Manufactured Spending

My Last Trip to Walmart: Why I’m Officially Done with Bluebird

Amex Bluebird crossed out

Yesterday, against my better judgment, I decided to waste 20 minutes of my life driving to the miserable hell hole known as Walmart in an attempt to unload my last set of gift cards. With just three Simon Mall gift cards to unload, I decided to get over my manufactured spending fatigue and cash out these cards at the Bluebird kiosk. Even after parking my car, I tried to talk myself out of walking in but resisted the urge to flake out like I had so many times before. I walked in and to my delight, the Bluebird kiosk was up and running – or so it seemed. Of course, it wouldn’t be a normal trip to Walmart if everything went smoothly. 

The kiosk kept rejecting my Simon Mall card, even when I left a buffer as high as $5. I even tried a Gift Card Mall card, which is usually less prone to issues, but that didn’t work either. I tried buying money orders but the machine wasn’t doling those out either. This is the third time in a row that I’ve made the trek to Walmart and this has happened to me. 

In the past, loading up at the check-out line had been successful, but one glance and it became clear that was out of the question. As usual there was at least a 20 minute wait and I decided it just wasn’t worth the headache. I walked out of Walmart, I promised myself for the last time, and will be trading in Bluebird for Serve first thing Monday morning. If it means I can load $1,000 per month without hassle or leaving my house for that matter, I’m in. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m officially done with Bluebird and more importantly, Walmart.

I’ve been complaining a ton lately about this hobby becoming a hassle, with all of the recent setbacks. The one thing I’ve really despised was the whole Walmart ritual and now that it’s out of the picture, I have a much more positive outlook on this hobby. Of course, it also eliminates a major manufactured spending resource, but I’m fine with that. I still have my prized possession: Amex for Target. I don’t even care about the higher fees involved (considering the minimized hassle, I almost think Amex deserves it) and I will take a trip to Target and a walk through sample heaven (aka Costco) any day of the week. 

Perhaps I’ll get a bit more creative, like Greg, and buy/sell merchandise for miles. With the holiday shopping season coming up, it certainly makes sense to buy popular merchandise and resell it through channels like eBay and Amazon.

Another thing I’ve been researching for quite some time has been importing products. If all goes according to plan and I make it to China in December, this will hopefully open up another point-chasing opportunity – not to mention a way to earn a living. It will certainly make earning points more fun and not like a side hobby that takes up valuable time spent on more fruitful endeavors. 

Are you as fed up with Bluebird as I am? What is your back-up plan for generating miles?

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  1. My last trip to a Walmart kiosk in the Bay Area to load my serve card was also a massive fail. I spent lots of time in lines only to come upon clueless cashiers or cashiers who refused my husband’s card because name didn’t match my ID. Way too time consuming! The Walmart I went to outside Philly a few weeks ago was much better (working kiosk! No human interaction!).

    • It does seem to be a Bay Area thing. A while back they removed all kiosks in certain areas and the ones I try are always wonky.

  2. I have been saying this for awhile to my wife. The trips to Walmart are becoming more and more of a hassle. My Walmart’s never ever have a working kiosk, so I always have to go to the register or money center. The worst is when you waste all that time only to not be able to load your card due to various reasons (ie cashier says no more gift cards, lines are way to long, cashier will only let you load 1 or 2 cards, etc). Anyway, I have gone from loading 10K a month on 2 Bluebird cards to about 2K a month. I have even switched to Serve so I can load 1K from credit and debit from my computer.

  3. Lawrence Krakow

    You are taking out your frustration on Bluebird but your headline should be re-written. I love Bluebird, its a fantastic product for managing money. I especially like that I can setup a sub account and then give my 15 year old son his own card and add allowance to his account all thru the web.

    But the best thing I like about Bb is their international ATM access. Everytime I go to Europe I use it at ATM’s and the only fee I pay is $2.00 (now$2.50). That is way better than my local bank cash card that imposes all sorts of extra fees.

