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How to Continue Manufactured Spending Without Walmart

Walmart no more manufactured spending

Update 9/21/14: It appears OneVanilla cards can again be used to purchase money orders and load Bluebird at Walmart.

Recently, word got out that Walmart no longer accepted Vanilla Visa gift cards for Bluebird reloads or money order purchases. Several readers have been emailing me about how to unload their Vanilla Visa and American Express gift cards now that a major manufactured spending source has been eliminated. I covered what to do in this scenario a few months back, but with so many new readers I realize some folks must have missed it. In the previous post, I listed the following alternatives for unloading Visa gift cards:

  1. Unload the balance onto American Express for Target
  2. Buy money orders elsewhere (grocery store, US post office)
  3. Unload your gift cards via Amazon Payments
  4. Use Evolve Money to pay your mortgage and household bills
  5. Get an American Express Serve card

All of these are still valid options for those who are stuck with Vanilla Visa gift cards, in addition to the following:

1. Mastercard and Visa gift cards. You may be able to use your Visa gift cards to buy Mastercard and non-Vanilla branded Visa gift cards, depending on the store policy. This is less than ideal, since Mastercard gift cards have higher fees, but certainly an option if it’s your last resort. If you pick these cards up at your local grocery store, simply use the Visa gift cards with the PIN as a debit card and the cashier won’t ask for your ID.

2. Buy Greendot Money Paks. In my early manufactured spending days, some Riteaid stores were selling Greendot Moneypaks with $0 fees. I found one in downtown Oakland, which only accepted debit cards. Since Vanilla Visa cards are PIN enabled, you could buy Greendot Money Paks and either use the funds to pay a participating merchant or load them onto your Paypal account, then transfer the balance to your bank account. Do this in moderation, since Paypal is known for shutting people’s accounts down arbitrarily, and taking months to return the funds to the accountholder. Anyway, this deal is worth looking out for at your local Riteaid.

3. Vanilla Reload Cards. The Vanilla Reload bubble burst just a few months ago with news that CVS would stop accepting credit cards for VR purchases. Since then, I come across an Albertson’s and Safeway store that accepted debit cards for Vanilla Reload cards. At $3.95 per $500 card, that’s not a bad way to unload your Vanilla Visa gift cards. The best part? You can liquidate them from the comfort of your home.

Future Manufactured Spending Options

Once you’ve unloaded your existing gift cards, you may wonder how to proceed now that the demise of Bluebird loads via Vanilla Visa gift cards has put a roadblock in the process of liquidating American Express gift cards. Here are a few ways you can continue your manufactured spending activities:

1. Simon Mall gift cards. I’ve covered this before as a better alternative to Vanilla Reloads. Simon Malls sell PIN-enabled Visa gift cards in increments of up to $500 for a $2.95 fee. At some malls, you can set up a business account, which will enable you to buy gift cards in $1,000 increments for the same $2.95 fee and in larger quantities.

Simon Mall Visa gift cards can also be purchased online for a higher $5.95 fee. After you place an order, you’ll get a coupon code for $2 off your next purchase.

2. Non-Vanilla Visa gift cards. As of this writing, you can continue to load Bluebird and buy money orders with non-Vanilla branded Visa and Mastercard gift cards issued by US Bank and Metabank. Visa gift cards purchased on Giftcardmall.com, Simon Mall gift cards, and Mastercard gift cards found at most grocery and office supply stores are all good for Bluebird loads. You can buy Visa gift cards from the grocery store and unload them via money orders at the same location (if that’s an option), the post office, or any other place that accepts debit cards for money orders.

3. Vanilla Reloads at grocery stores. This is going to be a hit or miss. I’ve had luck buying Vanilla Reloads at a Savemart grocery store as well as at a local FoodMaxx. Pretty much every major grocery chain carries these, with different policies regarding acceptable payment forms. Try your local grocery store and see if they’ll let you pay with a credit card. I miss the hassle free days of buying Vanilla Reloads, loading them online, paying off my credit cards and never stepping foot into a Walmart…

For the most part, nearly every store that sells ReloadIT packs or Vanilla Reloads only accepts cash or debit for them. However, every once in a while you’ll come across a Safeway or other store that will take credit cards – or a really cool cashier who will do an override when the register prompts a cash payment. It never hurts to try and you may just find your next great manufactured spending source.

The important thing to take away from this is that you may need to try different methods and not all of them will work out. Some will be more costly than others and more time consuming. Try them until you find a new manufactured spending routine that works for you.

