Many flavors of Vanilla return to Office Depot. Does it matter? (update 2)

UPDATE: This was great while it lasted, but the opportunity closed quickly.  Please see: $500 Vanilla window slams shut at Office Depot.

$500 Vanilla gift cards, MyVanilla Debit cards, and Vanilla Reload cards have recently been spotted in Office Depot stores across the country, but most people are being told “cash only”.  Developing story…

image image image
Vanilla Gift Card Vanilla Reload MyVanilla Debit
Load once in-store. No fees after purchase. Load once in-store. Use to reload other cards such as Bluebird or MyVanilla. Buy in-store and register with your name and address.  May be reloaded repeatedly.


Gone and back again

Vanilla Reload cards disappeared from Office Depot stores last November (see “Office Depot discontinues Vanilla Reload cards“), and Vanilla gift cards and MyVanilla cards loadable to $500 disappeared in February (see “Office Depot discontinues $500 Visa/Amex cards“).  Both of these events were significant losses because it was possible to earn as many as 5 points per dollar (see “Best category bonuses“) when buying these cards at Office Depot.

Then, last week, Travel with Grant reported ” $500 Visa Gift Cards are Back at Office Depot!”  Since then, reports have come in from various locations across the country where people have spotted not just Visa gift cards, but Vanilla Reload cards, and MyVanilla debit cards as well. 

The appearance of these cards may have been premature.  When Grant returned to the store where he had previously found the gift cards, he found that the cards had been taken away.  He was told that they weren’t supposed to be on display until Monday, July 8th.  I heard a similar story at my local Office Depot store (see “Will $500 Visa cards appear on Monday at Office Depot?“).

Cash only?

The reappearance of all of these cards is only interesting if we can pay with a rewards earning credit card (and preferably one that earns bonus points at Office Supply stores).  Unfortunately, I’ve heard from many people now that they have been told “cash only” at the stores they’ve visited.  Is that policy nationwide or store by store?

5X or not?

If we can buy gift cards with credit cards, will we still get bonus points by using credit cards that offer office supply bonuses?  Commenter “M”, in my blog says maybe not:

word is that possibly- and i say POSSIBLY- these might not get 5x. a little bird in the form of a manager friend told me that they were supposedly coded in register POS differently than before per chase request. i don’t want a stack of thousands of cards at 1x, so i for one will only try a few until i SEE that i receive 5x after statement generates. i cannot confirm any of this, so each person must make his own choice. but i wanted to give a heads up to everyone just in case. i mean it is rather odd that these would just ‘suddenly, magically’ re-appear out of the blue. it is definitely possible that chase has found a new way of doing things after the tsunami from before and studying the problem for several months. time will tell…

And, Gabriel writes:

Also, regarding rumors that these might not count as 5x…I found some data that unfortunately supports this claim. I’m not sure if this existed a couple of months ago, but if you look up the merchant category codes for Office Depot at Visa’s merchant category database, you’ll notice that each Office Depot has TWO categories it reports at. One is office supplies (5943) as well as “General Merchandise” (5965). The Gen Merch category also reports L III Summary L III Line Item detail as well, which means Chase will know that you bought a gift card and not actual office supplies. Perhaps this is why OD is now coming back with the $500 cards…they may have actually figured out a way to prevent us from earning 5x (and thus paying a higher % of transaction fees towards chase).

This one is going to take more time to sort out (unless all stores really do go cash-only).  For more about merchant codes, see “How to find bonus merchants.”  If this does happen, a solution for both this problem and even the cash-only problem (if your local Office Depot store likes puns) may be to use the Amex SimplyCash card which earns 5% cash back at office supply stores (up to $12K in spend per year).

Learning the real story

Will Vanilla gift cards, Vanilla Reload cards, and MyVanilla debit cards really be on display at Office Depot stores across the country today?  Will they be cash-only everywhere or just in certain stores? Will we earn Office Supply bonus points?  I’ll check my local Office Depot stores this morning to get the scoop and I’ll update this post as I learn more.  If you visit your local Office Depot store today, please let me know what you find!


