Easy debit card rewards, from home

Debit cards are increasingly becoming the easiest way to earn rewards.  The hard part is obtaining a debit card that offers miles or cash back.  The easy part, then, is earning rewards.  Here are a few options for earning debit card rewards without stepping out of your house…

Square Cash

Square Cash is a new service that lets you quickly and easily pay anyone over email.  To send money to a friend, simply send them an email with a dollar amount as the subject line and CC cash@square.com.  That’s it!  Square Cash will email you back with an option to input your debit card info, and they’ll provide your friend with an option to withdraw the cash to their bank.  Square allows you to send up to $2500 per week in this way.  Note that most debit gift cards and prepaid cards do not work with this service.

You can read more about Square Cash from these blog posts:

Potential annual spend: 52 weeks x $2500 = $130,000.


Bluebird accounts can now be loaded online via debit cards for free.  Online debit loads are limited to $100 per day and $1000 per month.  Luckily, Bluebird offers an option to do automated repeated loads, so it’s possible to set this up once a month for 10 daily loads rather than having to log in every day.  Note that most debit gift cards do not work for online debit loads.

Potential annual spend: 12 months x $1000 = $12,000.

Federal Taxes

Federal Tax payments can be made online with debit cards for a flat fee of as little as $2.99 per transaction.  The larger your tax payment, the lower the fee becomes as a percentage of the total.  For example, the fee for a $300 tax payment is 1%, whereas the fee for a $3000 tax payment is 1/10th of a percent.

Potential annual spend: Limited only by your tax burden.

Stepping out

If you don’t mind an occasional visit to Walmart, you can easily increase your debit spend dramatically:

  • Load Bluebird for free, up to $1000 per day and $5000 per month (note that this limit is shared with Vanilla Reload limits).
  • Load GoBank for free, up to $2500 per day.
  • Buy money orders for 70 cents each (Also available at other locations, but at different price points. According to MilesAbound, money orders bought at the post office do not earn points or miles, so avoid that option.).
  • Pay bills ($1 to $1.88)


Debit cards that offer rewards for debit payments

There aren’t many debit cards that offer rewards, but there are some. Here are a few popular ones:

  • SunTrust Delta debit card: earns 1 mile per dollar.  Best bet is to apply in person when near a SunTrust branch although many have been successful with applying on their web site via online chat.  Regardless, I don’t recommend funding with a gift card as I tried to do.
  • Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines debit card: earns 1 mile per every 2 dollars spent.  To get this card, you need a Bank of America checking account.  You can then go to this page to sign up for the debit card.  According to several readers, this card does not earn miles for tax payments.  Limited to 100K miles per year.
  • UFB Direct Airline Miles debit card: earns 1 American Airlines mile per every 2 dollars spent.
  • Hawaiian Airlines Visa check card: earns 1 mile per every 2 dollars spent.

Overall, the SunTrust Delta debit card offers the highest rewards at 1 mile per dollar.  For those looking to increase their Alaska Airlines or American Airlines balances, though, a half mile per dollar spent is still a lot better than nothing.  Personally, I wouldn’t consider the Hawaiian Airlines option since Hawaiian miles are worth less than the others and mile earnings are capped at $5K per month spend.

Debit cards that offer rewards for signature payments

Debit cards with Visa or MasterCard logos can be used in-store as either debit cards or as credit cards.  Since banks can earn much higher transaction fees from credit transactions, they sometimes offer rewards only when you use your debit card as a credit card.  The interesting part of this is that the way some banks decide that you are eligible for rewards is based on whether or not you entered a PIN for the transaction.  In all of the examples for debit spend that I listed above, except for Walmart, no PIN is used.  That means that, with some debit cards, you can earn “signature only” rewards for these no-fee or low-fee transactions!  Since this is a loophole that would probably be quickly shut down if overly publicized, I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out which cards this works with and whether or not it is over the line.

Potential earnings

Assuming you were to max out the Square Cash and Bluebird options, one person could easily spend $142,000 on debit transactions even without IRS payments or Walmart visits.  With the SunTrust card, this would mean earning 142,000 miles per year for free!  With the other mile-earning debit cards, this would still be a very nice haul of 71,000 free miles per year!  With a 1% cash back card, this would be $1,420 in cash back!  Obviously, these numbers can grow a lot higher with tax payments and Walmart visits.

Bottom line

While there continue to be many ways to earn even more rewards with credit cards, debit cards are quickly becoming the easiest way to earn rewards.  Of course, keep in mind that unlike credit cards, you do need to have enough money in the bank to process each debit transaction.  I still recommend signing up for great credit card offers and using the best rewards credit cards for daily spend, but there’s no doubt it’s now time to add a rewards debit card to your wallet as well.

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  1. @lively- B of A debit card does not allow you to earn points for income tax payment.