There are a few other gift card types out there with low fees, though the sources that shared them with me asked me not to blog or publicize those methods in any way. I’m going to stick to my word, but if you want to learn about additional ways to manufacture spend, keep an eye out on the manufactured spending forum on Flyertalk. Navigating the forums can be a hassle, but worth it as you’ll occasionally come across a gem that the major bloggers haven’t yet discovered and exploited.

Disclosure: I will earn  small commission if you sign up for the American Express Serve card with the link in this post.

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Ariana Arghandewal

64 Comments

  1. The Vanilla Reload website no longer lists BB as a partner. Only Serve is listed. Can reloads still be loaded to BB – if you can find them?

  2. I tried to use Vanilla Visa cards for money orders at the post office and several grocery stores and got rejected all around. Also a no-go on loading a Target AMEX card (three different stores said no), and could not get cash back at the grocery store. Thankfully, I can pay four monthly bills with Evolve Money and buy groceries with them, and will do that. Also Amazon Payments will work. I will never, EVER stray from US Bank gift cards again!

    • I wanted to unload a couple of Amex GC on my Amex4Target card the other day. It looks like the Target stores in my area have now a policy of not accepting Gift Cards (any gift cards) for the Amex for Target card reload. It comes up in big with a warning sign on the cashier’s screen :-(.

      • I’ve never had that experience – just overzealous cashiers saying I couldn’t pay with a gift card. Try the customer service desk instead.

      • I’ve had a customer service rep that told me credit cards with my name only, and also reps that don’t even blink an eye when I use gift cards (they even told me to read the last 4 digits for them, instead of checking them). So it’s totally YMMY

    • I’m glad you’ve got some way to unload them. The cashback option at grocery stores only applies to Visa/MC cards. As for Amex for Target, next time try the customer service center rather than the checkout register. In my experience, they are much more likely to accept Amex cards for reloads.

      • How does the cash back option work for US Bank cards? I was buying MOs today and the cash back option came up both when using one with PIN and one as credit? Of course when buying MO I didn’t want cash back but might be interesting way to mix methods.

        • That’s actually a good way to cash out a gift card. I used to do this at the Walmart Money Center (before they stopped accepting gift cards). It’s a great way to get around having to provide your personal info (DL, SSN, etc.) for purchasing money orders past a certain amount (at Walmart it was $3k).

  3. The registers at Target, both in the customer service center and the regular check out lines, are programmed to reject Vanilla Visas for reload to AMEX for Target. One of my VVs even has my name on it, and it got rejected. VVs are now useless for anything other than standard charge purchases, Evolve Money bill paying and Amazon payments.

  4. Vgc not working at safeway for cashback today. It even says in the terms that there’s no cash back at pos.

  5. I hadn’t considered trying to get cashback on a Visa gift card so I tried it to today at my local Safeway with a Simon Mall GC. The machine offered me the cashback option but it didn’t go through.

    If I knew this would work with Vanilla GC, I would go that route because a no fee $200 cashback sounds pretty sweet. It sounds like that’s not working for everyone though.

    For the record, I loaded $1k yesterday onto my AmEx4Target with a AmEx GC. The service desk cashier asked me to read the last four digits and I did. In my experience, the big “!” sign on their screen only says to not accept Target GC not every GC.

    Supposedly you can use any tender accepted at Target to load the AmEx card (except Target GC) so theoretically AmEx GC should be fine for everyone.

    • That’s what I was always told popped up on the screen – that you can’t pay with a Target gift card (nothing about other gc’s). Occasionally I’ll come across a cashier who will tell me “No gift cards of any kind.” I usually stick to the customer service desk and try to get a cashier who looks inexperienced and thus less likely to protest the use of an Amex gc.

        • You can use Visa gc’s from giftcardmall and Simon Mall gc’s. Never tried it with Mastercard gift cards, though that may work.

          • I was using a Simon Mall one and it was a no-go at my local Safeway. I assumed that you treat it like a bank account debit card to get the option for cash back. I’ll try another Safeway and maybe I’ll have better luck.

          • Tried 3 grocery stores today, all different brands) and none would give cash back on either Vanilla Debit Visa or the Simon Mall Visa gc.

            Where do you find these stores you are talking about?

          • The cards all are Debit and have Pin and work fine without cash back.

  6. I am having the exact same results with getting cashback at grocery with vgc.

    I know the pin works, tried $100 then less, no go. I asked the attendant about “approving” it and he said it was something with my card.