10:05 am EST update:

I visited two Office Depot stores so far this morning.  The first store didn’t have any $500 Visas or Reload cards in stock yet (they checked when I asked).  Before I left, they made a point in telling me “you know they are cash-only now.”  “Even the Visa gift cards?” I asked.  “Yes, all cards loadable $20 to $500 are cash only because people were buying them with stolen credit cards.”  Rats.

The second store had no interesting cards on display, but when I asked they got out a big box of Incomm cards.  I bought four Vanilla Visa gift cards and a bag of peanut M&Ms.  The register display momentarily said something about “cash only”, but the store manager quickly entered her override code and I had no problem paying with a credit card.  I then asked to buy a Vanilla Reload card.  They tried to ring up the reload card, but the system kept reporting “denied”.  This was well before asking for payment.  Apparently the Office Depot registers are not yet reprogrammed to allow Vanilla Reload cards again.  I expect that will be fixed soon, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to pay with a credit card.  As to the 5X question, I logged into my Chase account and saw that the entire purchase showed up as a single transaction (gift cards + M&Ms).  I believe this means that bonus points are safe.

1:15 pm EST update:

I visited two more Office Depot stores in the area and I was successful buying $500 Visa gift cards at each one, but had no luck with Vanilla Reload cards or MyVanilla Debit cards. 

Store 3: I tried buying one of each: Vanilla Reload, MyVanilla Debit, and a Vanilla Visa gift card.  Just as with store 2, the Vanilla Reload card couldn’t be rung up at all.  The same happened with the first MyVanilla Debit card, but when we tried a second one it rang up successfully.  Unfortunately, it also showed up with $30 in sales tax!  I asked them to cancel the transaction and try again, but the same thing happened.  No thanks.  Instead, I simply bought the one $500 Visa gift card and left.  Through this process, I had more time to see what was going on with the register display.  I was wrong before when I thought it said something about “cash only”.  Instead, it said something like “Merchant tender not allowed.”  I think that means that you can’t pay with Office Depot gift cards or store credit / rewards.

Store 4: Only gift cards were on display, so I bought two.  No problem.


It seems as if $500 Vanilla Visa gift cards are indeed back at Office Depot and purchasable via credit card if allowed by the individual store.  Its possible that Office Depot issued a nationwide ban against accepting credit cards for these purchases, but if so, the rule is not widely followed (at least in Southeast Michigan).

Vanilla Reload cards and MyVanilla Debit cards are also back in some locations, but it seems that the registers are not properly coded yet for them.  It will be interesting to see what happens once they fix the glitches.

As to the 5X vs. 1X question: I’m pretty sure that we’ll still get 5X if we pay with a credit card that offers 5X at office supply stores.  I won’t be 100% sure until my statement closes and I see how many bonus points I earned, but I’m confident enough to proceed accordingly. 

On a side note, it was nice to see the gift card racks looking like they used to:



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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  1. @chimmy I would be inclined to agree with you. However the reality is merchants make absolutely No attempt at matching the signature on the back of your card to that which is on the invoice at the POS ! Using photo ID will force merchants to actually verify a persons identify!

  2. FM or anyone
    I learned how to use the gift card and the reload card but can someone explain how to use the Vanilla Debit card? Is it the same/similar to the reload card? The OD in my area has many Vanilla Debit cards but no gift card.

    Thank you for helping

  3. Leslie: signed the card and don’t have an ID to show

    I’m afraid your only recourse is to go home and get your ID!

    Please let me suggest, too, that you NEVER leave home without ID anyway! (I used to be Medical Affairs Director for an ambulance corps.) If, god forbid, something happens and you’re not carrying ID, how is the hospital supposed to contact anyone on your behalf? No, a credit card won’t do — we wouldn’t want hospitals able to call up and get your information over the phone, right? How does the credit co. know it’s a hospital and not a thief?!

    I’d ask you to rearrange your life so you do not ever ‘happen’ to leave the house without ID!

  4. Miler,

    From my experiences actually ordering reload cards for a certain gas station I had success at, I can tell you they do need to be registered before they are bought. In other words, they don’t just work out of the box.

    What would happen to me is they would get the cards in I ordered and then they would not work when I tried to buy them. Usually the manager would have it fixed by the next day.

