Bye bye Mio

A few days ago, I received a letter from InComm Inc.  The letter was sent to inform me that my Mio card was going away.  They were somewhat coy about it.  The first part of the letter was about how the cardholder agreement will be changing as of October 15, 2013.  Some fees will be changing.  Some limits will be changing.  Yada yada yada…  Then, they subtly slipped in an “oh by the way..”:

…we’re pleased to notify you that your Mio Money Card is being upgraded to a MyVanillaTM Prepaid MasterCard

Ouch.  I’m going to be sorry to see my Mio go.  My Mio card is one of several types of Vanilla Reloadable cards that, unlike American Express cards, can be used as true debit cards.  For details about why that matters, please see “Vanilla Reloadables“.

What made my Mio special was simply that they never shut down my card.  My NetSpend card lasted only a week or two.  Many have had their MyVanilla cards shut down.  Other promising reloadable cards such as GoBank and AccountNow have proven to be equally fragile.  But my Mio card has been solid as a rock… until now.  Soon, though, it will be a fragile MyVanilla card.

There is another card out there, similar to Mio: the Momentum Visa.  Like the Mio card, it is only available in certain regions.  My guess is that it too will convert to MyVanilla.  Do any of you have the Momentum card?  Have you received a similar letter from Incomm?

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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    • Kate: I don’t know. As Lemma said, many shut downs were from people who did lots of cash advances to cash out their cards. That doesn’t mean, though, that they won’t shut down people for other reasons too.
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      ken: No, I don’t know.
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      Nick: I’ve never had success using Amex prepaid cards as debit cards. They run on a different network, so it would be very surprising if it worked.

  1. I was also surprised this week when I went to Randall’s grocery store (Safeway in my area inTexas)to get my ‘fix’ on the purchase of Reload it cards to upload to my Pay power visa debit card, very similar to Moo and My Vanilla. But alas ALL Reload its had been pulled from the shelves. I tried another branch and same story. Any news on what’s happening?

  2. I recently discover the BillPay option at walmart where i can use debit cards to pay my CC bill with a minimal fee. I have my old Amex prepaid card that i was gonna load and try this out with. Anyone else have any experience with this or know a good loadable debit card to use this? Sounds like Mio would have been a good option.

  3. I noticed that it was changing about a month ago when I called to register my card. The automated machine said that exciting changes were coming and my card would soon change to MVD. Bummer since I’m late to this one and the card cost $10 to purchase at the gas station. I’ve only managed to move about $5k through this. I was pretty certain it would be great since you brought it up a year ago and still haven’t been shut down. I’ve been trying to get my brother to buy the momentum for me up in LA, but he hasn’t yet. Now I suppose it doesn’t matter if that too changes to MVD. Please let us know what is happening with Momentum so we can decide if it’s worth it to still get it.

    I guess I should probably hit my MIO pretty hard for the next few weeks before the conversion to MVD since I don’t find my MVD card to be too useful with the high fees.

    • Todd: At this point it is just my guess that Momentum will get replaced. I haven’t heard confirmation from anyone.
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      Lemma: That sounds like a reasonable approach.
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      Leo: You have many options:
      1) Use for small grocery purchases and ask for max cash back (often tops out at $100)
      2) Use to buy money orders
      3) At Walmart, use card to pay bills
      4) Pay estimated taxes online (but that costs more than a cash advance)

  4. I think most of the people whose MVD got shut down were taking large cash advances. I’ve been using mine for to buy MO at Walmart and have been fine. I usually load 2k of VR at a time (max is 2.5k/day) and use it to buy 2 MO in a single transaction, and repeat a few times a month. The transaction looks like any other Walmart transaction to them, so the only way they would know you are buying MO is if someone manually looks at your account and is suspicious of the transaction amounts. To be safe I vary the exact amount I put on the second MO instead of always doing $1000 and $998.10 ($2k minus 2x 70 cent MO fee and 50 cent MVD transaction fee).

  5. FM, what’s the best way to cash out MyVanilla cards? I tried cashing out inside a bank, however noticed that they charge $1.95 OTC fee for such transaction. Any suggestions on how to avoid that?

  6. FM: Thanks for the suggestions. 1) How much is the fee when you pay bills at Walmart? Does InComm charge you for this transaction too? My goal is to completely cash out the card whenever possible. 2) Do you know a way that you can transfer the funds between MVD cards for free? Customer service can do it, but it charges you $4.95…

  7. Frequent Miler, do you plan to still use the card once it converts to a Myvanilla? And if you do, how much money per month do you plan to load on it? Lemma has a good suggestion on how to avoid arousing suspicion while still using the Myvanilla at a volume large enough for it to be worthwhile.

