Manufactured Spending

Vanilla Reloads at FoodMaxx AND They Take Credit Cards (sort of)!

I’ve written before about my frustration at not finding any CVS or Walgreens locations that allow Vanilla Reload cards to be purchased with a credit card. Last night, things took an interesting turn. I was at my local Walgreens, which is right next to a FoodMaxx. It’s the one place I haven’t checked for reload cards of any kind, and thought I’d give it a try. I was hoping I’d find some MoneyPaks that I could purchase with a credit card.

When I checked out the gift card rack, I was stunned to find a single Vanilla Reload card left. FoodMaxx isn’t even listed on  the Vanilla Reload website, but I later found out its a subsidiary of SaveMart, which is in fact listed as a Reload location.

Even though there was only one left, I was more than happy to try and purchase it. FoodMaxx has self-checkout, which I figured would be my best bet. When I scanned the card it prompted an associate’s assistance. The associate came over, took a look at the card, and went back to talk to the manager. The manager came over and explained that since this card wasn’t “pre paid” (his words, not mine) and they had to enter the value, I needed to go to an actual register and have an associate ring me up. Not the least bit deterred, I got in a fairly long line and hoped the associate would allow the transaction to go through.

When the associate scanned the card, a message popped up on the register, warning him that giftcards that were “monetary equivalents” had to be purchased with cash or ATM cards only. He quickly typed in a code to bypass this message. I thought for sure he would ask for an ATM card, but I simply swiped my Amex Business Gold (earning me 2 points per $1) and he didn’t say a thing. He handed me the Reload card and receipt, then asked “Is that a cellphone card?” Remembering the message about “monetary equivalents”, I fibbed “Yes, it can be used for cellphones.” He didn’t say anything else and I walked out of there elated.

I immediately headed to the other FoodMaxx in town, which was stocked to the brim with Reloads. I grabbed 3 along with a gallon of milk, to minimize the chances of the cashier rejecting a credit card payment. The message about the cash/ATM requirement popped up again each time the cashier scanned it, and just like the other cashier, she entered a code each time to bypass the message. She then asked me to pay with cash or ATM. I told her I’d purchased these from FoodMaxx with a credit card before, and she insisted that the computer asked her 3 times to request cash or ATM.

Although this was a bit disappointing, there are a few good lessons to be learned from this experience:

1. A few readers from the Bay Area have told me they can’t find any CVS/Walgreens stores that will let them buy Vanilla Reload cards with anything other than cash. The good news for those folks is that they can now buy Reloads at FoodMaxx and earn $1 point per $1 with the right debit card.

2. If you’re going to try purchasing Reloads at FoodMaxx with your credit card, buy one card at a time. The cashier might be willing to ignore the computer’s instructions once, but as I experienced, they’re not going to ignore it if it happens several times in a row.

3. The cash register required gift cards classified as “monetary equivalents” to be paid with cash/ATM. The cashier thought I was purchasing a cell phone card and let the transaction go through. Consider bundling other giftcards (that you actually need) with your Vanilla Reload purchase. The cashier may be willing to bypass the message if he/she thinks the cards are similar and eligible for credit card purchases.

4. The VR website lists all the retailers that carry Reloads. If you can’t find any retailers nearby, consider researching their subsidiaries.  They might also carry the cards, even though they are not specifically listed on the VR site.

5. If you’re going to use a credit card, maximize your miles by using one of the following:

Are you able to buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card in your area? If not, does this impact your point-earning strategy? Please comment below.

Disclosure: I do not earn a referral for any of the credit card links in this post.

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  1. I will not keep my hopes very high from your experience. It is hit or miss. This is not a reliable method but unfortunately this is what is left so take it or leave it. Gone are the good old days of vanilla reloads. I have a new blue bird eating dust in the drawer and never used once.

    • @ Caveman, Bluebird is still useful. Load it with a mile-earning debit card, then use it to pay off your credit cards. This way you’re earning miles on your credit card bills (or an additional 0.5 miles/$1 on all credit card spending).

    • @ Caveman, A while ago Daraius at Million Mile Secrets wrote about funding Wells Fargo Prepaid cards with a credit card and then using the WF card to load your Bluebird. Reload fees for WF cards are $5 and the card has a monthly fee of $3 per month. This is a decent alternative to Vanilla Reloads in terms of fees and the fact that you can still earn 1 point per $1 for loading your Bluebird card.

      • @PointChaser, Thank you for pointing me to this post by Million Mile Secrets. Somehow this aspect totally slipped my mind. I tried to read the whole post very carefully again but did not see any reference to Bank of America Hawii airlines card and Barclays USAir card. Unlike Citi cards, are those cards safe to be used for funding. I believe he mentioned somewhere that for Hawaii bank Hawaii airline card was not charged as cash advance but did not get any miles. Do you have any experience or have you read somewhere about these cards that I mentioned. I need to reach the minimum spend on these three.

        • @ Caveman, he didn’t earn miles with the Hawaiian card but you just want to meet a spending requirement, it might be worthwhile to use that card. You might also want to get an American Express for Target card. You can load these at Target, $1000 at a time for a $3 fee (up to $5,000 per month). You can also try using Amazon Payments and paying rent/mortgage through Venmo or WilliamPaid.

  2. Thank you! Time to go grocery shopping. 🙂

  3. So with a $1K max load at a time and a $10K total load per month (with direct deposit), could one then have the checker do, say, 9 transactions for $3/piece? Or would that violate a rule or mega-annoy the checker?

    • @ Adam, I don’t think it violates any rules and I’m sure the checkers are ok with it if there’s no line. But keep in mind that your credit card company will probably send off a fraud alert if they see 9 identical transactions in a row. Maybe split it between different cards. I noticed my Amex Gold has been coding Target as a grocery store. Try a Hilton Amex and see if you can get 6 points/$1 on these reloads.

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