Surviving the last day CVS scramble

This is it.  Today is the day…


Today (April 3rd) is the last day to buy reload cards at CVS (with a credit card)

Incase you’ve been hiding in a cave, I should mention that the rumor of CVS going cash only for reload cards is true.  The only slightly false part of the rumor was the date.  Yes, some CVS stores went cash only on 3/31, but most of the country is going cash only on April 4th (Friday).  What to do?  Run out today to your favorite CVS store, then read this when you get home: 9 ways to cope without reload cards.

Swipe reloads at at CVS

Before the fateful CVS memo was leaked, I thought I had found something fabulous.  Do you remember how I said that you can “swipe reload” Amex Serve cards at the register at CVS?  Well, I found out that you can do the same with almost all Vanilla Reloadables (one exception I found is the Bluebird card that has stayed faithful to Walmart).  So, bring in a stack of Vanilla Reloadables (MyVanilla, NetSpend, JH Preferred, etc.) and load them each up one at a time at the register, up to $500 per transaction.  Simply hand the cashier your reloadable card and say  you would like to reload your prepaid card (say “please” too).  Other than Serve which is free, you will be charged a $3.95 fee per transaction.  It’s basically just like buying Vanilla Reload cards except that it doesn’t matter whether or not the reload cards are in stock (and guess what, they’re probably not in stock today).  Unfortunately, swipe reloads are going cash only too.  So, you have today only to try out this trick (sorry).

Finding cards where they’re not supposed to be

If Swipe Reloads aren’t enough to keep you busy today, you’ll probably make your way over to the gift card rack to look for your favorite reload cards.  And, they won’t be there.  After all, everyone else in the world has been scrambling to buy them before April 4th, so it should come as no surprise that they’re sold out.  Or, are they….?  Grab random piles of other gift cards and fan them out.  If you’re lucky, you’ll find some that were previously hidden there by others.  If you find more than you plan to buy, do the next customer a favor by leaving the extras exposed.  After all, they won’t do you any good after today!

8PM EST deadline: Today!

Amol, at Hack My Trip tells us that CVS computers switch over to “the next day” at 8PM EST each evening (see “The Reports of Vanilla Reload’s Demise Have Not Been Exaggerated“).  So, if you’re reading this on April 3rd, you have just until 8PM EST / 5PM Pacific to use your credit cards to earn points and miles at CVS.  Hey, I’m just the messenger.  Blame Amol if you don’t get there in time.

What about load-once MasterCard/Visa gift cards?

The memos stating that CVS was going cash only refer specifically to reloadable cards.  So, it might still be possible to buy load-once gift cards such as OneVanilla.  The problem is that I doubt managers and cashiers will understand the difference.  So, I expect it will be hard to buy just about anything of value at CVS for a while.  We’ll see.

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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  1. Just a thought;
    Why I believe it might have been the Citi AAdvantage Exec CC (100,000 miles) that prompted CVS from going cash only on VR.

    How would you like to be the person in CVS to wake up one morning only to realize CVS (maybe) owes $12 million to Credit Card company in 2 month!

    Here are my thoughts, with so many of us signing up for AA Exec 100K miles Credit Card within the last 2 month and some of us (my self include) getting 2 AA Exec card. Many of us went out and bought VR as fast as we can.

    Including all the normal CC purchasing VR at CVS and now this $10K min spend CC in the mix, I think CVS might have saw a huge upswing in VR purchases.

    I created a table for a quick illustration. Disclaimer: I DO NOT have any inside information on how much CVS pays out to Credit Card companies or Vanilla Reload network in selling VR cards. This is only to illustrate the point. Based on how many new AA Credit card might have been open; 50K to 100K new CC within last 2 month

    No of New AA CC 50,000 75,000 100,000
    Mim Spend $10,000 $10,000 $10,000
    CVS Tot Transaction $500M $750M $1B
    CVS Profit ($3.95) $3.95M $5.922M $7.9M

    CC Payout – 1% $5M $7.5M $10M
    CVS Loss @ 1% Payout -$1.05M -$1.575M -$2.1M

    CC Payout – 1.5% $7.5M $11.25M $15M
    CVS Loss@ 1.5% Payout -$3.55M -$5.325M -$7.1M

    CC Payout – 2% $10M $ $15M $20M
    CVS Loss@ 2% Payout -$6.05M -$9.075M -$12.1M

    Such a huge payout to Credit Card companies by CVS in such a short time might have brought into light the money losing aspect of VR cards with Credit Card transaction.

    I for one am sad this has happened but it is what it is.

  2. “Blame Amol if you don’t get there in time.”

    LOL. Pesky bloggers. Killing all the deals and making me late too!

    Awesome clip art. I see your Photoshop skills have improved, young grasshoppa!

  3. Swiped my Serve at 6:30 last night, went in at 7:00 am this morning and the register said “cash only.” No signs in store and the manager seemed confused by the change. He let me try my Suntrust debit card, but that was refused also. Boo!

  4. The Vanilla Reload Website lists other retailers who sell the VR cards… Have they (Walgreen’s, Dollar General, etc) already blocked purchases with credit cards??

  5. Seriously doubt that 8PM cutoff. I was able to buy VRs at 11pm CT on 4/1 here in DFW. The next morning at 7am was not able to.

    • You have not understood the GMT cutoff correctly. If you bought 5k of VR’s at 11pm central time, that is 4AM GMT (4 hours after the reset already took place). So it then follows that you wont be able to buy another 5k until 7PM central of the following day.

      Go here ( and add the “GMT” time zone as one of the rows. Midnight on the “GMT” row is the only one you should compare to and care about. That just happens to be 8pm eastern, but don’t let that confuse you. Compare your time with GMT. Midnight in GMT time is what matters.