  8. If you play the MVD game right you shouldn’t get shut down. I do $10k a month on mine and have been doing so for the last 8 months.

    Kate – you’ll be fine. Just be cautious and don’t take large cash advances out.
    Chris – not if she’s cautious and does the slow and steady game.
    Lemma – MVD knows what transactions you’re doing because that’s how they assess the correct fee – hence the 50 cent MO fee.

  9. Debbie: The 50 cent fee is for ANY transaction where you don’t obtain cash: https://www.myvanilladebitcard.com/myvanilla/fees.html . For a cash advance transaction, it costs $1.95. I’ve heard that people who buy MO at the USPS are being charged $1.95 instead of 50 cents, but I’ve never tried it. I would think unlike a large transaction at Walmart, it’s pretty obvious a $1k+ transaction at USPS is for MO.

    marathon man: Never taken a CA on mine and that’s why I think I’m still going strong after several months of using it to buy MO.

    Leo: Walmart charges a fee for bill pay that varies depending on what kind of bill you are paying, but $1.50 and $1.88 seem to be common amounts. See the Walmart bill pay thread on the FT MS forum for more details. You will also be charged the 50 cent MVD transaction fee.

    FM: I would NOT recommend using MVD to get cash back on purchases. This is for two reasons: 1) They can see you took cash back and how much, so if you are always buying $5 worth of stuff and taking $100-200 cash back, it’s likely to lead to a shutdown and 2) They charge the $1.95 per transaction fee instead of 50 cents if you take cash back, which makes it an expensive way to manufacture spending.

  10. Lemma: I don’t understand what’s the point of loading VR to MVD and use it to buy MO when you can just load VR to BB unless you already reach the 5k load limit. Beside for all the MO you bought, do you just deposit them to your bank? I assume that’d raise some suspicions, will it not?

  11. Leo: Yes, if you only want to do 5k/month then stick with BB as it is the cheapest option and probably the lowest risk of shutdown. I buy MO, both with MVD and directly with GC, because I do a lot more than 5k/month. I deposit the MO at a local credit union and pay my CCs from my checking account with them. I am completely honest with them about what I am up to, which goes a long way particularly at a smaller financial institution where you are a person to them and not just an entry in a computer database. Nowadays everyone at the branch I frequent knows me by name and expects my deposits, and they don’t even put a hold on them – the funds are available immediately as if I had deposited cash. I have been running very large volume of MO through this account for months and have had no problems whatsoever. They are happy to have my business. I would not recommend depositing the MO at a bank that you have or plan to have a CC.

  12. Lemma: Appreciate your explanation. I assume Walmart has no problem letting you buy MO with GC or do you do it at the ATM? When you buy a lot of MO at the same Walmart, doesn’t the staff raise an eyebrow at all? Because at my local Walmart, the ATM won’t let you buy MO, so the only option is go to the counter. And in regards with MVD, I assume you only have one card and run all your monthly spend through that card?

  13. Leo: I go to the counter. Both with the ATM and buying them at the counter though, it’s YMMV, and you might have to try a different WM. At one WM in my area they acted like I was a terrorist for buying MO with GC and claimed it was against MoneyGram rules. So I don’t go to that one anymore. I’m guessing MVD would have been fine though since it’s not a GC and has my name on it. The other two WMs I’ve tried both have no problem with GC. They do recognize I buy a lot, but as with the CU where I deposit the MO, I tell any employee who asks questions the truth and that seems to satisfy them. Many of them know what I want when I walk up to the counter without me having to tell them, just like I rarely have to tell the cashiers at CVS that I want $500 on each VR anymore. My sense is whether you’re at CVS, WM, or a bank, if you act cagey and give vague answers, they will think you’re up to no good. There is nothing illegal about doing any of this stuff so there’s no reason to act like you have something to hide. And yes, I only have one MVD.

  14. Lemma: I never bought any MO at Walmart, so not sure how it’s like. Do they record your ID? What’s the safe daily limit? Also, it seems like CVS is the only place that we can buy VR nowadays, have you had any luck buying elsewhere? Chevron or any other gas stations maybe? And with the one MVD that you have, do you think whether it’ll be better to have several MVD to split your spend since you always load VR and buy MO at the same place?

  15. More than 3k per day is supposed to trigger a Monetary Instrument Log under the Bank Secrecy Act (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_Secrecy_Act). Whether it does is YMMV, as the system will only prompt for info if they are all in a single transaction (and you can only pay with a max of 4 cards per transaction). Under 3k/day and they don’t ask for any information. Keep in mind that it is illegal to structure transactions for the purpose of evading reporting requirements, whether it’s a MIL or a CTR (for depositing more than 10k/day at a bank). But the crime is in your intent, so if you have a reason for the way your transactions were structured other than evading reporting requirements you are in the clear. (Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and nothing I write on the Internet should in any way be considered legal advice.)

    CVS is the only retailer I have been able to buy VR with CC now that 7-11 registers are programmed to prevent it. I haven’t found VR at any gas stations besides 7-11 but that is the sort of thing you need to explore for yourself. In general GC are a lot easier to find than VR. Some retailers, such as Walgreens, have registers that will not allow VR to be purchased with CC but will allow GC purchases with CC, and many places, such as Kroger (which sadly no longer gives fuel points for Visa/MC/Amex GC), sell GC with CC but don’t stock VR at all. This usually makes GC the way to exploit a category bonus. Apart from category bonuses, I don’t think there’s any reason to go anywhere but CVS now that they allow 5k/day. If your CC shuts you down, I’m sure it’d be because of your overall level of spending, not the fact that it was at CVS. If large CVS spending triggered shutdowns, we would know.

    The only way I think it would make sense to get multiple MVD cards is if one of them belongs to a spouse or family member, as you have to register them with your name and SSN. Many people do that with Bluebird to exceed the 5k/month limit. I wouldn’t do that with MVD because I don’t want to have to explain why I’m buying MO with a card that has someone else’s name on it.

  16. Lemma: Thanks for the detailed advice! I’m just curious if CC ever wonders why a sudden increase in CVS spending across the country for the past year. Also, have you tried load MVD to BB at Walmart? Does it assess just 50 cents fee instead of $1.95 since you are not obtaining cash?

  17. Leo: I assume you would be charged 50 cents, but why would you want to load BB with MVD? You load MVD with VR, so why not just load those VR directly to BB? The 5k limit is shared between debit and VR loads.

    Also, I really wouldn’t worry about the CVS spending so long as your overall spending level is reasonable given your credit limits and income. If banks shut people down for too much CVS spending, it would be all over the blogs and FlyerTalk. But if you are really that worried, buy Visa/MC GC at other retailers. If you are doing large amounts of MS, you should also be spreading it between multiple card issuers so that each bank can only see a small portion of your spending. Also, pay your balances before your statements close, so that your statement balance is always zero or close to zero. That way if a creditor decides to do a soft pull to check up on you, which they can do anytime they want (but are more likely to do if your spending is high), they won’t see huge balances on other cards. If your utilization is too high, either on one card or overall, it’s a huge red flag that you might be overextending yourself. Most banks report only your statement balance to the bureaus, so if you take advantage of that each bank will think their card is your main card that you are using for all of your spending. The only exception to this rule I know of is US Bank, which reports your balance at the end of a calendar month instead of your statement balance.

  18. @Lemma
    “Most banks report only your statement balance to the bureaus, so if you take advantage of that each bank will think their card is your main card that you are using for all of your spending. The only exception to this rule I know of is US Bank, which reports your balance at the end of a calendar month instead of your statement balance.”

    Technically, it’s not true. Go see your credit reports using backdoors of the CRAs.

  19. MrWho: What backdoor are you referring to? I know you can ask for a rapid rescore if you’re trying to get approved for a loan or whatever but my concern is with random soft pulls. When I’ve looked at my reports, it definitely shows $0 balance on most of my cards due to this trick even though I may be spending a lot. I’ve also noticed a number of soft pulls on my Experian report from “Amex Account Review” and they haven’t given me a financial review or shutdown even though I’m sure my spending levels on other cards would trigger one if they knew about it.
    I guess you can pay $105.95 for a $100 Visa GC but those are some pretty expensive fuel points. Do you have $200 cards at your Kroger or something? I think the best approach now is to stock up on store GC you can’t buy at a good discount elsewhere during a 4x promotion which they seem to have often enough. Unfortunately I don’t think they sell eBay GC anymore, at least not at any of the Kroger or Safeways I’ve checked, but there are some other good ones to buy like Amazon.

  20. Just left my Charlie Victor Sierra store with the last two VR cards…….as I was leaving I saw the manager and asked him if he would scan the UPC and order some more……he gladly obliged although we had to walk to the gift rack stand for him to scan as the cards didn’t work……….he was actually quite enthused to do this and it gives me reason that more of us should be doing this to help our fellow travelers along……..I’m not sating that I don’t have 2 more hidden but I am trying to help replenish the stock………

  21. Would you please email me personally as to how this all works with mvd (not sure what that is-is it my vanilla debit card).I’ve been loading 5k a month to BB and would like to do more, but am not familiar with mvd . I also use a credit union and bank and have no problem with mo deposits. just not knowledgable on purchasing gift card(what kind) with credit cards and then buying mo.
    also if there is particular blog that explains all of this, could you please refer me to it

    Thank you,
    bob

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