Many of us haven’t purchased a Vanilla Reload card since CVS stopped accepting credit cards for them last year. Others have found alternative sources and continued to load up the maximum $5,000 each month on their Serve or Bluebird cards. Unfortunately, that gravy train is ending for good, with American Express announcing that starting April 1, 2015, they will not only stop selling Vanilla Reload cards, but Greendot MoneyPaks will also be eliminated on February 1, 2015.
This eliminates a convenient manufactured spending source for many folks out there and adds an extra step to their routine. You can still load Bluebird and Serve at the register, so if you can buy Simon Mall or Visa gift cards with a credit card, then you can continue to unload them via Bluebird/Serve. After Walmart stopped accepting Visa gift cards for money order purchases, the cashiers continued accepting them for Bluebird reloads, so hopefully that won’t change.
For the lazy manufactured spenders (guilty) who don’t enjoy the bureaucratic cluster**** that is a typical Walmart shopping experience, now is as good a time as ever to pick up an American Express Serve card. It’s not much, but you can do $1,000 per month in credit card loads online. While that may only amount to 12,000+ points or miles per year, it’s one less trip to Walmart each month and takes just a minute to do. So if you haven’t made the switch to Serve, the elimination of Vanilla Reloads as an easy online load/reload should serve as extra incentive.
Another convenient option, if you’ve been relying heavily on Vanilla Reloads, is manufactured spending with an American Express for Target card. It’s more costly, but these costs can be largely eliminated by purchasing American Express Gift Cards through a shopping portal and using them to load the AFT card. If you can get your hands on the coveted REloadit cards that are available at most grocery stores, then you’ve really hit the jackpot. These cost $3.95 per $950 and can be loaded onto a variety of prepaid cards. Every once in a while, I’ll try buying these at a grocery store and the cashier will actually approve the transaction. Focusing on REloadit cards isn’t a reliable strategy, but if you can occasionally buy them with a credit card, you’ll get almost twice the points for the same price of a Vanilla Reload.
While it seems like the points and miles game is generally on a downward spiral, there are always alternatives and it’s up to us to adapt. I am starting to lean more heavily on credit card churning, with $5,000 being a much easier way to earn 50,000 points than actually spending $50,000. Manufactured spending certainly isn’t over, it’s just going to be more of a challenge going forward.