Every year around this time American Express has a promotion called Small Business Saturday where in an effort to support local small businesses they give away free money! This year’s offer is a bit different than the last time I participated in 2012, but it is possibly even better than ever! This year Amex cards as well as Bluebird prepaid cards will work. Continue reading “Amex and Bluebird users! Don’t miss Small Business Saturday November 29”
This news might help people who have read our article on How to Get Frequent Flyer Miles for paying your Rent or Mortgage. The free Bluebird card now allows you to load $2500 a day via gift cards with PIN at Walmart Kiosks or Walmart Registers. Previously, it was $1000 per day. The monthly load limits of $5000 are still in place. The online methods of loading using a true debit card (Gift cards with PIN capability won’t work) have also been increased from $100 a day to $200 a day.
For people who have rent or mortgage (or other bills such as student loans or car payments) that are over $1000 but under $2500 this will mean you can take just one trip to the mall and then to Walmart.
This also creates a super easy way to make 25,000 miles a month that we will cover in a future article so be on the lookout for it! 🙂
Now that I can buy money orders with gift cards at Walmart, I wanted to find the cheapest spots to buy Visa gift cards. What I have found with help from Flyertalk is Simon Malls!
Your local Simon Mall has a kiosk that sells Visa gift cards with an up to $500 balance with a $2.95 fee. Go to www.simon.com to find the closest mall to you but call to confirm they sell the Visa gift cards before you make the trip. The kiosk looks like this:They will also probably have another rack of gift cards that looks like this:The cards that you want are the blue and white visa gift cards that they sell behind the counter. You can get them in denominations up to $500 and there is a $2.95 fee. You should always get the $500 ones so you decrease the % cost of the fee you pay.
To set the PIN code, you call the number on the back of the card which is currently 1-866-300-9401. Once you get the process down it can be quite quick and you don’t have to wait for the whole prompt to play before entering the next option.
- Hit 1 for English
- Enter the 16 digit account number
- Enter the 3 digit CVV security code from the back of the card followed by the # key
- Enter 7 to hear the PIN code
- Hit 2 to choose your own PIN code
- Enter a 4 digit PIN code you want to use
- Listen to the PIN then press 1 if it is correct
I have found that if I buy more than $1000 worth in a day, they have to fill out a form and have to have a higher up verify that the credit card matches your ID. Since I typically buy $3000 at a time (since $3000 is the most you can buy in money orders at a single Walmart per day), they fill this form out often. If they ask what you are doing with the gift cards you can just say you are using them for gifts or you could just say you are doing it to get frequent flyer miles.
For those who really want to maximize your miles, what I like to do is combine one of these $500 gift cards I buy with my US Airways card with three $200 gift cards I buy from OfficeMax or Staples using my Chase Ink Bold card. I then get money orders at Walmart by paying the $0.70 money order fee in cash, then using a $500 gift card in full, two $200 gift cards in full, and use $100 of the last $200 gift card. Then I do the same thing again, but this time use the remaining $100 for the last $100. Doing it this way, I earn 500 US Airways miles plus 2500 Ultimate Reward points for each $1000 money order. Since I typically do $3000 per day, that means I can earn 1500 US Airways Miles and 7500 UR points every day if I didn’t mind running around a little. I probably wouldn’t recommend doing the same cards every day, but if you buy using different cards and different Simon malls then it will be less likely to attract unwanted attention. We aren’t doing anything illegal but a small number of people buying gift cards do so with stolen credit cards so when you buy a lot, everyone involved is very careful.
As my regular readers know, I love manufactured spend (i.e. Spending Money without Spending Money). The biggest tool that I have been using for the last year for easy manufactured spend was Vanilla Reloads that you could purchase at CVS. As they say, all good things must come to an end and that time has come with the Vanilla Reloads via credit cards at CVS. As of April 6, they have gone to a cash only basis for purchase at CVS. Let’s stop and have a moment of silence for the tens of thousands of miles I made with the Vanilla Reloads.
There. I feel better.
But as they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat! If you read my articles about how I made 43,000 Ultimate Rewards points in a week and how I got paid $9 to take 3000 Ultimate Rewards points then you know that it is also possible to reload your bluebird account using normal visa gift cards with a PIN such as the $200 Visa Gift cards they sell at OfficeMax.
