MyVanilla finally appears

A reader emailed me last night to let me know that the MyVanilla reloadable prepaid Visa card is now available for order online.  For months the OneVanilla website showed the MyVanilla card as “coming soon”, but now it shows the option to “upgrade to MyVanilla:”

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What makes this card interesting is that it can be loaded using the same Vanilla Reload cards that I originally wrote about in the post “One card to rule them all.”  In fact, on the MyVanilla home page, selecting “How to reload” brings up a helpful page with the following:

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Why we care

The same trick for earning 5X everywhere described in the post “One card to rule them all” can be done with a card like this, rather than a prepaid American Express card.  One advantage over the Amex is that Visa cards are accepted in more places.  Another advantage is that it is a true debit card so it can be used for PIN based debit transactions.  This is helpful because some purchases require cash or debit.  Also some transactions (such as paying taxes) have much smaller fees when a debit card is used.

Crazy fees

I had high (and unrealistic) hopes that the MyVanilla card would match the prepaid Amex card’s fee structure.  The Amex has no monthly fee, no inactivity fees, and no usage fees (other than ATMs).  The MyVanilla card, on the other hand, has quite a few fees.  Here are some of them (the full list of fees can be found here):

  • Dormancy fee: $3.95 per month (charges begin after 90 days of inactivity)
  • Signature purchase transaction fee: $0.50 per transaction
  • PIN debit purchase transaction fee: $0.50 per transaction
  • ATM Withdrawal fee: $1.95
  • Over the counter cash withdrawal fee: $1.95

I find it almost unbelievable that they will charge 50 cents per transaction for using this card as a regular credit card.  That means that small purchases made with this card are assessed a huge fee as a percentage of the purchase.  For example, if you buy something for $1, the fee is 50%.  If you buy something for $10, the fee is 5%. For small purchases, these fees completely wipe out the 5X benefit (please read “One card to rule them all” if you do not understand the reference to the 5X benefit).

Doomed if you do, doomed if you don’t

Thanks to this card’s draconian fees, the only financially responsible way to use this card is for large transactions.  Use the card to pay your taxes, get cash out via over the counter withdrawals, etc.  However, we learned from the NetSpend card that large transactions get people shut down quickly (see “We’re sorry, there is a problem with your account” and the comments to that post).  However, where the NetSpend card is backed by MetaBank, this one is backed by Bancorp.  So, it’s possible that they have different rules about closing accounts, but I doubt it.

Other cards

I’ll follow-up next week with a look at the various cards now available to load with Vanilla Reload cards.  Fortunately, more keep popping up so we can keep hoping for a good no-fee compliment to the Amex Prepaid.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

  1. What are the ATM withdrawal Limits? Only good thing I see to use this for other than large transactions.

    Also, does it offer any kind of buyer protection like the AMEX?

  2. Found this:

    You can load a maximum of $500.00 per day onto your Card, and there is a $2,500.00 total maximum deposit limit per day from all deposit sources (loads and ACH direct deposits). The daily ATM withdrawal limit is $400.00. Please review the online Cardholder Agreement for the most up-to-date information about your MyVanilla Card.

  3. Am I missing something??
    Going to pay $3,042 Prop Tax 10/15/12.
    Fees from county 2.29% credit or $3.95 Debit.
    Need to use my AMEX SPG to complete $5K spend.
    $3,042 X 2.29% = $69.66.
    To load card would need 7 transactions plus the counties = 8 X $3.95 = $31.60.
    So saving would be $38.06.
    Seems like work & AMEX may not like the $500 loads…..

  4. so are you saying that I should go buy a $500 prepaid vanilla card and then go to the website to upgrade it? Or should I just apply for one on their website?

  5. @FM — as I mentioned before, the issuing bank doesn’t matter. I now have another Metabank card from a different pre-paid card and it’s working well so far. However, Mio and this new Vanilla card are done by the same company so churning both would probably cause problems.