    What you are complaining about is the whole process of gift card purchase and manual loading process at Walmart to your Bluebird account. Bluebird as a product is so much more than just a dumping ground for your visa gift card funds.

    My tip to all of you would be…..if possible, stop into the Walmart store after prime hours, most are open 24 hours. I like go later in the evening and then the lines are non existent. I’m sticking with this process for now as it still works fine for me

    • My frustration is really with Walmart and how difficult they make it to load Bluebird. Since they are tied together, it’s best to cut Bluebird out of the equation. It’s just too time consuming. My recent trip was after hours, but seems my local Walmart is always packed.

  4. I dumped BB for Serve after VR’s demise. Have 2 Serve accounts which is good for 10K per month w/ GC’s @ FD & 2K per month w/ CC. Have 4 AFT which is good for 10K per month w/ CC. I use a no fee ATM a block from my home to cash out. Target & FD are close by work and home so I don’t go out of my way. All transactions are smooth for 22K per month MS. Almost exclusively use 2 Carlson CC’s for 5x right now unless meeting spend on new CC.

    • Dear David, Please explain your comment in understandable English. What is “FD”? AFT? Also thought Serve had a limit of $1000? Please explain. Thanks!

    • Is your process ONLY for cashing out?? Or are you able to pay for Rent + Health Insurance + Utilities? Can I use SERVE for this?

    • Hi DavidNJ,
      I’m in NJ as well, only been here a few months, originally from NJ. I currently have 1 AmexTarget (will get another) you said your loading these at target with a credit card, Can you use gift cards if I get 5x for buying them? and the $3 load fee is that for $1000 or for $500 load.

      I think I can use a Costco ATM to cash out (not sure of the fee). If your not using Costco, what ATM’s are free, or charge low fee?

      Also, are you loading the serve card at Family Dollar with gift cards? I assume you get these gift cards at office supply, grocery stores, etc. Can you load up to $2,500 a day at FD?

      Thanks for any pointers.

      • I’ve never tried a GC to load AFT, rather use CC. You can load $1K per day w/ a CC onto AFT. It’s $3 to load 1K w/ a CC. GC’s would probably be $3 for each load if you can use them? I use the ATM @ the NJ convenience store that starts w/ a Q. There is no fee to withdraw. Using Carlson card 5X gives me very cheap stays @ top resorts because my Wife and I both have the card. We use the BOGO redemption that is offered w/ the card.

        FD will only let you load $500 a day w/ gift cards, even though it says $2500 a day. Having 2 Serve lets me load $1K per day.

  5. Lots of us live where no kiosks exist, so cashiers and the money center are the only option. This is falling on deaf ears.

  6. I am so tired about all the whining about Walmart, kiosks, Bluebird, etc. You people bring your problems on yourselves. I use the debit cards to buy money orders quickly at the money center (never a checkout cashier). I deposit the money orders into my bank account to pay off the credit cards and I’m done. So easy and fast. BTW-You can also buy money orders at grocery stores.

    • Jerry, i’m happy for you but don’t extrapolate your experience. The 2 WM by me do NOT allow debit/gift cards to be used to purchase MO. I have also not found any grocery stores on Long Island that allow purchasing MO with gift/debit cards.

      • Earlier this year, the money center at my Walmart also had obsolete/wrong information and told me nonsense about buying money orders with debit cards. I had the supervisor call up somewhere to get straightened out. Then, she told the clerks it is OK.
        Besides grocery stores, try drug stores. Of course, if you can pay off the credit card bills, you can call up utilities, cable, cell phone, insurances and prepay with credit cards to meet minimum spending. You get it back fee-free by no monthly payments for a bunch of months.

    • Not everyone has it that ease. Most of us can’t use gc’s at money centers. While grocery stores are an option, that’s also a hit/miss situation.

  7. I was using EVOLVE Money to pay certain bills. However, they are making it more difficult to use the system.

    What ALTERNATIVE is out there to pay: Rent + Health Insurance + Utilities with a Credit Card?? Someone please clue me in!

