Manufactured Spending

Bluebird Reload Fees & Why I’m Getting Lazy on the Vanilla Reload Front

By now you’ve heard the news: BlueBird is no longer charging $2 fees on online debit reloads. These loads are limited to $100 per day/$1,000 per month, so you’re looking at 500-1,000 miles depending on the card you’re using. If you were to cover this $1k with Vanilla Reload cards instead, you’d earn 1,000 miles at a cost of $7.90.In any case, this is good news for those of us who have been getting lazy with the manufactured spending.

Vanilla Reload

I while ago I wrote about generating $40,000 in manufactured spending each month. I’ve gotta say, it’s becoming more and more difficult to hit that number. Not because there’s a shortage of resources, but because of the following:

1. Convenience. Back when I hated my job (which was conveniently located a block away from CVS), I’d make twice daily trips (sometimes more) to the drugstore and stock up on Vanilla Reloads. It was ridiculously easy and gave me a nice escape from the toxic environment and work load. Now it’s a bit of a hassle to drive to CVS every day, which brings me to my second point:

2. Store limits. CVS stores are changing the limits on the number of cards constantly and it’s getting tiring, keeping up with the latest. Walking up to the register with the wrong number of cards can cause the cashier to ask questions, which leads to a long wait, which leads to either rejection (i.e. “You have to pay cash for those”) or a new policy on limits – the manager will notify the entire staff and every time I go in afterwards, I’m subject to this new limit.

3. Security issues. I’ve written about a few instances recently when my cards were declined, how I got around the ID requirement, and how 7-11 corporate called the store and demanded they stop running my credit card. In the past, I’ve had no issues buying $1k at a time with my Chase cards, buying over $5k per day. Now I sometimes get shut down after the first $500 runs. I certainly don’t want to attract the attention of the fraud department and end up with my accounts suspended.

If all of these things are getting to you, do what I do: Get your kids/siblings/parents to do the heavy lifting for you. There are several Vanilla Reload goldmines where my brother goes to school, so I finally got through to him and he’s been loading up on cards for me. Get one person addicted and it will lighten the load, trust me.

Aside from  that, I’m taking a bit of a hiatus from the Vanilla Reload game. I’m spreading my manufactured spending among more cards than before, and generally don’t go out of my way to earn them. This is where the new Bluebird comes in. It takes care of the time factor, allowing me to hit at least $4k of the limit without having to drive anywhere (4 bluebird cards $1k/month). It’s a small amount, but that’s at least four fewer trips to CVS for me.

What are your thoughts on the state of manufactured spending? Is it getting easier or more difficult for you?

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  1. Too bad this only works for debit cards… I wish Walmart Bluebird were like Amex for Target, where you can load the card straight up with your credit card.


    When you are doing large manufactored spend each month do you use Bluebird to pay the same Chase card that you used to buy the VR? What is a formula that makes sense regarding minimum spend—buy VR to the spend amount and then just repay the Bank that you used the card for?

    • PointChaser

      Yes, that’s the most organized way to do this. Not all of my manufactured spending goes on Bluebird – sometimes I load Vanilla Reloads onto the My Vanilla Debit card, or I load Paypal reload cards onto my account. In all of these instances, I either use bill pay to pay off the card or I cash out the funds via money order and pay off the card at a branch.


        Thanks for the quick response. Any feelings about using SPG AMEX to buy VR and then repaying through Bluebird–due to there tight relationship?

        • PointChaser

          I’d be careful with Amex in general. I wouldn’t max out $5k with SPG because, depending on the income listed on your application, they might subject you to a Financial Review. I personally cap it at $3k per month. This way, I can always justify it as a mortgage payment.

  3. Does this mean that we can load 6K from now on? 5K with VR’s and 1K with Debit? or is it a total of 5K?

    • PointChaser

      Unfortunately, no. You are still limited to $5k per month and can load $1k with your debit card. The great thing about this is if you have a Suntrust Delta debit, you’re earning 1 point/$1 fee-free.

      • I believe this is wrong. How did you draw that conclusion? According to the Bluebird T&Cs it pretty specifically states that “cash funding sources” are separate from “debit” loads. Also, BB shut people down for changing debit load sources multiple times in its infant stages, so I’d tread lightly there – but if you want to be “lazy” about the points, then try it for a few months and report back.

  4. First of all, I am jealous that you have 4 Bluebird cards. Did you ask permission from those other people to sign them up for a Bluebird card, or did you do it without telling them?