    The $0.50 fee might be a mistake. Mio website says they charge that too, but they really don’t. What matters more is the load limits and if MyVanilla has a bill payment feature. The other card I have now allows me to send a mortgage payment directly to the bank, for example, while Mio doesn’t.

    • frequent churner: I called MyVanilla early this morning to verify the 50 cent fee (for the exact reason you mentioned). When they said yes it has that fee, I said something about the Mio not having the fee. The guy told me that the fee is coming soon to the Mio too. I hope he’s wrong.

    • For those interested in using the account number & routing number for withdrawals or for bill payment, note that MyVanilla’s T&C don’t allow it:

      Your prepaid Card Account and associated direct deposit account number cannot be used for preauthorized direct debits from merchants or from utility or Internet service providers. If presented for payment, these preauthorized direct debits will be declined and your payment to the merchant or provider will not be processed. The bank routing number and direct deposit account number are for the purpose of initiating direct deposits to your prepaid Card Account only. You are not authorized to provide this bank routing number and direct deposit account number to anyone other than your employer or payer.

  6. I called to ask some questions. I guess I will order mine online. I was told that they are available at some local Walgreens and CVS stores. Either way, you will have to register with your name, ssn, etc. I am not crazy about that. I was told that my credit would not be pulled but they still had to have my ssn–federal law. How do you feel about that? Am I over thinking this?

  7. Heres a TIP for everyone.

    Instead of ordering it online first, why doesnt everyone run to their OD and buy the Prepaid Vanilla Card (the black one). Yes, I understand the Vanilla Card reloadables are all gone but at least, you can buy the Prepaid Vanilla Cards with 5x AND THEN go to the website frequentmiler suggested to upgrade it. That way your initial $500 is definitely 5x. THen once you get your permanent card in the mail, use that to withdraw the funds.

  8. @Kathy. Use FM’s link to the MyVanilla site. Select Upgrade. At bottom of form it provides a phone number where you can provide Drivers license or other form of ID in lieu of your SSN.

  9. @FM — that would suck if they introduce the $0.50, but maybe it’ll go along with some kind of plan to waive those if you do a minimum # of transactions. That’s what my reload-it card based visa offers and it’s working out great.

  10. Any updates on how Chase is dealing with all this? Some thing tells me this is getting really big. How many reloads are you guys buying? I have to think this 5x will end, but it just keeps going.This is crazy but I love it.

  11. The weak link to all these prepaid cards is finding the Vanilla reload cards at OD. I’ve talked to several store managers about the their reorder process. The entire gift card kiosk is done through a 3rd party. The stores are reordering, but the cards are not arriving. I’m hoping this is a temporary supply vs demand issue and will be resolved for the holiday season.

    Anyone with more info, please comment.

  12. Can someone point out the real advantage of this card over Amex prepaid card besides lower fees for debit-based transactions?
    (the advantage of Visa being accepted at more places is negated by 0.50 cents per purchase)

  13. Has anyone else called and ordered one without providing their ssn? Just curious if they accepted that. I will be in CVS today and will see if they have them in store. They always have a ton of gift cards.

  14. I’ve been to 3 OD in the DC area on the VA side and all 3 are out of the reload cards. The manager of one said that people have been buying them in the 10s of thousands so are out and they don’t know when they will get more. They have ordered them but not received any. Quite a few of the original card but no reload. This totally sucks.

  15. Hi! Thank you for the great information! Do you know if there is a limit on the MyVanilla card? Above post states…”You can load a maximum of $500.00 per day onto your Card, and there is a $2,500.00 total maximum deposit limit per day from all deposit sources (loads and ACH direct deposits).” I am not sure if it means you can only have $2500 maximum deposit PER day, or $2500 maximum on the card. Would be great if there is no limit for paying large taxes/mortgages!

  16. Anyone knows of any bank with low ATM fees for Amex prepaid cash withdrawal ($400/day) in Dallas area? I am not finding anything less than $3 per transaction.

