What’s the deal???
The latest craze in the world of points-hungry travelers is the American Express Bluebird prepaid card. For all intents and purposes, it is a prepaid debit card that also has checking features (i.e. Bill Pay).
The biggest value proposition comes from the fact that you can use it to pay bills just like a checking account. This alone isn’t a big deal, as everyone has a checking account with this feature.
The big deal is that you can fund your Bluebird account in two ways that will earn you points/miles:
- Swiping your points-earning debit card to directly fund your Bluebird at Walmart
- Purchasing Vanilla Reload cards with any one of your points-earning credit cards
Step 1: Open a Bluebird account
This part is easy. Click here to go to the signup page for Bluebird.
You do have to supply your social security number, but it does NOT result in a hard inquiry on your credit (like applying for a credit card does). It is just like opening a checking account; they are only using your SSN for identity verification.
My card was mailed to me in about 10 days.
Step 2: Fund your Bluebird account
Funding your Bluebird using the Vanilla Reload Network (#1 method)
This is the only worthwhile way to earn points in this process. It does hinge on the premise that you are able to find a Vanilla Reload card.
These have been a little hard to find for those of us in larger markets (NJ/NY, CA, etc.) but they are appearing in more stores lately – CVS, Walgreens, 7-11, Family Dollar, Valero. Please see the Vanilla website for every location.
Not every location will let you buy one with a credit card. It can vary from store to store, even within the same chain. I personally went to a few Walgreens where I was told “Cash only” when trying to buy a card, but I do know that others have successfully purchased them with credit cards so find out for yourself to be sure.
Whether it is accepting cash only or imposing a limit on how many cards you can buy, just be polite and move on if things don’t go your way! No need to argue or speak to managers about this precious card that is the key to earning points for paying loans and mortgages.
Thanks to Mile Collector for finding a CVS that’s close to both of us that let me purchase 4 cards at $500 each with my credit card!
There are a few general Vanilla Reload restrictions, but nothing bad:
- The max value Vanilla Reload card you can purchase is $500
- Each card carries a $3.95 fee that you must pay
- You are limited to loading $1,000 per day (the day starts at 12AM EST) on the Vanilla Reload website
- You are limited to loading $5,000 per month
Funding your Bluebird at Walmart (#2 method)
Funding at Walmart is the easier of the two methods of loading your Bluebird card. There are certain restrictions that go along with this method:
- You can only use a debit card to pay
- You are limited to loading $1,000 per day
- You are also limited to $5,000 per month
As you can see, this method is VERY limited considering there are so few points earning debit cards. I just wanted to put it out there but it is definitely the less preferred method.
Step 3: Pay your bills
This part is basically like any other Bill Pay system you’ve seen before. Set up any number of Payees – American Express for paying your CC bills, Wells Fargo for your home mortgage, Sallie Mae for your student loans.
You can even set up a PERSON as a custom Payee – a friend whom I owe money to, a landlord to pay rent.
The possibilities are endless and if the Payee isn’t in the Bluebird system, Bluebird will simply mail them a check in about 6 business days.
So to recap, the basic process goes like this:
- Open Bluebird account.
- Fund it somehow, preferably with a Vanilla Reload card purchased with a credit card. The less preferred method is to fund it with a points-earning debit card at Walmart.
- Use your Bluebird account as a Bill Pay and pay things you would normally not earn miles for!
It’s a bit of learning curve starting up, but it’s absolutely worth it. You could be earning thousands of extra miles a year because of this.
The first step is opening a Bluebird account and getting yourself that card!
I hope this helps and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.