    With square cash, can i send the money to myself? Also, has anyone confirmed that using BoA alaska air card for online debit reload will earn miles?

  2. Has anyone in California been able to successfully apply for the bofa Alaska card in the last couple of days thru the link above? I keep getting “exception errors”

  3. some corrections – bofa cards do not earn money on tax payments. no debit cards earn any points for mo purchases at usps (they code them as cash advances). and alaskan card is limited to $100k per year. sadly this square business makes it inevitable that something here is going to break and be shutdown – no way can the banks afford everyone doing $2.5k per week. lastly you still have the most annoying comment filter in the world :)

  4. Sil: Best bet is to setup a circle. For example, send money to friend A who sends money to friend B who sends money to you.
    BTM: Depends whether your county property collectors accept credit or debit. Otherwise, you could always load up Bluebird and pay with a Bluebird check. Personally, I would just transfer the money from Bluebird to my checking account and pay from there.

  5. this seems so time consuming and complicated! but good luck to those for whom it works. as for me, I don’t totally understand all of this. I’ll stick to sign-ups and VR.

  6. Great post. Was reading up on UFB and it seems like some have been discontinued from the miles program for using it to load BB while others have not gotten any miles from PIN loads for BB. Tragic as I was very tempted to sign up for the AA miles.

  7. I was in my local CVS yesterday and was flabbergasted by the number of gift and debit cards were available. I have been used to getting two $500 visa gift cards, loading them and then going to Walmart where I buy a $1 package of M&Ms, make up a pin and then go load the cards at the Bluebird kiosk ( which is working about 50% of the time). Should I be using the Vanilla reload card as it is $1 cheaper and comes with a pin? I had read the pins could be compromised but it looks like that has been fixed.

  8. Careful with BoA – SO and I received closure notices for our checking accounts/debit cards from BoA’s Risk Department on Friday. Had barely used the cards in the last month.

  9. with BoA would it be worth it to load $999.01 on to bluebird each time so that you get a percentage of the $0.99 matched for keep the change?

  10. @Paul I’d be interested in your details. Chase recently closed my bank accounts (for too much cash deposited – sigh) and I have been visiting Walmart regularly lately with my B of A Alaska debit card.

  11. I’m not quite sure I see the value of the SunTrust card – you only earn points for PIN and signature transactions (which you could also use any credit card for) – all other transactions, especially gift cards, etc are excluded… I’d interpret that to mean that Bluebird loads are excluded – has anybody been successful loading their BB card from Suntrust and getting points for it?

  12. Discover also offers a cashback checking account that gives 10 cents (or 12.5 cents worth of Lands End GC) for each debit transaction, check written, or bill pay, regardless of size. I wouldn’t abuse this because I’m sure they will close your account, but it could be good for legitimate small transactions. If you use it for a $1 purchase, that’s 10% cash back.

    FYD: The point of the ST card is that you earn points for debit transactions, not just credit, meaning you can load BB, buy MO, pay taxes, etc. The T&C may exclude cash equivalent transactions, but that doesn’t mean you won’t earn miles anyway. Credit card T&C exclude cash equivalents too.

  13. @Paul – ditto on wanting to hear a few details. I’ve had my BofA AA debit card for 3 months now and haven’t had a problem yet, but I’m only generating about 500 miles per month through WM. I keep waiting for a naughtly letter from bofa.

  14. Beware when dealing with square, their customer service is downright hostile. Used then to liquidate three prepaid visa cards and they froze my money for 6 month a when I tried to close my account. They are impossible to reach via phone and are very rude in email. Google them, they have one public phone number, if you call it, it will hang up on you. First time I had a rude computer hang up on me.

    Save yourself the headache and avoid square. Stick with intuite or paypal, surprisingly they are better.

    Bald Army Guy

  15. Definitely curious for more info on the BofA shutdown. How were you refilling the account?

    Also, BofA specifically says no tax payments, so the ‘federal taxes’ section isn’t accurate.

  16. For FYD I load at Walmart and online each month and earn 1000-1500 per month. I read on another blog that some used their Suntrust card to load BB 5 days in a row and got a phone call where they had to prove who they were. I happen to have my regular banking relationship with Suntrust so that may be why I have not had a problem (and I have only tried loading online 4 days in a row.)

    I do think that this is a case where pigs may get slaughtered if you push too hard.

  17. The UFB Direct Airline Miles debit card webpage says they limit Point-of-sale transactions using your Visa® Debit card at $1,500.00 Is that per day? If you had a $3000 mortgage could you buy 2 $1500 money orders at once?

    I don’t do the manufactured spend w/credit cards but would love to earn points by paying bills that won’t take my cards. Would the UFB card be the best & easiest for this purpose? Does the UFB card give points for tax payments?

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