  17. I don’t think we should look at this as an alternative to the Amex Prepaid card. Moreover, it should be used together. This way, we can use up the pile of reload cards twice as fast, for those people that have access to the reload cards. I live in NYC where unfortunately there’s no vanilla reload cards, but travel to a place where I get access to the reload cards, so I’m quite happy 🙂

    Would money orders, Serve, or Venmo a viable option for offloading the money from this card?

  18. Does anyone have any advice about how much in reloads is safe, without angering Chase? I don’t have an OD where I live, but I’m going on a trip next week with several ODs. I’d love to buy $5k or even $10k, but I’m a bit worried that, assuming the OD lets me do it, Chase will shut me down.

  19. FYI – Just bought a bunch of AMEX Vanilla reload cards at OD in Livermore CA as they had a rack-full.

    I also ordered the AMEX reload card online and you can do it without linking it to a checking account or even putting anything on it. It has been mailed to be with $0 on it.

    Thanks FM for putting me on this this – make hitting the Ink $10k in 3 months real easy at 5x points.

    I’m a big Costco shopper so plan on emptying the AMEX there and at their ATM’s.

    I’m also going to test if I can get my bank to do a balance transfer off the card in to my checking account as sometimes they can do this exceeding the daily cash limit.

    Also plan on doing this ‘softly’, also using the card for regular expenses to avoid any issues.

  20. I just tried to use vanilla ‘prepaid visa card’ & gift card at post office for money orders & both ran as a credit card (even tho they have DEBIT printed on card) & cannot be used. Any ideas?

    Are you saying if we convert those to myvanilla card it will be ok then?

  21. @DJ, yes, that’s correct. The prepaid visa cards cannot be used as debit cards (despite the label). Cards such as Mio Master Card, Netspend Visa, Momentum Visa, and MyVanilla Visa comes with a PIN so you can use them as debit cards and withdraw cash at ATMs.

  22. Silver lining. I think the large number of OD that don’t have the reload cards in stock is sort of a good thing that is keeping this alive longer. I think if there was an unlimited supply of these vanilla reload cards in all OD that the sales spike would be big enough for the deal to be killed in a month. So sort of a forced moderation.

  23. I feel like I’m missing something with all of these cards — how do you all cash out the balances you build up on your Amex prepaid? Lots of ATM withdrawals?

  24. @Paul or @frequentmiler,

    Can I buy the prepaid vanilla card at OD and then upgarde for Myvanilla card using the prepaid vanilla card that I bought. Then it will work as debit?

    • Steven Lu: Yes, it appears that you can upgrade from a non-reloadable Vanilla Visa to a MyVanilla Visa. However, you probably can only do it once or twice. The T&C states: “We may limit the number of Cards that you may register in our sole discretion.”

      Jack: I haven’t tried to order more than one. The T&C says “We may limit the number of Cards that you may register in our sole discretion.”

  25. @N:I’m leery of ATM withdrawals. Walmart allows up to $100 cash back with any purchase, my local supermarket the same, ALDI grocery store up to $200. You get the idea.

  26. oops! I was talking about the the prepaid cards that allow PIN based transactions, including MyVanilla apparently. You can’t use the Amex as a debit card.So for Amex Prepaid you have to rely on ATM withdrawals, mixed with ordinary spend to show you aren’t abusing the system 🙂

  27. @steven Lu, yes, you should be able to. OD sells 2 kinds – visa gift card and OneVanilla. I’m not sure about the gift card but the OneVanilla is definitely upgradable.

  28. I purchased a OneVannila prepaid card. it is a debt visa card, and tried to link to my Serve account to drain the money, but Serve cannot process it neither as Credit card nor Debit card. it is not address verification error since I have registered the card with my zip code. Have anyone experienced the same issue and how to solve it? Thanks

  29. can I use my ax reload on amazon payments or will there be a charge.
    I did an experiment and transfered $16.00 and was charged a $1.00

    • ck: Yes, you can use it with Amazon Payments. There shouldn’t be a charge. As N stated, Amazon puts a $1 hold on first to validate the card before charging the rest.

