$500 Vanilla window slams shut at Office Depot

On Monday I wrote about my quest to find $500 Vanilla gift cards and/or reload cards at Office Depot (see “Many flavors of Vanilla return to Office Depot. Does it matter? (update 2)“).  That morning, I visited four Office Depot stores.  Three out of four had the cards I was looking for in-stock.  And, while I wasn’t able to buy reload cards or MyVanilla debit cards at any of them, I successfully bought $500 Vanilla Visa gift cards at all three.

Variations of Vanilla Visa gift cards available at Office Depot

Even though they look different, these cards are functionally the same:

OneVanilla Visa Vanilla Office Depot Gold VanillaVisa


Since Monday, I’ve heard report after report from readers who were told “cash only” when they tried to buy Vanilla Visa cards.  Surprisingly, some of these reports were from people who visited the same stores in which I was successful on Monday morning.

Back on the road

Wednesday morning I set out to retrace my steps.  I revisited each store where I had been successful on Monday.  At the first stop, I plopped five gold package Visa gift cards on the counter.  The cashier rang them all up then called a manager for a security override.  So far, so good, I thought.

After the manager keyed in his code, an alert appeared on the register screen.  It said something like “Cash tender only for American Express, Visa, and Variable Load gift cards.”  Ugh.  The manager apologized and told me that this was a new policy that took effect on Monday (presumably after my visit on Monday).  I asked him if he was willing to override the cash-only restriction.  He seemed willing, but he showed me that there were no options on the screen for him to do so.  I left empty handed.

Would M&Ms help?

As I drove to the next store, it occurred to me that the result might have been different if I had included something other than gift cards with the purchase.  I wondered if the register would only balk when the entire purchase was for gift cards?  I decided to make two changes at the next stop: First, I would switch from the gold package Visa card to the OneVanilla card.  Second, I would include something other than a gift card with the purchase: a bag of peanut M&Ms.

Store 2

At the second store, there were no $500 gift cards, reload cards, or debit cards in stock.  I asked the cashier about them.  She cheerfully explained that there was a rush on the cards on Monday (I wonder why?) and that she had ordered more.  “They sure are popular” she exclaimed.  Yes, indeed.  I left with a grin, but empty handed.

Store 3

As planned, I picked up one OneVanilla gift card and a bag of M&Ms.  Just as at the first store, the cashier rang them up then called a manager for a security override.  Again, the display said something like “Cash tender only for American Express, Visa, and Variable Load gift cards.“.  This time it was very specific that $504.95 had to be paid with cash before the rest could be paid by credit card.  The manager said to the cashier “this has to do with the memo, remember?”  I bought the M&Ms anyway.  I wasn’t about to leave that store empty handed.


At this point, I believe the fun is over for points hounds at Office Depot stores.  There was a short lived window at some stores where the new gift cards had already been stocked before the cash-only policy was fully in place.  That explains my success on Monday.  Sure its possible that there are a few stores somewhere in the country where the registers have not yet been recoded, but if so, its probably just a matter of time.  In fact, its likely that the other variable load gift cards Office Depot sells (such as the Amazon and Home Improvement gift cards) are also now cash-only.

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  1. Today i was able to buy the $200 AMEX GC at a different store. Go figure. IT Dept at OD seems to be really screwed up. just saw the fee free vanilla visa. Will give it a try.

  2. When I visited my local OD a few weeks ago, that same message popped up at the register. However, the manager was able to override it and complete the transaction. A few strange things about my experience:

    1.) The $500 cards were kept in the back. I’m glad I called ahead of time because the rep I spoke to confirmed they had them, and when I couldn’t find them on the rack I asked the cashier and after calling the manager, I got my cards. 2.) I was told there was a limit, something the manager seemed to make up on the spot. She told me it was 2 and when I asked to buy 4, she gave in.

    So far, my source is still allowing credit card purchases, though who knows how long that will last.

  3. Sean/Grant – buying from OD web site will they get 5X? i heard online is different but did not confirm, maybe 3X if from AA/UA portal?

  4. Speaking of 7/11…
    I bought $5 worth of gas and a $500 VR card. How do youe tell how it’s “coded”?

    Happy to supply receipt picture.

    It looks like if the code is on the left side of the receipt that the gas and VR have different codes.

    • Patrick: It depends on what credit card you use. With certain Chase cards, once the purchase moves from pending to actual, you can view how it is categorized in “Blueprint”.

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