When easy debit card rewards become hard

A few weeks ago, I published “Easy debit card rewards, from home.”  In that post, I described how one could use Bluebird and Square Cash to easily manufacture up to $142,000 in spend per year on mile-earning or cash back debit cards.  It turns out that “easy” may not have been quite the right word.

Following my written advice, I setup my rewards debit card to load $100 to my Bluebird account every day for 10 days.  And, I used Square Cash to send money to my wife.  At first, everything was fine…

Square Cash

My first two payments to my wife went smoothly.  It was the third payment that went wrong.  I tried to complete my first weekly allotment of $2500 in spend, but received a strange message from Square (dollar amount masked):

$X,XXX was refunded
Square refunded this $X,XXX back to Frequent Miler due to unusual activity associated with one of these accounts.

Hmmm.  Maybe the problem was that I had ramped up my spend too quickly?  I waited a week and tried again with a smaller payment.  Same result.

I contacted Square for help.  It took over a week to hear back.  This is what they said:

Hello Frequent Miler,

This is to notify you that it is against the Square Cash Agreement to use Square Cash for sending money to yourself.

Square Cash is intended only for non-business person-to-person payments. You can learn more about Square Cash online (https://square.com/cash).

Section 3 of the Square Cash Agreement provides additional details regarding limitations on use (https://squareup.com/legal/cash-ua).

Please contact our Support Team if you have any additional questions (https://squareup.com/help/contact).

Thank you for your cooperation.

That’s interesting.  I’m not sure why they thought I was sending money to myself since I was actually sending it to my wife.  Regardless, as far as I can tell it looks like my account is suspended.  Oh well. Easy come, easy go.  If you’re thinking of using Square Cash, you might want to pay people outside of your immediate household to hopefully avoid this same situation.

Bluebird

After setting up automated daily $100 debit loads, I received an email each night from Bluebird as follows:

Confirmation: Your Scheduled Money Transfer was Successful.

Then, on the sixth night, the message changed from a confirmation to a notification:

Notification: Your Scheduled Money Transfer was Unsuccessful

The body of the email had no details about why the transfer was unsuccessful.  Since the load was still scheduled, I continued to receive these “unsuccessful” notices each night.

Finally, I stopped the automated transfers and tried a manual debit load instead.  This time I received a tiny bit more information on the screen:

This request cannot be completed at this time. Your Permanent Bluebird card must be activated before adding money using your bank account. If you’ve received your Permanent Bluebird card and already activated it, please call Account Protection Services at 1.800.660.2454. Our hours of operation are 9am – 8pm EST, Monday – Friday. If not, your Permanent Bluebird card will be delivered within 7-10 business days of your completed registration.

I still didn’t know why the loads weren’t working, but at least I had an option.  I knew I wasn’t doing anything wrong so I called Account Protection Services as suggested in the message.  Once on the phone, a Bluebird representative told me that my account had been locked to ensure against fraud.  He said that they had to confirm that I was the true debit card account holder before they could unlock my account.  While I was on hold, he called my debit card bank (with my permission) to verify that my name was on the account.  After a few minutes on hold, he returned and told me that my identity was confirmed and that my account was unlocked.

I have since restarted my daily $100 loads (up to 10 per month) and have not had any trouble since.

Reader experiences

Have you had any trouble with debit load and payment techniques?  Do you have any tips for avoiding these pitfalls?  Please comment below.

Frequent Miler is on vacation

Posts have been scheduled in advance. See you in September!

Comments

  1. I intend to use Square to pay my nanny each week instead of writing a check. I did one “test” transfer first from my acct to my husband’s account to make sure it worked, and got the same “unusual” activity response, but they just gave me a generic response that I would have to send the money through alternate means. Maybe the last names can’t match?

    I tried the nanny transfer yesterday and it hasn’t been bounced back yet.

  2. re: them flagging you for sending to wife.
    Any personal info duplicated?
    do you use internet portal to manage withe sam IP address?

  3. I had the same problem with Bluebird but didn’t bother to call in since it was a gift card (I don’t have any miles debit cards). At least you solved my curiosity on this one :)

  4. Frequent Flier

    For Bluebird once you go over 500$ in loads their system will automatically deny the transaction unless your bank account has been verified manually by their team

    If you dont want that you can stop at 500$ limit and restart at next month without any issues (kind of internal security limit that has been setup by them) and not been made know to users

  5. I also had the same problem with the daily 100 on my alaska debit. I called in and they went through the same procedure you mentioned with bank verification. It has been fine since

  6. I had the same issue with Bluebird and resolved in the same manner. Have we confirmed earning miles via debit cards for these transactions yet? Also for Square cash will it work if if send it to my girlfriend? Different last name and we can do different addresses as well. I have been nervous to start using square cash because of any potential problems that may arise.

    • Just confirmed that I earned my 400 Delta miles (suntrust debit card)from the four $100 transfers I did online to my BB card. I have also received the “message” on my 5th transfer but I have not called yet.

  7. Were you signing into both square accounts on the same device on the same connection one after another? That’s a sure fire way for them to flag you as the same person with 2 accounts. To avoid such issues in the future do not use the same ip, or browser for the same person nor sign in back to back. To make it easy just use your computer and home router always for one account and use your phone on a mobile network for the other and space out your logins so they aren’t back to back.

  8. I had linked my NW visabuxx card to Bluebird and after 5 daily deposits of $100 eash, i got the same message. I have not called them yet. Should i call them since the linked card in question is visabuxx card and not a real debit card? Can money be loaded onto my bluebird through other means or is this some sort of account suspension?

  9. Practices like these ruin debit card rewards for everyone else. I’m sure many of you will hate on me for saying it but stuff like this shuts down legit mile gains from debit cards (ie: BofA Alaska debit shutdown).
    It’s also not a surprise that Bluebird and Square are catching on to stuff like this. It may even be illegal but if not it certainly is not a moral way of collecting miles or doing spend.
    Thanks for ruining mile debit cards for the rest of us.

  10. Takhliq Khan: I had exactly same situation. If you call them they will ask for your permission to call US Bank to verify your account. The verification will fail as there is no real checking account behind your Visabuxx. Instead suggest that you will fax them a copy of the Visabuxx showing your name and card number. Call them in 10 minutes after your fax is sent and they will clear your account. From this moment on everything will work just fine. At least it does for me.

  11. Question for those of you who have confirmed your bank information to Bluebird’s satisfaction AND who have automated daily debit loads set up for Bluebird …

    Do you simply *remember* to cancel them after 10 go through, or do you just “fire and forget”, letting the monthly $1000 load limit do it’s thing.

    i.e. If you set up daily $100 debit loads to Bluebird and it loads on NOV 1-10, I *assume* that you’ll get a failure message on NOV 11 and every day thereafter in November. I’m curious to know if it would then *succeed* again for DEC 1-10.

    I’ve lost track of when this became an option, so no one may have been doing this long enough to know for sure, but when the answer *is* known, I’d appreciate it if you’d pass the information along.

    Thanks.

  12. I had the same issue with my Alaska debit card, always wanted to call BB but never got around to it. Then all of a sudden yesterday the loads went through again. Weird.

  13. @DaninSTL

    Agree that debit loads have short shelf life due to $$volume pumped thru this channel

    We pay annual fees for debit card use and sending/receiving banks earn APR margin yield on AVG balance, so given this why is your moral boundary compromised?

  14. Exactly same thing with both square* and BB. But with BB I cleared the block and was able to make a load, but the next day’s scheduled load (today) failed again. Will have to call again.

    *With square I’m pretty sure it is IP tracking.

    • Looks like the debit loads are based on a rolling 24hr clock. So when I loaded yesterday, after clearing the block, and set-up scheduled loads the 1st auto-load triggered in under 24hrs.

  15. I saw this coming when I first set out. Did 425. fine. Sent to wife. then did $2400 and got the same message FM did. It went one to eventually tell me I am shut down.

    to me Square is a scam. they advertise you can do this but when you try they shut you. So why do they have this false limit anyway? Even if not for miles, it seems to me noone can really legitimately send $2500 to anyone without eventually being shut out! WTH do they actually want in people to begin with? We should never trust things like this.

    Of course I am also bummed because it was a good way to get in miles. In theory lol

  16. also, one more thing… other than the fact we have all seen this sort of stuff before, there was no way beyond real time tests to prove what we now now. Square is like Account now, Achieve, netspend, MVD… all things that take your funds FIRST and then shut you down and cant be fully reached for comment. SCAM. And yet they call us fraud.

