Update 7/3: This post has been updated after multiple sources reported Vanilla Visa gift cards could not be used for cash back at the register. You can still use Metabank gift cards for this purpose.
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:
- Unload the balance onto American Express for Target
- Buy money orders elsewhere (grocery store, US post office)
- Unload your gift cards via Amazon Payments
- Use Evolve Money to pay your mortgage and household bills
- 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.