  5. Thanks Patrick. When all points are posted on statement, it’s hard to know exactly where they came from specifically. Best guess I assume. 🙂

  6. I have now checked 6 San Diego area ODs without success…has anyone found $500 Visa GCs available for CC purchase in SoCal?

  7. I’m not sure why anybody should be confused about wether or not a transaction counted as 5x. Both the Ink Bold and Ink Plus have BLUEPRINT. Go in there and it’ll sort out your transactions by category quite nicely…

    • Gabriel / MilesHunter: I paid yesterday with my Ink Plus so once the purchases move from pending I’ll see where they show up in Blueprint. I expect that they will be office supplies as always.

  8. Got 4 at my local OD this morning, but they were behind the counter and hadn’t been put out yet. They had a few varieties. I didn’t want the debit, but got the Vanilla Visa gc. Didn’t think to have her continue to look for Vanilla Reloads. Oh well, there is always tomorrow 🙂

    Added some peanut m&m’s. Maybe Frequent Miler is on the take from M&M Mars and this is a whole gambit to increase sales of M&M’s?

    I’m assuming there is no problem getting 5x.

    TY to everyone for their work on this.

  9. I was in Denver yesterday and visited 6 ODs in the North Denver Area (Lone Tree, Englewood, Aurora). Not even a single OD I visited had variable Visa GCs/VRs/500$ GCs. I am back to my home area where there is one OD in the 50 mile radius. 🙁

  10. I just secure-messaged Chase to see if I can use Blueprint with my Ink Bold — their Blueprint page says it can be used with “Ink” cards — but the only icon I see near the Ink Bold card in my account is the “Jot” one. I’ll report back when they answer.

  11. Looks like things have changed already. Was able to purchase one visa yesterday. Today, wet back and scanne all variable loads (Amex, VR, debit, visa) and all of them report “sku not found”. Things might be 7 feet under… Sigh!

  12. I have a OneVanilla card purchased at my local Rite aid , Is there away to transfer to my bluebird with out visiting a walmart?

  13. FM, as always, thanks for the updates and great data points everyone. Now its a waiting game to see how the statement turns out.

  14. Chase says:
    Since Blueprint is a new feature, it is only available on
    select card types. I apologize that it is currently not
    available on the Ink Bold card.

    You may want to consider submitting a new credit
    application for a card that is able to activate Blueprint.
    To review eligible products, please visit our website at and then click on the
    “Find a card with Blueprint” button in the bottom right
    corner. Our Credit Department will contact you with a
    decision after reviewing your completed application.

  15. Stopped by an OD a couple of hours ago and they have all “paper” cards on display, Amex GCs, Visas, MyVanilla cards, and Vanilla Reloads. Had to ask the cashier for a VR, which they have locked up behind the counter. Same result as above. They couldn’t be rung up yet, so I couldn’t buy it. Didn’t try to buy a Visa GC but I assume it would have been fine.

  16. Just tried to buy more cards from the same OD I bought $1k from yesterday. Register DENIED the SKU. Tried both the flashy silver vanillas and the grey/black packaging. Neither worked. WTH? They had Amex Prepaid Temps and My Vanilla Debit, but didn’t try those.

  17. Richmond, Va: OD only has VISA $100 gift cards. I spoke to the manager re $500 gift cards and reload cards and he said they receive random stock from corporate. He has no idea if he will get higher limit cards.

  18. At several OD locations in the Tampa area, I found variable $ VISA gift cards on the rack, but neither the cashier nor mgr. on duty was able to ring them up (denied SKU). The same thing happened with a variable $ Amex gift card.

    Something rotten in Denmark?

    • Same here! STL
      Things were working fine on Sunday. Had success loading the BB via Walmart.
      Went back to OD today to start things up and whamo! Denied SKU. Ouch. Hopefully this is not a trend.

  19. I went to OD in Boise, Idaho and there were no $500 on the rack; was told they were being held back for now because the cards have been used for “money laundering” and that has to be “fixed” first. Was told that when they are available they will be sold only for cash.