      Jeff: I keep hoping that Staples & OfficeMax will start carrying these, but I think that Office Depot may have an exclusive deal for Vanilla Reloads at office supply stores. That said, we’ll probably see more competing products come out soon. Let’s hope!

  30. Same boat as Eric and LTL on Long Island. Office Depot is nonexistent and Staples doesn’t carry the cards. I have seen some variable load cards at CVS, will need to check them out. Problem is ccs that bonus drugstores are few and far between these days.

  31. Guys, Just Trying to upgrade the one I purchased in OD into the MyVanilla card via the web. it is NOT working. then I called the custom support, they are saying that I can not upgrade the existing card into MyVanilla card. I have to order a new MyVanilla card, not upgrading and converting per se like AX prepaid.

    • Will: This can be a good option for pumping up spend on certain cards, but some credit card companies will charge you cash advance fees (Citi, for example). And, as you said, no 5X with this deal. So, yes, I think this is a very good option for some people but you really need to know what you’re doing to make the most of it.

    • Thanh P.: Good idea. If anyone has had success in upgrading a Vanilla card can you please email me a photo of the card? Ideally the photo would be of the card’s packaging, but if you don’t have that, feel free to snap a pic of the card and then edit out personal info.

  32. what is DVRS on card purchase statement?
    I was shopping at the office store & the cashier had to ask a manager or supervisor who was bit rude called my credit card issuer for prior authorization for the total amount and also swiped my card but now I see 2 of the same amount showing as PENDING on my card online statement.
    am I charged twice or one is just pre authorization only? I never saw DVRS on any pre auth.

    09/23/2012 Pending OFFICE DEPOT #225 $601.11
    09/23/2012 Pending OFFICE DEPOT DVRS $601.11

  33. @rob
    I don’t know what that DVRS line is about. I don’t get that. I just get the first pending line that you have there. So you didn’t buy anything other than the gift card?

  34. Jaly: most of the benefit comes from the Ink’s 5x office supply benefit, but you can also use these as a way of meeting minimum spend requirements or simply to increase credit card spend at 1x. The latter is only worth it if you make use of the ATM or debit features to turn the balance into cash inexpensively.

  35. @PH,

    Thanks for the info and that sounds.

    This OD location was the only one that made it HARD to purchase the gift cards. first asked for ID which i know most do and fine with, but then 5 min phone call to CHASE for authorization and than swipe the card again. That’s why I see 2 exact charges for same purchase.
    I wonder if one will fall off?

  36. Hi everyone. I just called card services and they told me the maximum amount you can put on the card is 10k. The cards will become avail at Walgreens and CVS starting next month (rep not sure if when in Oct).

  37. FM, is it safe giving our SSN when ordering myVanilla online? Do they do a credit pull if we provide them our SSN by applying myVanilla online? Thanks!

  38. It seems that I would have to provide SSN to order online; and i can use my driver license # if I upgrade. Is it correct? thanks.

  39. also if i have 0 balance on MyVanilla card, will I still be charged $3.95 per month inactivity fee if i do not use it?

    Thanks.

  40. What is the added opportunity of buying the Vanilla card at OD and then loading the ppd AmEx from it, rather than just getting the ppd AmEx and loading it directly at OD? Did I miss something? Thx!

  41. carol: If you buy and load directly at OD you’re limited to a one time load of up to $500 and you do not get a PIN for ATM use. When you get a permanent card, you can reload it as needed by buying Vanilla Reload cards at OD and then applying them.

    • Will: Do you mean that along with a debit purchase you got cash out as well & MyVanilla charged $1.95?! I would have expected only 50 cents.

      Sam: I disagree. As long as you can get money out through various means, it has its purpose

      carol: It really depends on your own personal circumstances as to whether $2500 at a time would seem reasonable to Chase or not. Note that the Amex prepaid can only be loaded $1000 per 24 hour period so it will take you 3 days to load $2500. (except that sometimes their system lets more go through at once. It’s weird)

  42. thx FM! Another question-would it be reasonable to purchase $2500 in Vanilla reload cards at OD at one time on my Chase Ink credit card (or do I need to spread out the Vanilla card purchases so I do not attract Chase’s attention)? Then load them onto my ppd Am Ex card (again loading it at all at once)and spend it over a month?