Sure the fee is a lot higher at $6.95 / $200, but for each purchase of $206.95 you will earn 5X$206.95 = 1034 Ultimate Rewards points if you use your Ink Bold card. This means if you have a $1000 monthly rent or mortgage payment, instead of buying two $500 Vanilla Reloads each with a $3.95 fee (total cost, $1007.90, total points earned 1008), you will now buy five $200 Visa Gift cards each with a $6.95 fee (total cost 1034.75, total points earned 5174) You will notice that your cost is now $26.85 higher. But if you wanted to you could take 2685 of the Ultimate Rewards points you received and redeem them for $26.85 in cash which then puts you in the exact same out of pocket cost ($1007.90) as you were with the Vanilla Reloads! The math whizzes reading will notice that you come out 1481 UR points ahead doing it that way!
You could also find one of the $500 gift cards that you can buy at grocery stores such as Publix, Kroger, Walmart, or Target that is able to have a PIN set. Then you can use that PIN either at the kiosk or register at Walmart to load it onto your Bluebird card. Their fees will typically be $5.95 or $6.95 / $500 Gift card so your costs will go up from $7.90 to $13.90 if you go that way.
The best option that I read about was to get one of the gift cards from Simon Malls which have a $3 fee for a $500 gift card. You can set the PIN on these cards and reload your Bluebird account with it.
The downside to these plans is it requires going into Walmart each time you want to load $1000 onto your Bluebird instead of just doing it online as we did with the Vanilla Reload. There are some other ways I have read about that don’t require a Walmart run, but I’ve been in China so haven’t exactly been able to test anything out. I will delve into that topic as soon as I get back stateside though.
I did want to get a eulogy post of sorts up for Vanilla Reloads and tell you hope is not lost, we just have to evolve our techniques as the game changes.
If all of this is Greek to you then read this article about the Bluebird card, and apply for your free Bluebird prepaid card now!
I have had a love affair with the Bluebird card since I wrote my first article about it back in 2012. I literally use this card every single month to spend money without spending money and make thousands of miles every month! You can even use it to earn miles for paying your mortgage or rent! Oh, and did I mention that it is completely free to apply for, doesn’t need any credit and has no annual or monthly fees?
I’ve earned 12,000 Ultimate Rewards points so far in the last 48 hours from the OfficeMax deal I wrote about yesterday and will earn even more over today and tomorrow. As I wrote in that article, you can set the PIN code for the Visa cards and then you can take them to Walmart, load them to your Bluebird and then pay off the credit card you used to purchase the gift cards. I have written in the past about how to load your Bluebird account from the Walmart Kiosk with no fees, but when I went to my local Walmart, their kiosk was out of order! (shocker!) I had read that you can also load your Bluebird at the Walmart register using a gift card with PIN so I decided to give it a shot!
I will tell you that the employees often times won’t know exactly what to do so you might have to walk them through it. I had purchased two different sets of gift cards yesterday. One of three $200 Visa gift cards, and then one of five $100 Visa Gift cards (I got the $100 because the second store didn’t have the $200 ones). Since you can only load $1000 per day to the Bluebird, I took the three $200 cards and four $100 cards in with me after I had set the PIN online for each of the cards.
Step 1: Make sure the PIN is set on all of your gift cards.
The cards in the OfficeMax promotion I talked about yesterday allow their PIN to be set either at a web site or via a mobile app. I used the mobile app yesterday so I could literally set the PIN code in the car right before I went to Walmart. It is easy!
Sometimes the associate might need to ask someone how to do it, but most of the time, they have done it before. You swipe you Bluebird card on the PIN device and tell them the amount you want to load. I initially tried $1000 which is the daily limit for Bluebird. The touchpad (where you just swiped your Bluebird card) will confirm your amount.I wanted to see if I could load the $1000 in one transaction and pay for it with 7 different gift cards (3X$200, 4X100). But when I tried it failed after I loaded the 4th gift card. After some trials I figured out that their systems would only allow 3 gift cards per transaction. So I ended up doing one $600 load and two $200 loads to reach the $1000 total for the day. After she reentered the $600 load amount (so it said $600 not $1000 like above) then I confirmed the amount and went to the next step.