  17. Just remember that all roads lead to the Philippines and if you have warm fuzzes on that then go full steam ahead………….

  18. Does Square cash really count towards BOA Alaska miles? I only received 3 miles in Alaska account since I spend 6 dollars in swipe. The other $2000 in Square Cash didn’t appear on Alaska account. Also, BB reload didn’t appear. Maybe I should wait 60 days? But the swipe transaction in Oct 31 already credited.

  19. Hello FrequentMiler, firs, I wanna say thank you for your very informative post and your kindness to help people. I am new to this thing so can you please kindly help me with some of my questions below regarding SW cards, I would really, really appreciate it.
    I just got 2 SW cards (personal plus & premier) and plan to get to CP status by meeting the minimum spending requirement within first 3 months to get 50k bonus points on each. To do this I need to buy a lot of VR cards to reload into my BB.

    1. As CVS has $1000 limit per day for VR card purchases. What about if I go to several CVS in my town and neighboring towns. Let’s say I go to 5 CVS stores and buy 2 cards in each store using my SW cards, thus I got $5000 for total of 10 VR cards. Is this correct and doable?

    2. Since BB has $5000 monthly reload limit, can I maximize my spending of SW cards by buying VR cards worth of $5000 per month as I described above. For example, I buy 6 VR cards (from 3 different CVS stores) worth of $3000 with SW personal plus. Then I buy another 4 VR cards (from 2 different CVS stores) worth of $2000 with SW personal premier. Will this trigger an alert that caused my Chase SW accounts to be flagged/suspended? If there is, what would you suggest for safest way to do this method (like how long should I wait and the frequency).

    3. Can I use BB to pay the $5000 bill on my 2 SW cards that I used to buy VR cards?

    4. I want to know, when is the best time to cancel my SW plus and premier cards after I receive my CP status free pass.

    Thank you so much in advance.

    • Hi Jessica S,
      1. For the past several months, CVS has actually allowed up to $5,000 in VR cards to be bought per day. However, you do need to let them scan your driver’s license if you buy $1000 or more. If you prefer, you can instead buy $999 worth at a time without showing your drivers license and go from one CVS to another to complete your spend. Either approach should work fine.

      2. I haven’t heard of people having problems with getting their accounts suspended with those spend levels.

      3. Yes

      4. Wait until the annual fee comes due and then decide whether you want to keep or cancel. The SW cards do give bonus points when you renew so for some people it is worth it.

  20. Jessica, it sounds like you’re just getting started with ”the hobby” so let me share a bit of experience, if I may.

    As usual, FM is spot-on with the facts: $5,000 per day, license scanned at $1,000, etc. And while it is *true* that you can go from store to store buying $999 at a time, I avoid doing that because, if I were the cashier, that would start to look suspicious after a while.

    To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with manufacturing spend this way, but it doesn’t have to BE shady … it only has to LOOK shady for individual stores, managers, or cashiers to refuse you.

    I always put myself in the cashier’s shoes and try to think what he/she is thinking. If I know that I have to scan your license at $1,000, but you always buy $999, then it looks like you’re trying to circumvent ”the rules” and it can raise a red flag. Again, you’re not doing anything wrong, but it only has to LOOK wrong … or even questionable … to get you shut out.

    I realize some people don’t want to have their licenses scanned, and I understand the privacy argument. Personally, I don’t care if they scan my license and if I were the cashier, I’d feel better about the person who says, ”Oh, sure … here you go” than the person who says, ”Oops, well, … I guess I only want $500 on one and $499 on the other one.”

    Some will disagree with me, and sure … buying thousands of dollars worth of cards can look shady, even if you buy in nice, round numbers. Still, I always try to put the cashier at ease.

    This is just my thinking. I have the crappiest luck, so I always err on the side of safety.

  21. Hi, this is not really about square cash or BB. I am thinking about using amex serve to do daily $1 debit load to satisfy bank’s 12 transaction for better apy. Did you do this before or hear about this? Will it work and not raise red flag? I think I will call amex serve to do the account confirmation for my identity with my bank first.

    • Interesting idea. It should work. I have no idea if it would raise any flags. If you’re worried, shuffle around the dollar amounts. Since you can get all of the money back, it can’t hurt to do larger amounts.

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