    Point Chaser, which CVS location(s) and which 7-11 location(s) do you have success in (other than the ones on Market St in San Francisco and Telegraph Ave in Berkeley)? I am pleasantly surprised that you somewhat still have success at 7-11, despite widespread reports of failure at many 7-11 stores.

    Also, how does your brother manage to use your own credit cards to buy reload cards for you, seeing that you have to provide a signature and CVS takes IDs? I guess an authorized user is perhaps a solution, but some credit cards don’t award points for spending done by authorized users.

    • PointChaser

      lol! Of course. That is the benefit of having family members who will play along. My brother has his own CSP card that he uses for VR’s. Since I’m short on UR points for a trip in December and he’s closest to the goal, I’m having him wrack up spend so I can use his miles. As for 7-11 locations, the one on Market street takes credit cards but it only works on Paypal cards. That’s what I usually buy, as it still earns be 2x and I can cash out the Paypal card fairly easily.

  5. you are right, a lot of pros have moved away from vanilla reloads, due to the hassle of finding one. There are so many other techniques which work reliably, some with even lower hassle than vanilla reloads


    Andreas; help a newbie out and go into more detail about these other techniques

  7. Vanilla Reloads have disappeared from CVS in my state; none in the last month. i’m very jealous of those of you who still have access to them. The only places I know of that are still selling VRs near me are for cash only.

    • PointChaser

      Sorry to hear that. Be sure to check out the list of other stores that carry them. Walmart, Dollar General, Fred’s, etc.

    • I can buy them for you, but then how can I sell them to you at cost?

      • As mysteriously as the VRs left the Bay Area, they returned in force about 2-3 weeks ago, same good old VRs, still $3.95, and still accepting CCs at CVS. Phew! By the way, forget Berkeley 7-11s: cash/debit card only.

        • Good to know! I noticed they were MIA in berkeley a while back, though Oakland was stocked. By the way, you can buy Paypal reload cards at the 711 on Market Street SF with an Ink Bold. VR’s too if they have them, though they’ve been out of stock the last few times I’ve been there.

          • more on Bay Area VRs. It’s complex…..of course. Some CVSs in Berkeley/El Cerrito/Albany are requiring cash now. But I’m in the Lamorinda area, and no problems over here. Stay tuned. Landscape changes continuously.

          • Thanks for the update!

  8. Dailey Robert

    I’m a regular VR guy in the east SF Bay Area. For the last 6-8 weeks the CVSs around here have not been restocked. Period. I’ve queried several managers and knowledgable clerks.
    No info. No one seems to know what’s happened. So the hunt has extended to 7-11s: either they’ve never seen the VR or the register blocks CC attempts at purchase- “cash or debit only”. Walgreens around here are the same. So…….I’m dead on BB. And the new “wonderful”policy permitting free $1000/ mo.debit card reloads is little comfort. I even found a Save Mart in an obscure corner of SJ: they’d never seen or heard of a VR [I even carry around a used VR to introduce myself. My calling card….]
    Anyway,,,,anyone out there have a handle on this? Suggestions?
    Hurting and frustrated in SFBA.

    • PointChaser

      Try CVS in downtown Oakland. As far as I know, that location is still fully stocked. Also, if you can’t find anything else – move on to Paypal prepaid cards. The 711 on Market in SF always has these.

    • I said this to another poster I have shops all around me who carry VR is there a away I can help you?1

  9. Robert Blacklock

    I tried three different CVS locations and two out of three are still selling VRs with a CC in the Greater New Orleans area

  10. Robert Dailey

    Thanks for the helpful comments, pointchaser and blacklock! I’m on it!

  11. It couldn’t be simpler! I manufacture $50k+ a month by buying regular gift cards, unpack them at home while watching tv, and the next morning take the whole batch to my local grocery store to make a big money order that goes straight to the bank. I do $5k of VR to BB as well, but that’s now a fraction of what I can do by abandoning prepaid products altogether.

  12. Were you ever subject to aa from mvd?

    • Can you clarify? Not sure what aa is referring to.

      • Having them suspend your card(s) or putting the in “spend down” mode due to ca’s or multiple loading/unloadings in a short period.

        • No issues so far. I’ve been cutting back on VR’s in general,doing $5k on two different mvd’s each month without problems

      • My guess is that by aa, he means adverse action. This means any negative action taken by a credit card or financial institution. This includes, but is not limited to, account closure, credit line reduction, or forfeiture of miles/points. The MVD (My Vanilla Debit, I assume) is notorious for this type of action.

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