Step 3: Use your gift cards and PINs to pay for the load.
I told the associate I wanted to split up the $600 load with 3 payments of $200 each and would be using a different debit card for each one. She did something on the register then said go ahead and I swiped my $200 gift card. Then I entered the PIN code when it requested it.The balance due decreased by $200 then I repeated the process two more times with two additional gift cards until the full balance was paid. The register then printed out a receipt stating that the load was successful. I then did two more transactions to load $200 each to max out my $1000 for the day on my Bluebird.
I would recommend using the Kiosk if your local Walmart has one so you don’t have to interact with the employees which may not know the process. But if the kiosk is broken or if your local Walmart doesn’t have a kiosk, then the register works fine. You might just have to be patient with the associate and follow this guide to help them through the process. You may also run into someone who tries to say that you can’t use a gift card to load to your Bluebird, but just assure them that you have done it before and it works fine. If you do it all correctly, they shouldn’t even know you are using gift cards since they process just like a debit card.
I use a combination of Vanilla Reloads and my Bluebird card to make frequent flyer miles for paying my rent! I had heard over on Flyertalk that it was possible to load certain gift cards onto your Bluebird using an automated kiosk in the Money Center of certain Walmarts without any fee. This would save me the $3.95 fee of buying a vanilla reload if I was using giftcards. And since I had just made 16,000 miles by buying gift cards on Black Friday it was a perfect time to find out how!
The first step was I had to set the PIN on my gift cards. I received a mix of Visa and Mastercard gift cards from OfficeMax and only the Visa type currently allow you to set the PIN. The particular one I used looks like this.
This card was issued by Metabank and had a sticker that said to go to http://visa.gowallet.com/ to manage your card. I may do an article on that part in the future but is is pretty straightforward: Put in your card info, sign up for a free gowallet account so you can manage any of their gift cards, then hit the Set Pin option.
You can load $1000 per day so I set the PIN on five of my Visa Gift cards and headed out to Walmart which was kind of a haul since there aren’t any near Miami Beach. Now don’t do what I did, which was just drive to the closest one I found! Because not all of the Walmarts have the kiosks in the money center! So I went to another one and it had the kiosk but it was out of order! Then I went to yet another one and there was no kiosk to be found! Argh! But I really wanted to cover this process for this article so I was unphased. The fourth location finally had one. But since then I read on flyertalk about a great way to find them without wasting time like I did. You can use this Moneypass ATM locator to find for a moneypass ATM machine. You will need to find one that is inside a Walmart because if it shows a moneypass ATM at a Walmart location, it should be the kiosk we are after. When you arrive at Walmart, this is what the kiosk in the money center should look like.
Here is step by step how to load the gift cards onto your Bluebird.
10. Say No to Cash Back 11. Finally confirm the amount.And that is it! You now have loaded funds from your gift card to your Bluebird for no fee. I repeated this 4 more times to load $1000 on my Bluebird. $1000/day is the limit you can load and you can load up to $5000 a month. Now I can log onto my Bluebird card and pay off my Ink Bold card that I used to pay for the gift cards on black Friday. And I get to keep the 16,000 miles for my trouble! That will be enough to get my plane ticket to visit my family over Christmas. Yeah!
I hope this helps some of you to turn your gift cards into usable cash in your Bluebird account. Let me know if you have any questions.
Note: We are in the middle of a contest to give away two round trip plane tickets to The BPM Festival in January. Make sure you have gotten your entries in!
Black Friday is a crazy time of year for promotions and this year was no exception. I thought it might be interesting to share some of the deals that I came across for Black Friday and took advantage of.
Earlier in the week, Amazon had a promo on the Nexus 7 32 GB tablets that I like to buy for resale for $239.99 including free shipping and no tax. I had a bunch of Amazon gift cards I had gotten from Plink so this was a perfect way to turn those gift cards into cash when I resell that same tablet in my Amazon store for $269 after the Black Friday sales are over!
