Vanilla Hunt Part 2. Success!

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the post “Vanilla hunt” in which I described my attempt to buy Vanilla Reload cards at a TA gas station.  The attempt failed.  I was told “Cash only”.  I continued my search, though, because there are great benefits to buying gift cards and reload cards at gas stations.  In my prior post I wrote:

Quite a few credit cards standardly offer extra cash back or bonus points at gas stations (see “Best Category Bonuses“) and some offer bonus points at gas stations as an occasional promotion (For example, Freedom and Discover cards offer 5X this quarter at gas stations, up to $1500 in spend). 

If a gas station allowed you to buy Vanilla Reload cards with a credit card, you could do really well by paying with a card that offers gas stations bonuses.  You do need to be careful, though, because some cards reportedly restrict the bonus to payments made at the pump (if you have specific experience with this, please report your findings below).

The numerically named convenience store

In the first comment of my July 3rd post, Milezjunkie named a convenience store chain that carries Vanilla Reload cards, allows credit card payments, and codes as a gas station.  I decided to check it out.

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My first stop was at a store with a gas station attached.  I easily found reload cards on display and took two to the counter along with a bag of M&Ms.  The cashier asked to see my credit card and ID, and in less than a minute I was out the door having successfully bought the cards.

My next stop was at a stand-alone version of the store.  I brought one card to the counter.  The cashier said “I don’t know if we can take credit cards for these.”  She then called the store owner to ask.  When she got off the phone, she said it was OK, but I had to show my ID and credit card.  You bet.

At a third store I wasn’t so lucky.  “Cash only” I was told.  I asked the cashier if he was sure about that.  He checked with the manager and came back and confirmed “cash only”.  Oh well, two out of three ain’t bad.

Gas purchases

To see how my purchases were coded, I had to wait a few days for the transactions to clear the “pending” stage.  Then, since I made purchases with my Chase Freedom card, I logged into my Chase account, and clicked on “Blueprint”.

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From Blueprint, I selected Track It… See Spending.

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There I found that all of my convenience store purchases counted as gas station purchases:

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Your mileage may vary (YMMV)

Since July 3rd, I’ve heard from many readers about this.  Many have reported success, but some have been turned away at the counter with the familiar “cash only” refrain.  So, whether or not you can buy reload cards at your local convenience store will depend upon the individual store and cashier.

Even if you can make these purchases with a credit card, there is no guarantee that they will count as gas purchases for bonus points.  I recommend testing this out yourself to see what happens.  To see how your store is likely to code, please see this post: How to find bonus merchants.

To see which credit cards have the best on-going gas station bonuses, checkout this page: Best Category Bonuses.  Also note that, this quarter, both Chase Freedom and Discover offer 5X at gas stations up to $1500 in spend.

UPDATE

This post was mostly written last week and scheduled to run today. In the meantime a number of blogs have posted similar information.  For example, see here and 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.

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Comments

  1. Nice comprehensive write-up on this opportunity. I noticed you didn’t use the number of the store. Trying to keep crawlers from finding the post?

  2. I am a little bit worried about you buying so many M&Ms. I suggest you check your blood sugar levels regularly.

  3. My Office Depot did not have the Vanilla cards, but Rite-Aide had all three varieties, and I bought one with a credit card.

  4. Ive had success with my local 7-11 with OneVanilla gift cards. Waiting to see if Reloads pop up around me but for now im very happy i’ve found atleast the OneVanillas. If anyone in the Long Island NY area know of 7-11s that have reloads please share.

  5. Thanks for the discretion in not naming the store. Any of your readers can decode the reference, and it keeps the web crawlers from tracking and killing the deal like the previous situation last week.

    Would very much appreciate you doing the same for future deals (not FT trick it level encryption, but just no names). COMMENTERS, PLEASE DO THE SAME, NO STORE NAMES!

  6. CVS limits the number of VRs at 2. Does the number store limit the number of VR’s you can buy? I bought only one the other day with my CC to test it out.

  7. What’s the use of being discreet here. It’s already plastered on many of the blogs. Countdown to cash-only begins!

    • Discretion was my intent here. I wrote this before the other blogs plastered the store name everywhere. We’ll see what happens next. If other blogs follow the lead of not naming the store (any more), it might help things, but I doubt that will happen.

  8. I went to one of the SE Mich stores named after two consecutive prime numbers. Cashiers swore the VRs could not be purchased with credit card. Manager came over and tried and it worked. Purchased 2 cards, total just under $1k. Even though there was a gas station, still coded as 1x.

  9. Why don’t you list the store address and the name of the cashier who sold to you. Then everyone could drive there and buy all the VRs.

  10. Went to 3 7-11’s today only one would take credit and that one did not have VR cards….but they had regular visa gift cards..

  11. going out to try now. looked 2 weeks ago and none in my area carried them.

    OT, but… reply #3 above by ‘smoke’ said bought VR @ rite aid. really?!?!? i’ve never seen a RA carry VR. anyone else see them @ a RA?!?

  12. Does it really matter if we use code to refer to the store when the Chase can simply look at our purchases are figure out that none of us have a tank large enough to hold $500 to $1,000 of fuel? Good luck to you all but I’m going to keep earning points and miles the old fashioned way – spending for my business as best as I can. A few extra points are not worth the risk of losing multiple credit lines with Chase, AmEx, Citi or whoever else wises up and pops us.

  13. Can anyone please kindly explain why the reload cards are so much more sought after compared to just the normal 20-500 one-shot gift cards? Is it just a matter of costing a few bucks less? Or is there something inherently better about the reloads?

  14. @Alcwj, Thanks for the response! Interesting, too, as I feel the least discreet part of this is physically buying the cards at a store in the first place. But I guess the reloads mean having to be in-store only half as much.