  43. @FM, that is right, went to Aldi and brought a pumpkin for $2.99 and asked for $200 CB, and found out later that I was a charged $1.95 for this transaction. I called the Custom Service, and they said that since it is a CB transaction. it is $1.95. what a BS! so I am transferring all money from the card, and stay away from them.

  44. I loaded $2500 onto my new myvanilla card, it then do not allow me to load more.

    I thought I can load another $2500 24 hours later, but it is not true, 48 hours has pass but I still not able to load more.

    It seems the maximum amount on this card is the SAME as the amex prepaid—$2500, other one $10K someone mentioned.

  45. Sam: I can’t even log into my account online without getting an error. I think that MyVanilla was released before they were ready so don’t be surprised if things change as we go along

  46. I ordered My Vanillas for both of us 3 weeks ago and have not received them yet. Anyone else have that problem ? How long should it take ?

  47. I managed to convert 1K of vanillas into cash, and it only cost me 50 cents. MyVanilla may have some uses;however, you are limited maybe 1K or 1.5K load a day. This is way slower than Netspend;however, the fee is $2 cheaper than Netspends.I Love Vanillas 🙂

  48. Will, there is a very easy way…but you have to discover it yourself…I do not want to ruin a good thing for me…sorry

  49. @rob and @FM: I have also gotten the DVRS on two occasions, one with citibank and another with chase. It seems like it’s triggered when you buy an item, the clerk calls chase or their verification center to verify, they are given a verification code, and the transaction is processed.

    The problem with this is that whenever a verification is triggered, it causes the purchase to have two identical pending charges: one from the store, and the other from OD DVRS.

    The last time this happened to by Citi Account, it was at least 3 weeks before the pending charge was taken off. So, if you’re had OD and they attempt to verify by phone, be ready to have your pending charges multiplied by a factor of 2.

  50. tried to buy a $1000 MO at Walmart, got rejected. Called the CS, and be told that there is $800 per purchase/$3000 per day limits on the card.

  51. well, I am still thinking that buying MO at WM is a win-win solution. we get what we wanted, and Incomm gets $.50 plus swipe fee.

  52. my method allows me to cash out very large amount of vanillas for only a fee of 50 cents:). Combined with Bluebird, Netspend,and American Express for Target,I am able to Travel Big for Small Money like Darius:).

  53. Hi FrequentMiler, do you know if Dan’s trick of cashing out MVD would work at Bank of America? We don’t have a Chase or Citi branch in town. Thanks!

  54. I accidentally bought a Vanilla Debit today instead of a Vanilla Reload and only afterward found out about the 50 cent per swipe. Does anyone know the best way to empty this via Amzn Payments? Do I have to attempt $499.50 because of the 50 cent per transaction fee? Anyone try the full 500? What happens? Thanks!

  55. The vanilla card is useless. All I wanted to do was pay for my netflix, since the bank was closed I decided to purchase a vanilla card. They charged me a dollar more than advertised to purchase it. I proceeded to try to register the card to myself so I could make my netflix purchase. The website didn’t activate it. I called the customer service line. They told me after getting all my information that they couldn’t identify me as a person in a federal database and therefore couldn’t activate it (I am a 30 yr old adult with 2 bank accounts and bills in my name, how do I not exist tied to my social security number?). They told me they could activate it as a gift card. Why would i have spent 5 dollars on a gift card i can’t really use anywhere since it’s not activated as a debit/credit card. They wouldn’t try activating it under my boyfriend since they had already tried under me. My boyfriend purchased a card a few days later insistent that he would be able to activate it under himself. Same reason, bank closed for the weekend. They apparently found him as a person, but would not/could not pay netflix. What’s the point? Never again!!!!

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