$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.

blogFrequent Miler has been nominated for
Best Miles-and-Points Blog in USA Today's latest 10Best Readers' Choice travel award contest!

Each person may vote up to once per day through November 7th.

Earn miles without flying—> Start Here

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 »



  1. Personally I think with Chase the mass purchasing of these cards was risky anyway as they could have shut down mass accounts and kept the points.

  2. This should not affect other variable load cards at this time. The manager at one of the ODs showed me the 7/7 memo and it had a short table with 3 rows, Amex Variable Load GCs, Vanilla Variable Load Visa GCs and Vanilla Reloads. Fixed GCs also were not impacted.

  3. Fingers crossed that the HI cards are not affected. enough though lowes through UR portal is now only 3x (verified).

  4. Increased publicity concerning deals (via Blogs and Boards) never gets the attention of the Cardinals, who in turn, never shut down the deals. With pardons to Peter Graves and The Men in Black (Part II): “Although no one has ever been able to prove their existence, Cardinals carry out secret operations here on Earth in order to keep us safe from heretics throughout the galaxies. Here is one of their stories that never happened, from one of their files that doesn’t exist…” 🙂

  5. You’d still be collecting eggs from the golden goose if you had just kept quiet. This happens with every single deal that gets publicized. People swarm in and it’s shut down.

  6. I know you guys are going to hate me saying this – but I am glad they are cracking down on this. This is really ill-intesioned.

  7. @Nun,

    Miler has built a very successful blog by his excellent work on manufactured spending. He has nothing to hang his head about and I know for a fact other deals he specifically has not revealed due to not wanting to ruin them. A lot of us hammered this deal when active and I never expected it to last forever. Also, thanks to knowing how to work this deal, I was able to hammer Office Max last month, and my 25K just posted.

  8. I bought on Tuesday morning at 8:08am CT, so it was shut down later on Tuesday or sometime on Wednesday. The Manager knew nothing about the cash only policy.

  9. I agree with Vivek above. It’s border line immoral. I know we don’t write the rules but it seems against the spirit of the process or game if you will to manufacture spend through gift cards.

  10. This game is played a lot of different ways. If you don’t like this one then try another. What you think is moral or not depends on where you draw the line.

  11. What we do is called arbitrage. Banks do it all the time, it’s a major part of their business and perfectly legal and moral. We’re gaming the gamers.

    On a side note, 7-11 still sells Vanilla gift cards and you get 2x from Ink and United cards. At $5k per month, that’s 120K points for $600 in fees. Not a bad return.

  12. Thanks for the update Greg. That’s a bummer that all the OD stores you visited are cash only. I was curious about the $200 GCs at OD along with OM and Staples, those should still accept credit cards right?

  13. its perfectly moral and should increase the sales. its like the fine print nobody can see or ad gimmicks get you to the register & realize you need to buy 3 to get the discount. talking about being moral, will you buy iphone if the factor worker makes $10 a day after 12 hrs in the sweatshop?

  14. @Grant, yesterday the mgr said the ‘non-variable’ variety (Visa,Amex, Home Imp…) are good for now, but could change. He also said get them while you can. the $500 is cash only. btw thanks for your tip last week, I snatched 1 $500. it was completely removed when I went back 3 hrs later.

  15. @DJ, thanks for the update. I’m up in Canada this week so I am totally out of the loop on what’s going on at OD. Glad you got 1 card. I should have bought more than 1 when I was there, oh well.

  16. Have you tried a few other 7-11s? If they have a gas station attached it should code correctly. Also, some Tetco’s now have a 7-11 inside.

  17. @DaninSTL,

    Read “The Big Short” and get back to me about “morality” with the banks. How many tax dollars did they basically steal? I say nail them for every penny they are worth; they are certainly free to no to business with a customer they do not find profitable and I support their rights on that issue.

  18. I got in on this deal on Friday last week. Even then the store manages knew the window to pay with card would close on Monday. When I purchased my 3k the manager that came to give the override was talking about it going cash only on Monday. You can’t go blaming the bloggers for killing this specific deal because the system was already in place to be cash only. The ax was coming down regardless of publicity.

