Meeting Minimum Spend Using Vanilla Reloads

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Yesterday I wrote about a new credit card offer where you can get 100,000 American Airline miles. While it currently is one of the highest bonus offers, it does come with a hefty annual fee (not waived the first year) and a high minimum spend you need to meet to earn the 100,000 bonus miles – you will need to spend $10,000 within the first three months.

While there are many ways to meet minimum spend requirements (every day spend, Amazon payments, buying gift cards, etc.), my favorite is purchasing Vanilla Reloads at CVS and then loading them to an American Express Bluebird card. While I know this isn’t an option for some as their local CVS does not carry Vanilla Reloads, for those that have this option it is my personal favorite. There are other places to purchase VRs, but not all accept credit card.

Steps for purchasing Vanilla Reloads:

  • Purchase a Vanilla Reload card at CVS and load it with $500. This is the maximum amount that can be loaded onto a single Vanilla Reload. Reload cards cost $3.95 so you want to maximize the amount you put on it to reduce your out of pocket cost. Make sure the card you purchase looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 9.16.49 AM

  • At CVS if you purchase $1,000+, they will need to scan your ID. This is no big deal, it is just protecting them against fraud. Some CVS’s will allow you to purchase up to $5,000 worth of Vanilla Reloads, while others will only allow one $500 purchase. I personally purchase in $1,000 increments. If you are looking to make a large purchase, I recommend calling your credit card company in advance to let them know you are making a large purchase. Some cards will deny your purchase and put a fraud alert on your account until you confirm that it was a legit purchase. If this happens I usually get an email or phone call immediately asking me to confirm my purchase. Once confirmed you will be able to make the purchase.

Steps for loading Vanilla Reloads onto an American Express Bluebird card:

  • You will first need to order an American Express Bluebird card. This is free and will take a week or so to arrive in the mail.
  • Go to the Vanilla Reload website where you will need to enter the 10 digit number (which is found under the scratch off) on the back of the Vanilla Reload card you purchased at CVS. Enter this number and click “Continue”.

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 9.28.01 AM

  • On the next page, you will need to enter your Bluebird number. The $500 will then be loaded onto your Bluebird card.
  • You can only load $1,000 onto a Bluebird card each day.

Once you have money loaded onto your Bluebird card, then what?

  • There are a few options to then using the money:
    • Bill Pay: Insert the payee information and Bluebird will send them the money. You can pay a business or a person. This includes, for example, your Chase credit card bill, electricity bill, or your friend. If it is a business that is already in the system you can send as much as $10,000 per month. If it is a person not in the system, you are limited to sending $5,000 per month.
    • Write a Check: You can write a check right from your Bluebird account. This is personally my favorite method as then you ensure the person is actually receiving the check. You must order checks ahead of time and until April 1, 2014 the fee is waived. All checks must be pre-authorized and any amount over $2,000 will take a few days. You can read more about ordering checks and pre-authorizing the checks in this prior blog post.

Also, Vanilla Reloads and American Express Bluebirds are not only to meet minimum spend. I personally purchase VR’s monthly to continue to earn points and miles. This post goes into depth on which credit card to use when purchasing Vanilla Reloads.

Let me know if you have any questions!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. My local CVSs stopped accepting CC for VR. After $90k of purchases last year using 2 bluebird accounts it looks like I’m screwed. Im in Norfolk VA area

  2. @Daniel — Valero gas stations now carry vanilla reloads and I believe there is one located in Norfolk (according to Google maps). I just purchased a couple this morning using a credit card.

  3. Can you buy money orders with the Vanilla reload card or amex bluebird card? Is there a way to get it back in my checking account?

  4. As a newbie looking for confirmation are you suggesting we could use a credit card to buy the VR which will give us spend AND points with credit card and then use the VR to pay that credit card bill? Just want to confirm the process. Thx.

    • @Chris – You can use Vanilla Reloads to pay anything that accepts a check! However, there have been some reports of Amex shutting down their Bluebird account when only loading their bluebird with VR’s and only unloading their bluebird with credit card bill pays.

    • @Jon – You can, however, I wouldn’t recommend unloading all of your funds this way. While there is no concrete amount you can transfer, I would transfer money to my bank account while also paying bills, etc. I also would not load $1,000 onto my Bluebird card and then transfer it out the next day. You can do it here:

  5. None of the CVS in NYC accept credit cards to reload VRs, so what alternatives are there? At least, this has been my experience, both in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I’ve talked to countless managers (one just today in a CVS in Brooklyn) who have told me that CVS policy is not to allow VRs with credit cards, ONLY cash/debit. Any advice for us living in NYC?? Also, no Walmarts nearby. I need specific advice when VRs and Walmart are not a possibility. Anyone? Thank you!!

  6. As a follow up, I intend to MS $3K through AP, but I’m left with $7K to manufacture and not sure how to do this easily WITHOUT VRs or WM.

  7. Wait im a lil confused. Does that mean i can add funds to my Bluebird account using Vanilla Reloads? Can iI really use Bluebird to pay for my Chase Credit Card bills?

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