  20. Houston: Found $500 cards of all sorts in an OD. SKU denied on everything. Clerks and management had no idea why so I’ll be trying again in a few days.

  21. I went to three ODs today in Miami,no variables would load at all-tried all of them! Maybe tomorrow….

  22. Certainly seems like a corporate wide computer change went out today. Hope that gets reversed and comments above about changing to cash only don’t come true!

  23. Moving to cash only (system block)… Went to a nearby OD (not Panton but Pivonia). Excited to see stacks of VRs, tried to buy 3. Cash register had a “Cash Only” pop-up. Told cashier I was puzzled since I had bought in the last couple of days. He said he thought that was new too, manager came over with a 3-4 page memo on gift cards. Memo says that all variable load Visa, Amex, and VRs are now cash only. Memo was dated 7/7 and I had purchased Vanilla Visa at a different OD on evening of 7/8 so there may be a few bumps in the cash-only rollout.

  24. I’m in the process of retracing my steps from Monday. First store: cash only. Sadly it was hard-coded into the register and the manager said he couldn’t override it. I’ll publish full details tomorrow, but right now it looks like the opportunity is gone.

    • @FM Fun is over? I enjoyed reading all the comments… obviously you hit quite a nerve. Thanks for at least posting the opportunity! Since Friday, i was able to get $4k. The early warning about converting to cash-only made me quite anxious. its like getting a mistake fare before the computers were updated…

      • tri: Agreed, this was very much like a mistake fare!

        Chris: I bought a couple of reload cards at a 7-11 on Monday and the purchase did show up as gas station. That 7-11 had an attached gas station. I tried again today at a 7-11 that doesn’t sell gas. I’ll know in a few days how that is coded.

  25. I thought I read a post that 7-11s were sometimes merchant coded as gas stations. Does anybody have any experience with buying VR at 7-11s and getting gas bonus points? If so is it limited to certain 7-11s with gas stations?

  26. I can confirmed here in the Atlanta area that it’s cash only even the store that took CC on Monday. Manager could not even override the CC option.

  27. Well, that was some short fun – only got $1k myself. Office Depot will surely never sell another variable load gift card then.

  28. who goes to OD with a stack of cash? They’re idiots. People who pay cash probably only buy $25 – 100 as a gift, and do it Walmart or grocery store, where paying cash is the norm.

  29. The party is clearly over and it was very short lived. I am however curious as to why Office Depot was hurt by GC sales (Vanilla reload i can understand) and had to take this action. GC’s have been sold for years with the same fee structure at hundreds of outlets. The reason they became suddenly popular was because they could be liquidated easily by setting a PIN which should not have any impact on the economics for Office Depot. Also the 5x office supply bonus only hurts Chase because it is their promotion since it involves all Office supply stores.

    • Unclesam: The story I’ve heard now an many Office Depot stores is that they were hurt by people who used stolen credit cards. If that’s true, I’m not sure why they didn’t implement policies to protect from that rather than going cash-only.

      Al: I don’t know how much Office Depot earns from these, but it is my understanding that they earn enough to make up for the credit card transaction fees.

  30. I was so excited to find one that had a lot of $500 Amex. The guy put me on hold and then came back after a moment to answer my question….”cash only” 🙁

  31. The Office Depot receipt shows “INCOMM Fee” – $4.95. I wonder how much of the fee OD gets? Presumably more than what it pays the bank for credit card usage.

  32. @Chris

    I have been buying VR at 7-11 that have gas stations and have been considered gas purchases. I used to buy Vanilla Visas but they seem have been replaced by reloads which is easier for me anyway. I did this last summer for Discover and Freedom without any issues.

  33. San Diego and surrounding areas are completely OUT of
    VR’s and variable load gift cards.
    I’m going to check out the Office Depot in
    Tijuana and while there, deal with the local gift card cartel, aka “El Cartelito de Tarjeta de Regalos” or

  34. Staples, N of Atlanta, has AMEX and VISA gift cards, only up to $200. (OD has only up to $50, and barely any of those and lotsa empty racks!) Take Ink Bold without comment. VISA cards straight to Bluebird at WalMart money kiosk. {shrug} Nothing to see here, folks, move along.