  19. I was not able to buy a fixed value $200 Amex GC with a CC today at OD. They did not have any Visa or MC GC in the $200 denomination but i don’t think they will work either. On a separate note do you know if OD sells Amazon or Kindle GCs. i did not think of it earlier but if they are available I might go back get those.

  20. OD does sell Kindle GCs… I was holding off buying them because I did not know if I could buy non-Kindle items with that gift card (like physical CDs, books, etc.)… when I called Amazon they claimed I could only use these cards for Kindle-related items. I suspect they are wrong since they didn’t seem to really understand my question (language barrier)… anyone have any experience with this?

  21. I was able to take my Kindle Fire GC and load it onto my amazon account. From there, I could buy whatever.

    You are not able to put the money to your AP account to the best of my knowledge.

  22. there’s no moral element in this at all. To me 2 “-“s does not make a “+”, even if banks don’t skin small businesses. this is their rule we play with creativity. not to fall for those sentimental traps about world should be in a certain way.

  23. At least some of you the cards. I have been to 9 OD’s in 6 different cities this week and not only did they not have these cards, the managers said they have not even been told if they will ever get any. However, 3 of them showed me the 7/7 memo.

  24. Correction to my above comment … United Biz card gives 2x at gas stations, I don’t think personal one does. So with two Inks and this one, that’s $150k in gift cards you can buy and get 2x.

  25. We need more data points on whether OD will accept CCs even for fixed-value financial instruments. Many customers are reporting that they are now refused use of CCs on all GC purchases. Last Saturday, no dice for me with $200 Vanilla Visas at a CA location.

  26. Assuming OD corporate is manned by somewhat competent people and they know fraud can easily be stopped by positively identifying customers before allow purchases, what does it tell you when OD’s corporate cannot even trust their own store reps to be able to correctly check ID’s at the cash register???

  27. @FM, for the OneVanilla Prepaid Visa Card, may I ask how do I set the pin when loading the card to BB @ Walmart? Can I use any 4 numbers at the first time? Thanks.

  28. @winger, totally agree with you. I get asked for ID more often buying $20 items at some places than I do when I buy $200+ at office supply stores. They should create a system where the cashier has to enter the Drivers License number into the system before accepting credit cards. I’m sure that is against Visa/MC TOC, but they could think of something.

  29. @FM wrote, “At the first stop, I plopped five gold package Visa gift cards on the counter.”

    Five? What a greedy mofo. And people are wondering why the deal got killed? It’s because of people like you. Ou should be proud of yourself.

  30. Lately I have been getting hung up buying anything over $200 in GC at my office stores. Apparently there is a GC thief in the area that had been stealing the cards, copying the #’s, then putting them back. When they sold, he was able to steal the money.
    Now, If i buy $200 in Amazon cards, they have to call Chase to ensure this is a real credit card.

  31. UHHH! It is so sad, because it was so simple to buy gift cards and load on Bluebird. It just made me so happy. I did rack up a lot of UR points. I wish I had taken greater advantage, now that it is gone I realize just how special that it was. 5X points per dollar is great.
    I do think the main reason it was shut down was due to people stealing someones credit card and going to buy thousands of dollars worth of gift cards (untraceable). All the stores need to do is verify our id’s. It is so simple. I think they will be amazed how their sales will drop significantly. I mean we would go in there daily and blow $1000. I am sure the gift card companies that get the $5.95 fee are extremely unhappy.
    I sure will miss having all the office stores in Atlanta on my speed dial, and on my lunch break calling all of them, and finding that one store and rushing there and buying all of them. HAHA

  32. I just purchased variable load HI and Amazon kindle cards at OD today, so if some stores are requiring cash it is a store policy not a systems block like the variable load Visa and VRs.

  33. Silver lining – I picked up 2 x $200 MC gift cards at OM last night and their register refused to charge me a convenience fee for either. Manager approved the sale and waived all of the fees! I checked the cards and they are both activated.

  34. @Sean, it says currently out of stock for me, do you see it available?

    @BDMNL, nice score. I haven’t had that happen to me ever (wish it did), but I will have to check out my local OM today.

  35. Happened to be near an OD and got a couple of vanilla gift cards on a ink bold before the change. Loaded one directly to Bluebird card at Walmart but was denied the on the second one A manager came over and said its not allowed. Whats the story on loading these?

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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?

  39. 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”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *