Pursuing the Other Vanilla Reload card

Did you know that there is a second type of Vanilla Reload card?  They all look something like this from the front (although the particular logos car vary):

VanillaReload

On the back, most have a silver strip that exposes a PIN when rubbed off, but some just have a barcode and the words “Do Not Remove From Store.  See Cashier to Purchase.”  Here are examples of what they look like:

VanillaReloadBack                 image
Silver strip on back Do Not Remove
(photo courtesy of Jason Steele)

 

Silver Strip Vanilla Reload Cards

Most of you are probably familiar with these “silver strip” Vanilla Reload cards.  The way they work for points collectors is as follows:

  • Find a store that carries them and that allows you to pay by credit card.
  • Use the best point-earning card available to buy the reload card (or use bank gift cards that you want to liquidate)
  • At home, go to VanillaReload.com to move the value from the reload card to a prepaid card such as Bluebird, MyVanilla, Mio, etc.
  • Use the prepaid card to pay bills that can’t usually be paid by credit card (Bluebird Bill Pay), or to withdraw money from ATMs, or to pay taxes at a very low debit card rate, or get a cash advance from the bank, etc.   (note: the last two examples are not possible with the Bluebird card)
  • This process is a great way to increase spend on your point earning credit cards while paying for expenses not usually possible via a credit card.

Do Not Remove Vanilla Reload Cards

Many readers have asked me about the other kind of Vanilla Reload cards.  I’ve seen these at Family Dollar stores and Dollar General stores (Apparently, if the name of the store includes “Dollar” then they won’t let you remove the Vanilla cards…)

The way these cards work is different:

  • Bring the card to the register, hand it to the cashier and tell him/her how much you want to load (e.g. “$500”)
  • Hand the cashier your prepaid card that is reloadable with Vanilla Reload cards (see “Vanilla Reloadables“).  This does not work with American Express cards.  Use MyVanilla, Mio, etc.
  • Try to pay with a credit card

It is this last point that has stopped me every time.  All of the *Dollar* stores I’ve tried have insisted that the register demanded cash only.  (Has anyone tried to load one of these with a mile earning debit card?  Maybe I should try that next…).  Has anyone had a different experience at one of these stores?  Do some stores allow credit cards for these transactions?

Beware of taxes.  Stores should never charge sales tax for purchasing gift cards or for reloading prepaid cards.  However, one of the Family Dollar stores I visited added sales tax to the total.  No thank you.

PayPal to the Rescue?

A reader pointed out to me that Dollar General stores have signs in them inviting you to pay with PayPal.  Huh?  It turns out that PayPal has an option in which you can register your mobile phone and a PIN so that you can use your PayPal account to pay at certain stores.  So, I registered my PayPal account for this “use PayPal in stores” feature.  Then, I setup my account to have it charge my credit card for in-store payments (so that I can earn points).  Then, I went to Dollar General to try it out.  First, I simply bought a small bag of M&Ms to make sure the PayPal thing worked.  The cashier was surprised because she said no one had ever done it before, but it worked without a hitch.  I simply typed in my cell phone number and my PIN and I was done.  Then, I went and grabbed a Do Not Remove Vanilla Reload card and handed that and my Mio card to the cashier.  She swiped both cards, asked how much I wanted loaded, and then sighed when the register prohibited payment by PayPal.  Rats!

No points for me

Not all experiments reveal great new opportunities, but they’re worth sharing to give others an idea of what works and what doesn’t.  At the very least, hopefully this post has explained the mysterious “Do Not Remove” Vanilla Reload cards.

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

  1. […] PayPal offers the ability to use PayPal to pay in specific stores.  These stores have special PayPal keypads for making your payments, so you don’t need a physical card.  If you really want a physical card, though, PayPal will send one.  Why would you want a physical PayPal card?  I have no idea.  You can read about an experiment I did with this card / payment approach in the post “Pursuing the Other Vanilla Reload card.” […]

Comments

  1. So does the very first card pictured in the post load to an Amex bluebird? I’ve only ever purchased cards with an Amex logo.

  2. Since you have to pay a $3.95 service fee you only want to do this using a card that has a bonus 2x or higher or you have a program that has more valuable points than 1 cent per.

