How to spend money without spending money for almost free miles!

Update April 6, 2014: CVS has stopped selling Vanilla Reloads with a credit card.  However there is another way to accomplish the same thing.  Check out this article for more information.

One of the biggest concerns when I tell people about earning miles with a credit card is how to meet the spending requirement.  For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred currently has a 40,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonus, but you have to spend $3,000 in 3 months to get the bonus.

For some people, this is a daunting task because they don’t spend that much money each month.  But there is an easy solution that I will share with you today.

Most people are familiar with a PayPal account.  It is sort of an online bank account where you can deposit money then use it for online shopping. There is a similar account called Bluebird that is backed by Walmart and American Express. Here is an article we wrote about the Bluebird account and how to apply. It is free to apply and is one of the most useful tools because it can help you get miles for paying your rent or mortgage!

Today though I am going to show you how to meet your spending requirement for your new credit card easily, safely, and without spending any money!

Back to the example of the Chase Sapphire Preferred with the 40,000 point bonus for $3,000 in spend.  Follow these simple steps.

1. Buy $1,000 in Vanilla Reload Cards

Vanilla Reload cards are available at a number of merchants such as CVS, Walgreens, Rite-aid, 7-11, Family Dollar and more.  We did an article about where in Miami we have personally verified they are available.  You can find a complete list of stores on the web site under “Reload Locations” although all locations don’t always carry the reload cards. The reload cards will be in the gift card rack and will look like this:

20121124-224620.jpgTake two of them to the cashier and tell them you want to put $500 on each one.  The total will be $1007.90. Use your new credit card to pay the total.  You may get a call after from your credit card company verifying the charge, but that is somewhat normal since it is a large amount.

2. Deposit the Vanilla Reload cards into your Bluebird account

Go to and enter your Bluebird account number and the PIN number which is under the scratch off section on the back of the Vanilla Reload card you just purchased.

vanilla reload newOn the next screen you will put in the account number from your Bluebird card, say you accept the terms and conditions and hit next.  It will bring up a final confirmation screen before the reload is applied to your account.

You will need to do this twice for the two $500 Vanilla Reloads.  Bluebird has a maximum load amount of $1000 per day, so the two that you bought is all you can do today.

 3. Pay off the credit card you just used from your Bluebird account

Log onto your account and you should see the Vanilla Reloads reflected in your new balance. Click on the Pay Bills button.

Pay Your Rent With Bluebird

Type in whoever your credit card is from in the “Who do you need to pay?” box and it usually already be in their system.

chase bb

Enter your credit card account number in the spot provided so it gets applied to the right account. Put $1000 in the payment amount and hit continue to send the payment.

chase BB pay

4. Repeat as necessary until you have met the spend requirement!

So you would need to do this 3 times over 3 different days to get the 40,000 mile bonus on the Chase Sapphire Preferred. 3 days are required because you can only load $1000 to your Bluebird account each day.

If you are paying attention, you will notice that you are actually spending $7.90 in fees for each $1000 in reloads so you are actually spending a tiny bit of money.  So with the card we have used in our example, you would have to pay $7.90 X 3 = $23.70 to get the 43,000 points (40,000 for the sign up bonus plus 3,000 for the “spending” you did).  This is almost enough for a round trip ticket to Europe on many carriers so it is well worth it!

So there ya go.  How to spend money without spending money!


Author: John Butler

I live in Miami Beach but love travelling all over the world.