Then on Wednesday, I got an email from Staples with a $50 off coupon for any tablet so I ordered another of the Nexus 7 32 GB for $269-$50 = $219. I had to pay tax on this one so my total cost was $234.33. If you read my article on Shopping Portals for Mega Miles, you know that I always get extra miles by starting at a portal. This time I used UPromise for an extra 5% back in cash. Staples also has a rewards program where I get another 5% back in Staples bucks to use towards a future purchase. I also get Plink Points for Staples so will get another $3 back. I used my Ink Bold card to pay for it which gives me 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. This makes my net cost $210.09 plus I get 1174 Ultimate Rewards points. I will resell this for around $269 through my Amazon store.
The last deal I was really happy about. OfficeMax was offering a promo where you could buy a $200 gift card for $180. Since there is a $6.95 activation fee, this means you would make $13.05 on the card after the promo. And since I was going to use my Chase Ink Bold Card, I would get 5 Ultimate Reward points per dollar since it is an office supply store. I got there shortly after they opened at 8 PM on Thanksgiving (we did a Thanksgiving lunch instead of a dinner so I was free). They had them right up front when I asked about them and they told me “You can buy two per transaction but there is no limit on the number of transactions.” What!?! OK, I will take them all then!
Each of those is two $200 gift cards. So I ended up with 16 $200 gift cards for a total of $3200 in cards for a total cost of $2984. Since I used my Ink Bold, I will get another 15,000 Ultimate Rewards on top of making $215! Gotta love it! If you read my article about Spending Money without Spending Money you know I can use my Bluebird account to take these gift cards and immediately pay off the Ink Bold card I just used to charge it!
I am not sure if there is anything else I will be buying this weekend, but I wanted to share these deals with you so you could get some ideas on how you can make extra miles too! How did you make miles on Black Friday?
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 Vanillareload.com 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:
Take 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 Vanillareload.com 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.
On 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 Bluebird.com account and you should see the Vanilla Reloads reflected in your new balance. Click on the Pay Bills button.
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.
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.
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!
Edit 12/11/2013: This offer is no longer available. There is currently no signup bonus for the Business Gold Rewards card.
American Express just released an offer for their Business Gold Rewards card of 50,000 Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 in 3 months. I talked in this post about how to apply for business cards even if you aren’t some big corporation using your personal credit information.
Today, I am going to show you the easiest way to meet the $5,000 spending requirement without really spending anything!
So you apply for the card and are approved. Perfect! Amex has great customer service and they will get your card to you within a few days.
Once you get your card, go to your local CVS and buy two $500 Vanilla Reload cards which will be a total of $1007.90 ($500 each plus a $3.95 fee each). They will look like this.
Read this article I wrote about using the Bluebird for paying your rent to see how to load the prepaid cards on your Bluebird account (which is really quite simple and only takes a few seconds).
You can only load $1000 a day onto your Bluebird account and most CVS will only let you buy $1000 in prepaid cards per day so it will take you 5 days to get $5,000 into your Bluebird account. Once you have the $5,000 in your account, then we set up your new Amex as a bill to be paid from your Bluebird account (just like we set up your landlord in this Bluebird article). Then we use the $5000 in the Bluebird account to pay off the Amex. This whole process can take as little as 7 days. And you will be the recipient of 55,000 membership rewards points! (50,000 for the bonus and $5,000 for the purchase of the reload cards).
This whole thing really is this easy! Don’t make it more difficult than it is!
- Get Credit Card
- Reach minimum spending by buying Vanilla Reload cards
- Deposit Reload Cards into your Bluebird account
- Use Bluebird balance to pay off credit card
- Get your almost free miles and come travel with me!
At this point you will have a paid off Amex which you can then use whenever you have to buy airfare (since it gives 3X points on airfare). That is what I use mine for mainly or when I need the additional Warranty Protection that Amex provides.
So what are you waiting for? Apply now and get travelling!
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I wrote a few months back about how you can use Kiva to get miles while helping others so I figured Christmas was the perfect time to give an update. I just got the final set of payments for my $400 worth of Kiva loans with no problems. I was able to turn $400 in Visa gift cards back into $400 cash with no fees paid over a few months while at the same time helping 8 groups in need from around the world!
Having been to Peru twice before, I have seen first hand some of the poverty that exists there. It feels great to help others while helping myself reach my travel goals as well. So if you ended up with gift cards for Christmas that you want to convert to cash, then check out my previous article for how to do it. And help some people along the way which is definitely in the holiday spirit!
Happy Holidays everyone!