  15. FM,
    Is there a “blueprint” like capability for Chase non Freedom cards? I have an Ink card and couldn’t find a way to determine coding – had to wait until statement post to see where bonus points were being accrued specifically to Chase. For Amex, it shows up as MR pending in just a few days.

    Thanks,
    Mike

    • Mike: Blueprint is available for Ink Plus, but not for Ink Bold. I assume it is also available for Ink Cash & Ink Classic, but I don’t have either so I don’t know for sure.

  16. @Steve,

    It’s not the same store. VR’s are the only method for those of us without a WM within reasonable distance.

  17. FM,
    Thanks, obviously I have the Ink Bold. I can do expense reports that put 7-11’s in the auto related category but I don’t think that directly links to “gas”. I’ll keep trying. From previous months of experimenting, I know that the Amex Business Gold does not give bonus points for non gas station 7-11s and I had assumed it was the same for Chase. This is a news to me that this might not be the case.

    Thanks,
    Mike

  18. Thanks FM,
    I took a look at that via your linked post but discounted it as it said almost all the stores near me were coded as gas and I didn’t think that was possible. But now, I’m wondering if I didn’t ever use the Ink MC and just based my assumption off of Amex. Eager to keep testing now.
    Thanks,
    Mike

  19. Jives with my experience with 7-****** in Northern California anyway. Interesting that ONE store in 5 pages of listings near my home town is actually NOT coded as a gas station, while all the others are. The vast majority do NOT have attached gas stations. All of the purchases I’ve had there, Vanilla or Slurpee or whatever, have always been coded Gas Station on my Bold. Haven’t made it to that one “7-****** Franchisee” store that is coded as a convenience store yet.

  20. Well, went to a local outlet of the aforenamed store today. Found reload cards on the rack.

    1. Tried to make a single purchase ($500 load) with my Freedom card. Transaction denied.
    2. Tried again with an Ink card – denied
    3. Tried again with an AmEx SPG card – denied
    4. Last try with a Club Carlson card – denied

    This led to a series of bank robo-calls. I’ve just gotten off the phone with the Fraud Dept of all 4 of these cards and my accounts are back in service. I was told by each that I could try the purchase again tomorrow. Just beware that a large purchase at this store may be considered potentially fraudulent by your card issuer, and be prepared to call in order to have the fraud alert removed from your card account.

    By the way, thank you to the Miler for his blog posts. I recently received my monthly Ink statement and I realize that I’m sitting on a large heap of U.R. points. Time to start burning them.

  21. Had a lovely chat with my OD mgr (mgr?) today… Stopped in and they did have the new variable $VISA cards. (They’d restocked too — last time I was there they had only 3-4 $25 VISA cards!) So, two new “columns” of variable VISAs, and the top of the display said Cash only.” The next several columns included the $200 VISAs (and lots of other store cards) and the top of that display said these could be paid for by cash, credit, or debit card. (I don’t remember if it said gift cards, but why would it?)

    There were, however, TWO hangers with the variables on them in the center of the VISA fixed amount cards. hHe mgr came by at just that moment and I said: I think this is wrong: these should be over here (in the cash only) column) right? He said, oh yes! He didn’t know how they’d gotten moved (Probably to fill the hole…) But so I moved them over and he helped.

    He said it was a new display, and I said “yes, there’s been a lot of trouble with these: there are only two kinds of people who buy them — criminals and frequent flyer miles folks. And, oh by the way? I’m NOT the criminal kind!” He got a laugh, and I bought my two $200 cards and left. (I’m only using them to put on a Bluebird to pay my mortgage; that’s all the ‘spend’ I want or need to add on my Ink.)

    (Hour N of Atlanta)

  22. Gregg, are you aware the VRs are also sold at HEB? (supermarket category). I’ve only tried one store though, and had no luck, even including other products. Cash only. Wondering if you know if anyone has had a different result. Looks like it’s code on the registers.

    • FreeTravelGuys: No, I wasn’t aware that HEB sold VRs.

      JustSaying: If you can find a place that sells $950 ReloadIt cards and lets you pay with a credit card, then that’s fantastic. I would do that too if I could.

      tom: I don’t know. I would guess yes, but I have no proof at this point

  23. I was reviewing a previous post by you and noticed that you have posted about reload it. Since I am using the manufactured spend to reach 40k and hilton Diamond I am looking for the “cheapest” gift card and getting a card for $950 with a $3.95 fee seems to be the best bargain………then put it on a PayPal Prepaid Mastercard and then send it to my Paypal account and then electronically to my landlord’s bank account and I am done. What am I missing? $3.95 per $950 in fees is the total cost?

  24. bf: Have you ever tried paying inside to see if PenFed really only pays out “at the pump”? Sometimes company’s have terms that aren’t really enforced as advertised. I’m just curious.

  25. FM,

    i am 100% sure, you won’t get 5% cashback to buy VR at 7-11. i tried 4 of 7-11s. only got 1% for all purchases of VR

  26. Every time I read your posts I laugh out load from how far ahead your thinking is compared to the rest of the pack…………FM you have a nose that can find the most exquisite of truffles……..keep it up my friend!

  27. Freedom…….What a great card….I have to get my wife one of those…………and my kids…………best humble card ever……….working man’s road to wealth and fame…….this capta is for the birds……….

      • 7-11 is dead in San Francisco…….seems the cash registers have been programmed and very smart as I know the staff were not reading the memos………..So now how to buy anything to load on a Bluebird now that I have the damn checks!

  28. Same here. Local 7-11 had been taking CC till this week. Clerk still lets you try, but register gives instant denial when you swipe.

  29. Some have reported that PayPal freezes accounts when PayPal reload cards are overused.

    even if youre within the $4k paypal reload limit??

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