      Greg, keep in mind the GMT reset is when people are able to buy vanilla reloads again. It does not necessarily mean that is when the “cash-only” cut-off will happen. Since the cut-off is regional, its entirely possible that they are rolling out the changes at midnight. Thats just speculation on my part but id advise your readers to try between 8pm EST and 12am tonight if they are really desperate to try to get one last scoop of ice cream. As for me, I’ve maxed out WF and met all my minimum spends already.

      • @Johnathan. I know about the midnight GMT reset for $5k. I’m not talking about that, nor was FM. This time the registers are updated (with new software)… I.E. the time that your CVS becomes a “brick” (to compare to a dead phone or other device).

  6. Not VR related, and I may have missed a post. I have a Citi Thank You Preferred (ie not Premier), and I was mailed an offer to sign up to receive 5x on gas, groceries and pharmacies between now and 6/30. Needed to activate. Is that something other people have been receiving?

  7. Ben, is there a cap on how much 5x you can receive? Most people who signed up for the Citi TYPref last year did so with 5x bonus for 12 months, no limit. Citi will periodically give bonuses for 3 months, but they’re always capped. For example, my Citi AA (not 100K one) will get me 3x on drug stores and 3 other irrelevant categories, but capped at $1250 spending.

    • Good point, it is capped. I don’t have the details in front of me but if I recall correctly it is similar to the Freedom ($1,500), I was wondering if they were going to go towards a rotating categories model, but it does not sound like it’s the case. I am a bit worried about their tracking system for categories, as I went to the butcher and the category was “frozen good”, hopefully I won’t regret it (I also have the Blue Cash Preferred, so I am saving some of the $6,000 for later in the year by taking this 5x).

  8. Bought 2 last night around 9 pm at 2 different stores in Orlando, will try again today as I have some spend to work through.

  9. Regarding the little hidden secrets coming out into the open: I have held that there are many many of these. Unless you have someone inform you or you accidently run into one, most readers will never know. FM, who has almost unlimited access to these secrets, selectively chooses whether it will be published in his blog. Some happen only once the game ends, they are found out belatedly. Naturally that is his choice, it is his blog. I have noticed over the past couple years that he is more selective than at first in releasing this information publicly. His quest to help his readers find the perpetual system has morphed somewhat and diminished.

  10. Although I had cleaned out the shelf on Sunday night my NoCal CVS had 10k left last night at 8pm after another locust run………South Florida still has Circle K gas but you must be very very patient with them as they use a separate machine to validate the cards and then the cash register transaction……..I will forever love CVS and will someday have this as a great story to tell my grandkids………..

  11. I had a wonderful cashier at one CVS last night. She sold me 5K worth of vr’s despite the other cashiers waving the memo at her and complaining to some manager on the phone. She just told them to buzz off, “this is our regular customer”. ☺

  12. @Ben & FM, for the Citi TY 5x promo, there is a max of 2500 points, or $500. Lame…. My father got that offer but I got one for 2x (lame-er….)

  13. Excuse my ignorance but should I expect the cc option to work in San Francisco tonight up until 859pm? BTW there are still some out there? My CVS manager laughed last night as I cleared another cc and asked “what will I do once this ends? Well I’ll watch the gift card rack as the poor VR cries out “Why won’t somebody buy me? I need some love”……………A sad day in history indeed!

  14. Just got a VR at a gas station and it will not load to BB. The VR people told me on the phone that there is nothing wrong on their end, that I should call BB (oh no,not the offshore call center again…)

    Called BB and rep told me they are having “issues with web reload at this time”. Um, ok, when can I reload my acct with VR then? “oh maybe 4 or 5 hrs from now”.

    OK, I wait, I guess… Anybody else having VR to BB issues?? I had no issues loading gc’s at wm right before this (different BB acct….)

      • It is cathartic to know a mad dash to do the funeral load is crashing the phone lines…………this situation calls for alcohol consumption in copious amounts………

  15. It’s officially over. All the cvs registers on mkt street are hard coded to decline once serve is swiped. I tried 3 different serve cards. They all showed me the declined message. Then she showed me all the vanilla reloads they had hanging on the rack. She said someone tried this morning and it’s cash only….

    Yesterday the mgr said the change is not due to cc fees… It’s due to cc theft and reload fraud. Cash will cut this down.

    Oh and I like your captcha…

      • Market St CVS seems to be sold out when I checked.

        I usually go to the CVS on California St near the Ferry Building, and those are cash only too for VR.

        • Extremely interesting at CVS at BonAir in Marin, CA……….Woman has greeting card and $500 Visa gift card purchase…….she pays with credit card and departs
          I start a $3000 purchase of VR…….first card scans in…….second card scans in and asks for driver’s license……driver’s license scans in……..third card causes pop up on screen to say “Cash Tender only”
          Now I won’t be buying my VISA gift cards at CVS but for some of you that have drugstore 5X this might be of interest as it seems the same hardwire that killed VR has not killed a $500 Visa gift card………

  16. Went 1 for 2 at tonight, first store no problem, second stroe I was told Cash opnly and then was allowed to see the memo/email, many other cards were also listed as cash only now, the first line of the memo mentioned the huge increase in CC processing fees… Will try again tomorrow at the good store. I am in Orlando,FL.

  17. Completelly unrelated
    Has anybody had problems loading BB using GC from GCmall using the moneymachine?
    Today I had 4 GC , 1 OV 2 Visas I ordered from GCM and other Visa I bought at the store but it is commercialized by GCM. The 3 from GCM were rejected by the Money Machine.

  18. i bought a couple of visa gift cards off my cc at rite aid with no trouble (they didnt mix it up with the reloads)

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