    This was at a Safeway 2 days ago. Looks like this doesn’t work for anyone so I’m curious where this worked (if ever)

  7. Hi. I have been following your blog for sometime now, but never posted. I have over $130,000 a year in payments that do not accept credit cards (mortgage, utilities, taxes, etc.). My husband and I both used Vanilla Reloads to Bluebird ($10,000 a month), Evolve, etc. However, with the demise of bluebird, that’s over 200k of points a year that we are missing out on. I’ve tried to max out my mortgage with evolve ($2k a month, got another $6k to go).

    I am getting desperate. I’ve drove everywhere I can think of that might have reloadit or vanilla reloads in my area (SF bay area) and have been unsuccessful. Is there any advice or pointers you can give to help us pay our bills through credit card? Any pointers are greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    • That’s quite a point haul! Bluebird is not quite over. You can load Bluebird with Simon Mall Gift Cards, which are actually cheaper than Vanilla Reloads at $2.95 per piece. If you can’t get Simon Mall gc’s, you can buy Visa gift cards from either GiftCardMall.com or your local grocery store as well. Just be sure to avoid the Vanilla branded cards.

      • Thank you! The Simon Mall GCs, and the Visa GC can only be reloaded at Wal-Mart, correct? It is very difficult for us to go to Wal-Mart on a regularly as we live in San Francisco. I’ll try to load it tonight. Please let me know through email. I really appreciate your blog and all your excellent tips. Keep up the awesome work!!!

        • I’d read on another site that the Vanilla GC issue had been worked out and they now work at WalMart again. I haven’t tried it but if you have some, it’s worth giving it a go.

          For what it’s worth, I switched from Bluebird to Serve. I miss having the checks but like being able to deposit an additional $1k a month directly from a cc (no fee).

          • They have, but with all of the issues these cards have had, I wouldn’t recommend them. Especially since Simon Mall gc’s are readily available and at a lower rate. I need to make the switch to Serve as well, just as soon as I’m done with my $82k in spend.

          • True though I don’t know of any cc that give more than 2% for Simon malls. There are some cards that give more for grocery or drug stores. 🙂 I really like my Serve card and it’s an easy $20 each month w my 2% reward card. (I’m not working on any cc bonuses at the moment).

          • The Arrival card and Amex Fidelity are good options there. But you’re right – there’s definitely more potential for a category bonus if you buy them at grocery/drug store. I need to get a Serve card already!

        • Since you can now load $2500 a day to a Bluebird card ($5k monthly max still applies), theoretically you’d only have to make two trips to WalMart a month — as long as the dang ATM is working. Might be worth a call ahead of time to make sure. 😉

          • I believe that Walmart has a 4 swipe limit, so keep that in mind when you’re trying to do hit the daily load limit.

          • I think the ATM still locks out at $1999 and then your next transaction is in limbo until a supervisor comes, wants to know exactly what you are doing before she unlocks the machine with her super secret special code. I got chewed out once when she saw the GC. Make sure to have it hidden or have your actual Bank debit handy just in case. In my case I didn’t hit $1999 but a guy before me was using the ATM and his transactions + mine added up to more than $1999. So it’s never a good sign if you walk up to the ATM after someone else has tried to run through 5 transactions. Once I had 2 guys in front of me all giddy about loading the gift cards, like two little schoolgirls. They were loud and one was training the other. Stupid.

            Also if you try to load the $200 GC you find at Staples, etc, it will take FOREVER and that really sucks when you have someone waiting behind you.

            The one machine that works in my area has the volume at airplane levels. It screams out how much I am loading and then asks, as we all know, “DO YOU WANT CASH BACK!!!!” Usually after that, the people in line behind me at the return center start salivating. Don’t do this stuff at night. You’ll get mugged for a $1.

          • Kent, I haven’t had that experience with the $1999 lock out and I’ve loaded more than $2k several times. The couple times I have had lockouts, it’s been due to the machine running out of receipt paper. I don’t think many people in my area do this stuff so maybe I’m just lucky.

            Since my Walmarts have long hours, I try to go early on Sunday mornings when there’s less congestion and no competition for the machine.

            When I use the machine, I have my wallet, Serve card and bank ATM cards in my hand just in case. When the time comes, I take the GC out of my right pocket, use it, then hold it in my left hand in my left pocket until I’m sure the transaction has gone through. I have it exposed for a very short time and get a rhythm going if I can. repeat.

