Vanilla Reloads at CVS: Rest In Peace

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.  Vanilla RIP

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.  20140306-004431.jpg

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!

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!


50,000 point offer is back for Business Gold Rewards Card from Amex!


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.

While you are waiting to get your card, sign up for a Bluebird account.  Read my article on what the Bluebird is all about if you don’t already know.

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!

  1. Get Credit Card
  2. Reach minimum spending by buying Vanilla Reload cards
  3. Deposit Reload Cards into your Bluebird account
  4. Use Bluebird balance to pay off credit card
  5. 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!

This content is not provided or commissioned by the company whose products are featured on this site. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or evaluations provided here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the Advertiser. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser’s affiliate programs.

Which store can I buy a Vanilla Reload card in Miami?

Update: As of April 6, 2014, the Vanilla Reloads cannot be purchased with credit cards from CVS locations.  See this article for a different way to accomplish the same thing!

Due to a request, this is a list of where you can buy Vanilla Reload cards in Miami using credit cards now that Office Depot no longer sells them. Respond in the comments with where you have found them and I will add it to the list.


CVS at 615 5th St. Miami Beach, FL 33139. Just use the normal credit card terminal to check out. You will need to hand them the credit card for verification before the process completes.

CVS at 1421 Alton Rd, Miami Beach, FL 33139. Same instructions as CVS above.  This one did ask for my ID as well so using Visa Gift cards may not work in this location if they don’t have your name.

CVS at 11890 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33181

CVS at 1177 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33130

They sell them at Office Depot, 7-11, and Walgreens as well, but they are cash only so that won’t work for our purposes.

If you are wondering why you would want to know this, read my article about the Bluebird card.  The Vanilla Reloads are used to add funds to it which you can then use to pay bills which normally can’t be paid by credit cards and earn points.

Possible cards to use:

SPG Amex card that gives 1 Startpoint per $1 spent.