  35. Unfortunately,here in Miami,the OD only takes cash for ALL variable gift cards. They manager was very helpful but it was still a no-go. They also didn’t have any gift cards higher than $200. boo-hiss Anybody know any good drugstore earning bonus cards left?

  36. I picked up 2 $500s on Saturday in Colorado Springs. Went back to the same store today and was denied. Register said cash only. Manager didn’t understand why it wouldn’t go through. She even tried to override it to allow a CC. I appreciate her effort but it did not work.

  37. DFW Area. Went to my usual Office Depot today. A new box of Gift cards had arrived but had not put been on the shelves. A sales agent opened it up and ran the Vanilla reloads for 500.00. She got Manager override for the credit card but system declined purchase with a Credit Card. I tried it again, this time trying to purchase Vanilla Variable load gift cards at 500.00. The exact same thing happened. The manager said that this was because the sku’s on all variable load products now are programmed to be accepted with cash only form of payments. Seems like OD is dead for me. She also said that a new sign is on its way, but had not been put up yet, that will explain the new cash policy to be put ove the top of the gift card rack. I will try one other one next week to confirm if this new circumstance is localized or regional.

  38. I agree that Office Depot could have implemented something different than cash only. The OfficeMax’s (soon to be owned by OD) around me are very diligent in confirming any gift card purchase of $200 or more. They take your ID, CC and call them in to confirm. Takes some time but it’s easy and once they know you, the process goes quicker. Simple but effective solution to allow people to use CCs

  39. So this is their bright idea after 6 months of thinking how to fix it? Now they won’t sell any but the smallest denominations.

  40. Massive fail by OD. Looks like i’m solely buying GC from Staples now (when I’n the mood to pay 0.67 cents/pt)

  41. Went to Office Depot today and got the low down from the manager and saw the new display. All variable load cards are now on the ends of the display and are listed as “cash only”. That includes our famed Vanilla Reloads folks.

    You can buy regular gift cards, amazon cards, pay pal cards and the like on the inside racks with credit cards. However, no one seems to know if they are now coded so that the buyer will not receive points or bonus points. Time will tell.

  42. Game over. Bought $5k with Ink earlier this week now register at the very same store has pop-up notification furing transaction that very clearly said CASH ONLY. In DFW area.

    A sad day indeed.

  43. Hahaha….I think even GW had a longer life span than this! OD is epic fail on this. Follow your brother store and create a policy that gaurantees no fraud instead of losing sales….idiots.

  44. Check OD on Destin and nothing, just in case I check OM and nothing, only got $100HM.
    Good thing I stop on 2 cvs and got VR

  45. I picked up a meta bank $200 Visa GC from Staples. Do you think it would work if I tried to purchase it at OD

  46. I never bought the Visa or MC gift cards, only ones like Amazon, Starbucks, etc. As soon as somebody finds out if the regular gift cards will still receive 5X with Ink Bold, could you post that here? I buy everything I can from Amazon, so if the 5X goes away I’ll have to switch back to using my Amazon Visa, which gives me 3% back on Amazon purchases.

  47. Found lots of VR at my OD in San Diego. They happily rang it up, but cash only message. Left with my normal Amazon gift cards.

    Gift card rack was being redone. Didn’t see some of the normal gift cards and no variable Visa cards at the time.

    • Well let me ask this questions here as I can’t find a definative answer anywhere else.

      I have a 7/11 gas station by me that sells VRs and variable GCs. Using my Ink bold at a gas station gets me 2X points. Anyone KNOW if buying “stuff” there will get me the 2X bonus?

  48. I just tried at OD in Lake Worth, FL and they told me cash only for all variable valued cards. I could use my credit card for the fixed value cards, however, their activation fees make the whole thing not worth it.
    What about Staples or Office Max?
    Also, everyone keeps talking about Visa vanilla. What about the paypal cards and the Amex cards? Has anyone tried those?

  49. Tried to purchase at OD today. Denied on all gift cards, even set price visa cards at $200 even though sign said credit cards accepted. Manager said cash for everything. Anyone ever read that it’s a violation of the Visa Merchant agreement not to accept credit cards for only certain items?

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