            If you have a pair of headphones you don’t need, you could clip the cord off and just stick the small piece into the machine’s audio hole. That should eliminate all of the audio. Just don’t forget to take it with you. 😉 I wish there was a way to at least turn the volume down on those machines. Really loud!

        • Another option is to switch to an Amex Serve card. You can load up to $1k per month, per card, using a credit card. I know this isn’t ideal, but if you can’t make many trips to Walmart, at least this knocks off $2k easily.

          • I’ve tried two Wal-Marts, and was unsuccessful. I’ll venture out further this weekend. Would you know of a wal-mart that takes the gift cards in the bay area?

          • Most of them do, as long as you go to the register and not the money center. When they ask what method of payment you’ll use, tell them debit and they’ll ask you to swipe the card yourself.

          • I’ve never used the cashiers or customer service desk — just the ATMs. I find them using this site: http://www.moneypass.com/atm-locator.aspx
            Just look for the little Walmart symbols on the map (yellow *). They also have an iPhone app that I used this weekend when my usual Walmart’s machine was out of service.

            For what it’s worth, I also use the AmEx for Target and GoBank cards. 🙂

          • The problem is those machines are often out of order and a while back, they were removed altogether from South Bay Area stores. It would certainly make unloading my $5k in Simon Mall gc’s much easier!

  8. Thanks, Trevor. This is great!!! My husband will be so happy. I use the Amex for Target too.

  9. Beware of GreenDot MoneyPacks IT WILL EAT YOUR MONEY… I just started playing the points game, got my BlueBird up and running and loaded $120 on my very first GDMP … been trying unsuccessfully for TWO days to load my BB with the GDMP on their website. Everything works until the last screen, it confirms I have $120 on the MP then I get an error message that the transfer cannot be completed. I called BB cs and they confirmed the problem is on the GDMP side… tried calling them but there is no way to get in touch with a human. The “help” section in their website only allows you to request a refund. So I did some research on Google and found countless threads of people having the same problem -unable to unload their MPs as well as HORROR stories of trying to get their money back. Apparently people get a refund most of the time but after weeks of hassles. I think I’m just going to request a refund and wait (and wait)… seems like a ploy for GDMP to just sit on your money for weeks while they earn interest. So glad I was deliberately being cautious by putting $120 on it to “test” it… I almost filled it with $500.

  10. Trevor gave the website for the MoneyPass ATM locator. Just wondering, can you load at any Moneypass location. I know everyone says go to WM but there are so many banks with these Moneypass ATMs. I just haven’t heard of anyone trying to load at a bank. I must be in the dark, because if it did work, it would be front page news on all the blogs, right?

    • Not in my experience. I’ve tried using regular MoneyPass ATMs and they don’t have the load option. They look and act like regular ATMs unfortunately.

      • Thanks. You saved me a trip(s) Trevor! Unfortunately that still means trips to WM 🙁

        • and I like your cut off audio plug idea. this is one of those, why didn’t I think of that.

  11. Are you sure Vanilla Visa gcs work at WM again? They are different from the One Vanilla Prepaid cards.

    • it’s been reported to work at some kiosks and maybe counters depending on the Walmart location. I tried recently but it didn’t work at my Walmart. I’m in San Diego. May work in other states. If you try, just buy one and have another way to liquidate it.

      • The 9/21 “update” still says that the Vanilla Visa gcs work. As for OVs, aren’t they still very problematic (ie multiple swipes needed)?

        • It says OV. From what I hear, it’s a constant roller coaster with OV. That’s why I’m avoiding them altogether.

          • It says OneVanilla Visa gift cards. OV are prepaid cards. Vanilla Visa are gift cards. You’ve conflated the two.

        • “It says OneVanilla Visa gift cards. OV are prepaid cards. Vanilla Visa are gift cards. You’ve conflated the two.”

          Relax, Paul. We all know what she means.

  12. I saw OVs & other visa gift cards at walmart today besides money center. Is it possible to buy them with CC & unload those right there via money order? Also can you still buy simon cards online if they still work with BB?

    • OV’s are supposed to work still, but I’d steer clear of Walmart’s Visa gc’s. They aren’t PIN enabled and I wouldn’t want you to be stuck with cards you can’t liquidate. If you’re going to buy and liquidate, I’d do it at different registers – take OV’s over to regular checkout and if your money center still accepts gc’s for payment, head over there and buy your mo’s.Yes, you can still buy Simon gc’s online and they’ll work with BB.

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