    • You can buy money orders or use Bluebird.

      • How do I fund BlueBird NOW?? How can I use a Money Order to pay: Rent + Health Insurance + Utitilties? Is there anything out there that is as easy as Vanilla Reload was? I am confused…

        • Nothing as easy as Vanilla Reloads, unfortunately. You can fund Bluebird at the Walmart Bluebird kiosk or register using a PIN enabled gift cards. Then use Bluebird’s online bill pay to pay your rent and other bills. You can also use the gc’s to buy money orders instead and make those out to whoever it is you’re paying.

  8. I live in the New Orleans, LA area and luckily, or not, have 5 Wal Marts available on my ride home with KATE machines. I recently stopped doing the AMEX portals to GCM and the SGC as both are now to expensive.
    Now I use my OLD AMEX BLUE for 5% cash back at CVS and buy OV cards and unload them at WM Kates. This nets $20 per a card purchased. I use 6 BB’s so I can do $30k a month. There are no gas stations or grocery stores, that I am aware of, that allow me to purchase gift cards with a CC.
    Yes the KATE’s are terrible and for the last two weeks none of the 5 I frequent have sold MO’s. Just load BB’s. Takes a couple swipes with each card but work after the “metrological” error code spits out a receipt usually.
    My game plan is to continue with Old Blue and apply for new CC every 91 days, purchase OV at CVS, close CC, remove inquiry and card from credit card and loop.

    Any feedback on my system would be appreciated!

  9. For me, the benefits continue to outweigh the horrors. The volume I can pump through WM is too great for me to give up despite the hassle.

  10. I’ll stick with Bluebird for the time being. There is a very sweet, older lady who works at the money center who apparently hasn’t heard that you aren’t supposed to get money orders with gift cards anymore, and she is always helpful and nice with those purchases. I hope she’s not looking to retire anytime soon.

    • I will take a sweet older lady cashier over a crass younger one any day. Glad to hear you have a reliable place to unload those gc’s!

  11. First off, understand that my wife and I can’t stand Walmart and will only purchase something there on the road or in an emergency. That said, don’t hate me here folks but I have no problem with loading my Bluebird at Houston Walmarts. While there are many, very few have automated booths and like everyone else they are rarely working. Maybe a lot more people are using them here because both service and cashiers know how to run through $2k loads in about 5 minutes.

    I’m still all-in on the Bluebird; even using the checks on occasion.

  12. Lately, I’ve found that my WM is starting to take your license info if you’re buying MO’s. Anyone else have that issue and should I be concerned?

    • Are you buying $3k or more? Typically that’s when they’ve asked for ID in the past. If that’s the case, stick to $2900 to be safe.

    • Appears to be store by store that wants an ID. Depends on the individual policy I have found. A stereotype but what I have seen is the more ghetto the customers the more like an ID is needed.

  13. Sorry to hear you’re having so much trouble. I guess I am very lucky. I have three walmarts within a 10 mile radius, one of which is on my way home from work. While none of them have Kate, I’ve had no trouble loading BB, and rarely do I have to wait in a line.

    If I had the same hassles you do, i could certainly see getting frustrated.I hope serve works out for you.

  14. Anyone in the Louisville, Kentucky area?

  15. I just can’t imagine doing the MS spend game and going to load less than 2 BB’s at a time. What types of volume are other people doing a month? In my head I just can’t see it being worth the trips for the small amount of points which is why I have gone to the OLD AMEX BLUE. Thoughts appreciated.

