January 8, 2014
Last Friday I published “Getting carded at Walmart“. In that post I described Walmart’s apparent new policies regarding loading Bluebird cards, buying money orders, and paying bills. In that post, I listed a number of ‘tidbits” I had gathered, and I asked for readers to chime in with their own recent experiences. Here are the results:
$500 (and smaller) Bluebird loads are fine and do not require extra info.
You can load up to $1K to your Bluebird card without issue if you load $500 or less at a time, in separate transactions.
Bluebird (and GoBank) loads at automated Kiosks are not working at all even when the machines appear to be functioning.
FALSE. Many people have encountered broken or flakey Kiosks, but many also reported recent success with using Kiosks.
Some Walmart stores are no longer allowing loads at regular checkout lanes, but instead require customers to go to the customer service desk.
Many people reported success loading at registers, so it is unclear why it is sometimes not allowed. This may vary by store or by cashier.
Walmart Bill Pay transactions over $500 are also subjected to rigorous information demands.
Two people confirmed this, but one said he succeeded with a $2000 bill payment. This may vary by store.
I have yet to hear any reports about Money Order purchases. Anyone?
Most respondents said that they had no problem buying money orders, but there were a few reports of people “getting carded” when buying money orders. This may vary by store.
Why we care
Purchasing Visa or MasterCard gift cards can often be a great way to earn points, miles, or cash back. Often it is possible to buy $500 gift cards with only a $4.95 or $5.95 fee. And, if you buy at a store where your credit card earns bonus points, you can make a nice profit depending upon how highly you value your credit card rewards. The trick is figuring out how to use those gift cards once you’ve bought them. One great way has been to use them at Walmart as debit cards (see Gift Card PINs). At Walmart, debit cards (and, therefore, gift cards) can be used to load money to Bluebird / GoBank prepaid cards, to buy money orders, or to pay bills (including credit card bills). All of these options make it possible to earn lots of credit card rewards for very little cost.
Another approach many take is to get a debit card that earns miles or cash back. One example is the SunTrust Delta debit card that earns 1 mile per dollar. Such a debit card can be used at Walmart in all of the ways discussed above (reload Bluebird card, buy money orders, pay bills) in order to earn debit card rewards.
For those who go to Walmart just to reload their Bluebird (or GoBank) card, the new rules shouldn’t be much trouble. Simply limit your loads to $500 per transaction. Complete multiple transactions if needed. For those who pay bills or buy money orders, though, the new rules could be a big problem if enforced.
A simpler option
Instead of buying gift cards and unloading them at Walmart, I think it is much easier to buy Vanilla Reload cards, load to Bluebird, and then use Bluebird to pay bills (or transfer money to your bank account). While reload cards aren’t without their own issues, I find it to be much simpler and more reliable than the alternatives. Of course, you may not have easy access to stores that sell Vanilla Reload cards (and allow credit card purchases of them), so Walmart may be your best option anyway.