    • robertw: Good point. Using a point earning debit card might not make much sense here since there are much cheaper ways to earn miles on those. I’d still like to know if it works, just out of curiosity!

      MileageUpdate: I know what you mean! I don’t like going there either, but I have to say that the cashier that helped me was just about the nicest person ever.

  3. Ah, the majestic song of the Silverback Reload, King of the credit card jungle, and the quest to make use of his subordinate brother.

    • Austin: Very poetic!
      Adnan: Good to know!
      Bjoern: I had a page where I asked readers to put that info in the comments. Unfortunately, the results changed so quickly that it became useless to try to track it

  4. few Dollar General store in DFW area allowed Credit Card to load the Barcode Vanilla card, well i am talking about back in November not sure if they still do it.

  5. Another good post. I have tried to find a vanilla reload card in CO that I can buy with credit but so far it has always been either “we do not carry this card (anymore)” or “you have to use cash”.
    I haven’t even found one where they accept debit cards.

    Has anybody ever thought of putting up a very simple web page with a database behind where anybody could enter in a store info and their success in buying the cards (and details how they did it, when, …)?

    I’m happy to investigate an easy option for tracking this and providing a web server to do that but don’t want to duplicate efforts if it is not worth it or somebody has done it.

  6. There is a nice play at some of those dollar stores if you look hard enough you will find it 🙂 Not getting my play spoiled by the bloggers to accelerate it’s closure!

  7. “Since you have to pay a $3.95 service fee you only want to do this using a card that has a bonus 2x or higher or you have a program that has more valuable points than 1 cent per.”

    Even at 1c, I can leverage mortgage payments with CC, which is very nice. I;m using AMEX Hilton now but the 6X goes away in either Feb or May.

  8. I don’t know if they sell reloadables, but Toys R Us also has this pay with PayPal option right on the Pin Pad Swipe Reader.

  9. This is how I use Dollar General (though it’s not travel related). I find ONE item that is on sale and even below Walmart’s price…like laundry detergent or soda. I wait for a $5 off $25 coupon, like the one I received in my inbox this morning. I buy $25 worth of soap/or whatever for $20. Easy.

  10. Thanks for blogging about this! Your points confirm my experiences at $G and F$.

    The registers at F$ and $G have never once been able to recognize the AmEx prepaid card I’ve attempted to load, whether BB or standard AmEx Prepaid, even though those in-store only cards DO have the AmEx logo on them. I’ve tried this at various stores and always had the same error which is, according to the register, not enough digits on card. At first I thought this was because the store didn’t take AmEx at all, but now many of them do (apparent by the “AmEx Accepted Here” sign right next to register!). Oh well.

  11. Kelly….STILL??? When’s the last day you did so??? (I work in Boulder and all have gone to CASH ONLY…as did the ones that used to accept CC in Silverthorne and Littleton)

  12. @Kelly, Have you tried recently? That was my go-to Walgreens for months. I tried last Thursday and they were cash only. The two Boulder WGs were always cash only. Longmont had 2 WGs that accepted CC, 1 is now cash only, the other no longer stocks Vanillas. Superior WG is cash only. One out of 4 WGs in Westminster/Broomfield accepted CCs, it is now cash only.

    • why don’t you just call around to the stores? seriously, you guys are so flippin’ impatient you don’t even use technology wisely anymore. It might take a bit of smooth talking with some ‘don’t give a fuck’ braindead employees (my advice if you cannot get a competent front-end mgmt type who’s job relies on counting money, tobacco, lotto, phone & gift card bullshi) Is to then-do yourself a favor and research some actual company reps.!!!! corporate actual people with mane, title, 1 800 # and standard email info. Alright, this is what I would do. Call each store in your area say your blah blah blah with mastercard and yadda yadda aware of vanilla prepaid ending ETC. ETC. Corporate is holding a contest for the store chain, to liquidate the vanillareloads. the store # (physical address in their district or whatever the fuck) that sells out first wins. grandprize for that specific retail chain, $10000 bonus to be splitevenly amongst entire staff, individual store managers will each recieve a $1000 loaded mastercard or something stupid, idk, make up some outlandish but believable B.S.
      oh, dont forget to mention that their store is the fist one they have called this morning LMFAO get their name and phonenumber LOL because at this point their entire attention will be focused on finding out how they will get rid of these VR’s asap before march 2016 (contest ends hahahaha). and some time on hold or a call back if you aren’t a completely useless piece of crap….poke some questions when you are in the actual stores too as to why the policy of cash only is in place and who enforced it. ifthere is a secret selling war thats not advertised and competitively you have turned retail chain locations into rivals haha cash might just be accepted. humans are always sneaky and willing to cheat to win 😉

  13. The vanilla reload cards at WG in Madison, WI are just sitting there collecting dust. If only WG would hand them over to CVS they’d be flying off the shelves!