    • anyone willing to answer a few newbie questions? ive literally done days of reading but it seems a lot of what ive read is out dated and its hard to find useful BB/WM threads within the past month. this is actually the most promisng thread ive come across. I just completed my first, and very successful I might add, AOR so now i have min. spends to reach. i have a BB card (never used) and i purchased a VVGC (rookie mistake) from CVS. trying to figure out how to liquidate it but ive learned through my readings that WM/BB no longer works with Bancorp GCs. what are my options for liquidating this and what is the best gift card to buy going forward for WM/BB? also if my WM doesn’t have a kiosk, what then? do I go to any checkout cashier and ask to load my BB card or do I have to go to the moneycenter? any advice is much appreciated 🙂

      • Actually, I’ve heard Vanilla Visa loads are working again so you may be in luck after all. If there is no kiosk, head to the register instead and tell them you want to load your Bluebird card. They typically don’t check the card type at the regular checkout registers. Going forward, I recommend you buy Simon Mall gc’s (they have the lowest fees at $2.95 per $500). If you can’t load BB with VV’s anymore, you can always liquidate your cards via Amex for Target.

    • Even with larger volume gc’s, the same thing happens: The kiosk is broken, the lines are long. It once took me nearly an hour to unload $4k in gc’s at the kiosk.

  16. Whitney,you are a late comer to the party, do not waste your time, it is becoming hard , I have been in this for over 5 years and earned millions of miles, it is not worth it any more.

  17. Ariana, Please dont feel frustraited with this BB thing. you are the queen of MS and we all look up to you for inspiration. you always said if one door shuts, something better will come along. I ll continue reading your blog for better things to come. Thank You

    • I don’t think vanilla Visa gift cards are working again because I just tried 2 different registers at Walmart. the first register it froze the machine and we waited forever. the second register we tried several times and it kept reading “tender not allowed”. to target it is

      • oh and i never saw a BB specific kiosk so i tried Money Pass and tried several times yet nothing would happen after swiping my BB card

        • target keeps trying to hand me fixed value AmEx cards, even when I show them a picture of the AFT they are clueless….

          • They can be tough to find and look quite similar to the Target branded Amex gift cards. Not every store has them, but be sure to check every single check-out line for them. Sometimes they are randomly strewn about.

        • Not every Walmart has one, so what you encountered was probably just a regular ATM. Hope Target works out for you!

      • I have not found any Target stores in my area Louisville, Ky. that offer Amex for Target. Any suggestions?

        • just figured out that the entire state of North Carolina does not sell them. go to the Amex for target website and it will tell you which cities in which states sell them when u click on where to buy. but screw all of that because I just bought two money orders at a grocery store one with my Vanilla Visa gift card and one with my Simon mall gift card. :). finally this newbie is in business!

      • I just unloaded 5 at kiosk w minimal issues.

    • Thank you for the words of encouragement, choi. I definitely haven’t given up on ms as a whole, just moving on to a more efficient method. I appreciate your support!

  18. Haven’t yet tried a WMT kiosk — none nearby; yet the WMT cashiers in our C. Va area generally are all familiar & competent with BB, though some take different routes to load the debit cards to BB. Have noticed though that other customers are increasingly annoyed (at best) when they see someone (e.g., me) ahead of them with even a small BB transaction…. a general “roll the eyes” expectation to avoid that line. (don’t like to be perceived as the source of such irritation — WMT is bad enough itself. Somebody above suggested trying to go “off hours” — good idea, though again, a hassle.)

    The one thing that’s held me back from switching to SERVE has been the lack of ability to write paper checks. (really like that feature for paying taxes, at all levels) Also useful for person-to-person transactions, esp. with the pending demise of Amazon payments.

    Any way yet to write checks via Serve?

    • Updating my own thinking…. Had a horrendous experience at the same CHO WMT yesterday. My fault, went on a Saturday afternoon….. Lines were long. Waited for one to be “only” 4 deep, waited the 15 minutes, then told the cashier I wanted to load 3 gc’s to my bb…. totalling $900. His english was terrible, and his body language was he was annoyed and didn’t want to deal with me. Told me the limit was $500. (over that, I was to go to customer service, where the line was out the wazoooo)…. so I said, ok, let’s just load the one $500 card (from the Mall)…. after multiple incoherent mumbles from him, I figured out he was saying, no, it has to be “under” $500. (he might have been lying, no matter)…. So then I said, ok, then let’s just load the $400, (via 2 $200 debit cards from Staples). He was borderline incompetent…. took him 5-10 minutes to get it done, via separate transactions. (and got the customers behind me leaving for other lines — hate that)….. Then went over to customer service to load the $500…. there the chaos, the human wreckage continued…. they had 3 people working, but it took a half hour for them to handle the 10 people in front of me. I too have come to loathe WalMart…..

