay some of your bills. I just prepaid for the next 10 months of my Comcast (cable/internet). I’ll probably do the same for my mobile phone.

      But I feel you man, I’m down to the last $2000-2500 with less than a month to go.

      And according to a customer service rep at Citi, your purchases have to be “posted” by the deadline day, not just “pending”. So really you have about 2.5 months to get that 10k spent.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Con­firmed! (Some) CVS Raise Vanilla Reload/Prepaid Card Limit to $5000/Transaction: With a pre­vi­ously ongo­ing limit of $1000 per trans­ac­tion, CVS makes some changes and raises the pre­paid card limit to $5000 per trans­ac­tion. This opens up oppor­tu­ni­ties to make mile earn­ing with credit cards much more effi­cient. [...]

Share your Thoughts!