  14. @Brad-have you tried asking store manager at WG for a pack and taking them to CVS to purchase? They say “no value until activated”

  15. This SF peninsula/south bay CVS had vanilla reloads and accepted payment by credit card.
    1041 El Monte Ave, Mountain View, CA
    So hard to find them these days!

    I have been seeing the cash to Paypal loading cards around. Picked one up as my Pp account is linked to a savings which my Prepaid Vanilla Amex is also linked to. Also paid by cc.

  16. Anybody know what to do about the VISA OneVanilla Reload I bought with a Hilton Amex I bought last night for $500 at CVS. What can I load it to?

  17. @Bryant – oneVanilla Visa is not a reload, it’s a simple Visa gift card. You can’t do much with it – it does not work for cash advances, it does not come with a pin, so it is not a very useful card to get. I have personally bought these and then turned around and used them to buy reloadable cards, but many stores do not allow that since you do not have a name on the card.

  18. Bryant: You can use Amazon Payments to send the money to a friend who can then give the money back to you (through a different means). Or, use the Visa to buy a Vanilla Reload card at CVS…

  19. I bought a myvanilla reloadable visa card from $ general today with a visa card. I went home and activated it on http://www.myvanilladebitcard.com.

    I took the activated myvanilla to family $ to reload. The cashier didn’t know what to do and brought the manger over. They put $500 to myvanilla, but their system didn’t allow payment by a credit card.

    I then when to $ general again, same thing happened again, the system didn’t take credit card payment for vanilla reloading.

    so you can use a credit card to buy a myvanilla reloadble, but that is it. use it up and toss it.

  20. That has been my experience as well. Neither DG nor FD system would allow credit card reloading. I tried four FDs and about half a dozen DGs in my area (with some DG cashiers getting upset because they would later have to explain the $500 voided charges).

  21. Uh oh. Visited no less than 7 CVS’s this morning in SoCal – no VRs at all. And one of these had a stack of them yesterday, and three of them had them in stock pretty reliably. My recent 8 card app-o-rama is not looking so clever now!

  22. Do you have to buy a new Vanilla Reload card every time you want to load $500? I bought 8 $500 ones last month at my local CVS (with my credit card!!) and had no trouble transferring them to my AMEX Bluebird and paying bills – I was so excited! But today I returned to CVS and there were NO Vanilla reloads there … It got me to thinking, why can’t I just take one of more of the ones I purchased last month and reload them – do you really have to purchase a new one each time? Someone with experience please advise!!

  23. This is my second week to use the Bluebird/VR concept. During my first week, I almost gave up until I came to this blog which helped me find my VRs. Last weekend, I visited 10 different CVS and none of them had ever heard of VR. After reading some of the posts here, I visited three CVS/Wallgreen. One Wallgreen had them but the clerk informed me that I can only purchase one per day with cash payment. I visited a CVS across the street but they did not have any VRs on display. I then I bumped into the manager who brought out 50 from the back room. I purchased two using my UA/Chase Club. I went back the following day and purchased two more. I also called Chase to not to be alarmed when they see CVS purchases. They noted that on my record. I went back yesterday to the same CVS but a clerk (not the manager) informed me that they were out but she informed me to check the CVS a few blocks away. This CVS had about 20 VRs, and I purchased two more.

  24. > “I find Dollar General to be below my standards. And I have really low standards. But even I wont go into another Dollar General.”

    Friends think I’m cheap, but I like the 99 Cents Store. The dollar stores are just too fancy. 🙂

  25. I have had no issue Purchasing the vanilla reloads in New York City as of late. picked up two a couple days ago and two more today for $500 each at and paid on a credit card with no problem. Only look was the cashier giving me a “whaaat?” Look when i bought $1,000 of them lol. Where in nyc have others been having success?

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