      am now seriously watching the news/fuss over Serve. (figured out I could transfer cash from Serve to checking account — and write checks from there) But seeing rumbles of trouble with Serve

      • Jerry Mandel

        Will-You should never go to a cashier-only to the WM money center counter. Yes, Saturday afternoon or any late afternoon is likely bad. I never have a long line. I buy my money orders and am on my way to deposit them into my bank.
        Masochists insist on having problems with Bluebird and Serve and whining about them.

        • Or these things actually happen to them. I don’t know why you’re insisting on people visiting the money center when that has been ruled out by the majority of WM locations.

        • Say Jerry, I wish I had an idea what you’re talking about… Way too cockey and dmn sure of yourself. The WM money center counter doubles here in Hoo’ville at customer service, and YES, that’s where the intolerable lines were … with the extremely slow/cumbersome service. Condescending s/a comments… so not helpful. Thank you Ariana for being civil all the same. I’m with you…. reducing reliance on Wally-world dramatically….. soon to revisit Serve (have also discovered many of my local gas marts will load the “newer” Vanilla Reloads directly to Serve at the cash-register — saving me the long, miserable trips to WMT — and for that matter, ever having to listen to Mandel “sing” for WMT again)

          • Quote: “Say Jerry, I wish I had an idea what you’re talking about.” If you don’t understand something so easy and simple, it’s no wonder you are having problems. I **learned** from all those reporting problems and hassles with Bluebird, Serve, etc. and stayed with gift cards and money orders into my bank.. Yes, with Walmart. Of course, you can also get money orders in drug and grocery stores.

          • Thanks, Will. It sounds like you’ve found yourself a great ms tool. I’m jealous!

  19. “The kiosk kept rejecting my Simon Mall card, even when I left a buffer as high as $5… ”

    Question: Are you saying we can no longer load Bluebird with Simon Mall Gift Card?

    • I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. This has only happened to me at the one Walmart kiosk I use regularly. Loading at the register still works.

  20. Any reason not to give ID?

  21. There are people who want to continue this. If you don’t, don’t. There are some of us that do not know everything. We’re trying to get there.

    • lucydney–The point is that, if you will READ all the comments, you will find that all questions have already been answered over and over. People keep asking the same questions over and over and over.
      On another subject, it is interesting how clerks in different Walmarts and grocery stores in the same chain have different “training”. Yesterday, 09/26, I met another minimum spending by buying money orders at a Walmart money center counter with debit cards (converted gift cards) and it went fast. Deposited in bank and done. I pay bills, including credit cards, from bank online and seldom write a check.

  22. I suggest anyone who has an Amex for Target go on line and check your account!!! I freaked out when I found all four cards double swiped giving me a negative balance on three out of four cards. All my last transactions were $400 on each card and it showed each ATM withdrawal for X’s 2 for $800 each. Called the customer service and they said it is an Amex for Target issue and all accounts will be corrected by Wednesday night. Wonder if it has anything to do with the Target breach?

  23. Someone asked but I didn’t see an answer – are these kiosks at Walmart Bluebird kiosks are just regular Money Center kiosks? Thanks!

  24. Lol, you don’t deserve Bluebird! Enjoy funding your bankers next trip to Davos with those ridiculous AMEX Target card fees!

  25. Luckily, the Walmart closest to me hired more employees and there is rarely any weight in line. I have had no problem refilling my bluebird card and like the fact that there are no monthly fee is and that it can be used pretty much like a checking account. However, I have encountered situations where the system was down and was unable to load the card. Also, if I happen to be in another part of town and go to another Walmart, the lines are ridiculous, so I have mixed feelings.

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