No Vanilla Reloads in Your Area? What About Pin Enabled Visa Gift Cards?

by Adam

Many readers have commented that they aren’t able to find Vanilla Reload cards or that their local merchants won’t accept credit card payments for VRs. DansDeals reports on an alternative, using purchased Visa gift cards (which over the weekend became pin enabled) to load your Bluebird card or to get cash back:

So the big news over the weekend is that you can now assign a pin number to gift cards, effectively turning them into debit cards. The automated call number for my gift cards easily allowed me to assign a pin number for my gift cards. I took a few thousand dollars worth of gift cards to WalMart today and loaded $1,000 onto mine and my wife’s Bluebird cards.  You are able to do this with any cashier. In the process I learned that you can use up to 4 cards per transaction, so that’s $400 of loads with 4 $100 cards or $800 of loads with 4 $200 cards.  This saves you time over doing a separate transaction for every card. You can load up to $1,000 per day and $5,000 per month. Get cash back from gift cards: I was also able to pickup a 98 cent bottle of Softsoap and select cash back to get cold hard cash from a gift card. However I was only able to get cash back in multiples of $20, so I’ll probably use Amazon Payments to wipe the remaining balance from the cards. I went to WalMart to be able to load Bluebird and to get cash back on a purchase.  I’m sure it will work at other stores as well so if you try to use a gift card with a pin to make a cash back debit purchase elsewhere please post the results in the comments. There are no fees to load the cards onto Bluebird in Walmart and there are no fees to get cash back. I did not have success though with the Mastercards from Office Max and Staples, I only had success with the Visa cards.  If you get the Visa gift cards from Office Max or Staples you should be good to go.  Other brands may work as well, I just haven’t tested them myself.

The full entry includes Dan’s value analysis for buying gift cards as well. Unfortunately, the comments section of the post does not yet have any examples of other Visa gift cards where a pin was successfully assigned (it seems to currently only work with the MetaBank Visa cards sold at Office Max), though one reader does comment on a rumor that Vanilla Visa card pins will be working soon too. There are also no other examples of stores where the cash back option has worked. Clearly, the best and easiest option is still Vanilla Reloads (if you are in an area where you can find them and pay with a credit card).

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


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R J Brown April 9, 2013 - 11:11 am

I still haven’t figured out how to load a bluebird card with a MyVanilla card….their customer service said it wasn’t allowed……what am I missing here? And thinking that amazon gift cards could easily get transferred to amazon payments I snagged $500 at OD then couldn’t transfer them so now I am stuuck with $500 in my amazon account that I really didn’t want…….nube mistakes are painful………..

adam April 9, 2013 - 11:16 am

@R J Brown – Hah, it’s OK! Unfortunately, MyVanilla cards cannot be used to reload a Bluebird card. Only Vanilla Reload cards can be used. If your MyVanilla card is a Visa card you may be in luck if they enable pin use on them as Dan’s post describes. You’d then be able to use the card as a debit card of sorts to load the card directly at a Walmart. For the Amazon gift cards, you could always purchase something with a high retail value on eBay and sell it at a small loss…though with the cards never expiring you may want to just hold them and use them for personal purchases.

JW April 9, 2013 - 12:54 pm

So it seems like this is the plan:

Go to Office Store
Buy $200 Gift Card with Ink for $206.95 and get 1035 UR points.
Go home and add a PIN to each card
Take Each card to Walmart to load for free to Bluebird
Use Blubird to write checks.

You can do this 120 times before hitting the max $25000 (but why would you do that all given other categories like utilities?). Each time will net you 1035 points for $6.95, or two-thirds a penny per point making it an arbitrage of .83 cents per point (if you value a UR point at a worth of 1.5 cents)

Perhaps this would be a good venture at Lowes with the Freedom card this Quarter. You can buy 7 cards for $1448.65 total and earn 7245 UR points and have about $50 to spend at restaurants and movies. I can’t really think of $1500-[restaurant spend] worth of stuff to buy at Lowes.

FrugalTravelLawyer April 9, 2013 - 6:38 pm

The free loads onto Bluebird did not work at Walmart today for me. $3.00 charge per Visa gift card with pin. Any other experience?

JustSaying April 9, 2013 - 6:54 pm

Why would I want to drive all over town when an Amazon payment account works from the comfort of my home? That is unless I get another MyVanilla surprise and they count it as a cash advance and don’t give me points or miles………

Vanilla Nubee April 9, 2013 - 10:29 pm

Great post. But I have a couple of questions.

1) Does Office Depot sell workable Vanilla Reloads? After my local Office Depot pulled them in the fall, I e-mailed the store manager. At the time, he said, “Our corporate office has directed all stores company wide to pull only the variable reloadable cards. We as a store were only given the directive, not an
explanation. We do have the “amount specific” cards still available for purchase. As far as the variable cards being still available at this store, the corporate office has made mention that the cards may
relaunch in the near future, with nothing definite.” Just last week, I asked the store manager about Vanilla Reloads again. This time he said, “We have not added any reloadable cards to our assortment as a company as of now. Our corporate office is still working on a solution, but as of now all they have only given us the one time use cards. I was informed back when you emailed us that they were hoping to have them sometime in the spring.” So I am confused. What is the difference between the types of cards he has described?

2) What is the exact type of Vanilla card I need to buy at Office Depo in order to load onto My Vanilla Debit Card? Based on what the manager has written, can I buy the type of Vanilla Reload card he has described to then load onto My Vanilla Debit Card?

Thank you in advance if you can explain the answers to these questions.

Chase Visa Prepaid Pin Debit Cards – Limited Time No Fee – Bluebird Reload - Point Me To The Plane April 19, 2013 - 9:47 am

[…] earn you a profit on your manufactured spend when utilizing PIN enabled debit gift cards. As mentioned last week, select Visa gift cards recently became pin enabled which allows them to be used as debit cards to load your Amex Bluebird card. Bluebird cards can be […]

mmm May 28, 2013 - 6:10 pm

What about just buying a money order with a Vanilla Visa gift card?


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