Vanilla devalues, large denomination MasterCards, and Amex Gift Cards still a deal

Less useful Vanilla

Visa Vanilla Office Depot Gold

Update: Many people have reported that Vanilla Visa gift cards do still work at Walmart when loading in denominations of $49.99 or less.

In the last day or two, reports have poured in from readers telling me that Vanilla Visa gift cards no longer work as debit cards at Walmart registers.  Even people experienced with the “change payment fast” technique have been unable to load Bluebird cards or perform any other transactions at the register requiring debit payments.  My understanding is that this problem is limited to Vanilla brand gift cards (including One Vanilla).  As far as I know, other brands still work.

Speaking of other brands…

Doctor of Credit reports that MetaBank gift cards are available online in denominations up to $1,500.  These could be very useful since the fees as a percent of total can be very low. Travel with Grant offered some important cautions, however:

Some more info as I’ve bought 4 of these cards over the last few months:
Bank of America and Chase cards run as purchases.
Citi and US Bank run as cash advances.
Customer service sucks, took 2 weeks to receive a card to CA and I called to say the card was lost in the mail and they charged me $5 to send a replacement.
I believe you can ACH the funds off the card via PayPal and Bluebird, but they don’t like that.
Personally this card isn’t worth the hassle and wait times to save a few bucks, I’d rather go to CVS and Walmart and do my MS in under 20 minutes than bother with MetaBank.

Amex Gift Card rebates down to 2.5%

Amex gift cards can’t be used as debit cards, but they can be better than free when shopping through online portals.  For a while recently, we’ve been spoiled with 4X points, or 4% cash back, but in the past few days the top rates dropped first to 3% then to 2.5% (via BeFrugal).  Mileage portals have dropped to only 1 mile per dollar.  I wouldn’t go for the 1X options, but at 2.5% cash back I’m still a buyer.  I’m not as enthusiastic of a buyer as before, but I need to get my money’s worth after signing up for a year of free shipping Smile.  Please also see: Everything you ever wanted to know about Amex gift cards.

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. I loaded one vanilla at the kiosk last week. I haven’t tried to load one vanilla this week. So, even at the the kiosks, one vanilla doesn’t work?

  2. Hi FM,

    Thanks for the update. Last Sunday, I loaded One Vanilla onto my Serve at Moneycenter counter (not kiosk), when I loaded I got a receipt that showed $500. But when I came home and checked my serve account my load was only $496.05. I am not sure what happened to the remaining $3.95. Is it something related to this report? I have to call Serve but don’t have much hope!

  3. Will Vanilla’s work at Western Union or USPS to buy Money Orders? I’d rather save my Amazon payments for other things and can’t think of other ways to unload the Vanillas I have.

  4. i can confirm, last night after delta points reporting, i went to cvs and bought $100 vanilla visa and was unable to load in walmart even after hitting the cancel button. For those of you looking for meta bank visa card, they are mostly in grocery stores, like harris teeter and publix and the fee is $5.95

  5. This fiasco is sounding alot like what happened with the mint in its waning days. Heed the advice of the veterans – do not go long on debit cards now. When the mint and AMEX killed off AMEX gift card funding of coins many newbies were left holding the bag with thousands in AMEX gift cards they could not easily liquidate. Accept the fact that all the publicity and blogging and steering of traffic has finally forced the corporate folk to take action.

  6. How will you all unload the Vanilla’s you have?
    Will Vanilla’s work at Western Union or USPS to buy Money Orders? I’d rather save my Amazon payments for other things and can’t think of other ways to unload the Vanillas I have.

  7. tried to unload mine at kiosk at Walmart this past Sunday onto my BB. No go. Does anyone know anything about the Sunrise Bank Visa Gift cards? The website to register the card also takes care of the Meta Bank cards.

  8. newbie008: What you described is a totally separate issue. It was a glitch that was affecting all serve loads. Call Amex and they will reverse the 3.95 charge.

  9. I buy MetaBank VISA gift cards in Stop n Shop for the gas points (4x this week) and I load them in my BB without any issues (no trick), they go through as debit cards. I posted pictures of the gift cards in my blog.

  10. I am with AlohaDave it is becoming obvious that there is a concerted effort to shut down the use of prepaid cards and VGCs for MS purposes.

    • I’m actually stunned that it has taken this long. When PINs first became available with gift cards I thought it would last a few weeks at best. It has now been over 14 months.

  11. I am with AlohaDave it is becoming obvious that there is a concerted effort to shut down the use of prepaid cards and VGCs for MS purposes. I suggest people not advertise what still works.

  12. I purchased $400 in GCs at Staples last night and immediately unloaded to BB at WM kiosk, no problems. Had a bit of trouble with the pin at first because I had set it up at home before going to WM but that pin wasn’t working. As soon as I instead used the last 4 digits of the card as pin, voila! Of course those weren’t One Vanilla VISAs. They are the ones pictured on the Quick Deals section. Thanks for the heads up.

  13. @FreeTravelGuy- I had a similar experience with Staples Visa GCs I ordered online – I swear I set them up with the same PIN number for all the cards, but when I tried to buy a money order at Kroger, it said the PIN was declined. I then used the last four digits of the card number and it worked… so weird.

  14. I’ve never understood why the focus on Vanilla Visas. My last 2 BB loads, done at a WM checkout, were the WM Visa gift cards.

    • Rene…really??!!! I have never read on any of the blogs anyone using a Walmart Visa gift card to load Bluebird. I will try that today. Would make it so much easier for me now that Vanilla Reloads and Vanilla branded gift cards (all I could find locally without driving 40 minutes to another town).have gone by the wayside. What amounts did you buy and load to your BB?

      • Buying WM Visa gift cards has always worked for me. Though, I only buy them one at a time. No problems loading them to Bluebird or Serve.

  15. I noticed the loading GCs at WM challenges started shortly after the most recent million-mile contest. Or was that just a coincidence?

    • Same here, plus it kills CC churns for me too. High min spends are going to be nearly impossible to meet.

      I have used many CC referral links from here, so that will go down to zero.

      Btw, see comment #22.

  16. I had 5 high value cards not activated properly by AMEX Many phone calls (long ones) and now it takes 10 more business days to resolve. Not happy. Hopefully I will get the proper point rebates in a few months

  17. I want to understand this more…Is it because you can get points buying the gift card and through spending the gift card? I want to learn more about this.

  18. Has anyone successfully loaded a non-Vanilla debit at WM today? Just would like confirmation it’s only Vanilla before I buy more other debit cards today.

  19. Walmart kiosk didn’t work got me just now. Had several different messages and codes come up that I had not seen before.

  20. I loaded a non-Vanilla Visa Gift card today $500 at the customer service center at Wmart. Purchased at a grocery store, drove over to WM and tried to load in at the go. Went to customer service counter—no go. went to car and called # on back of GC and was told that the card was not properly activated and I would have to send mountains of paperwork in to them. Drove back to grocery store and they called and got it “properly loaded”. Drove back to WM and tried the kiosk–no go. Went to customer service counter and they got it loaded to BB. Issue today was inept clerk who originally “loaded” my card. Was chgd $500 and one receipt did said it was loaded on but it wasn’t done correctly. But there were a few moments I thought WM had screwed me over and changed their systems again.

  21. Devon when I see someone talk about going to USPS and get MO’s this means that person is new in this game. Educate yourself before jumping in and ASSUMING something.

    • Tony, while I’m apparently not as GREAT as you I MS over $50k a month so I think I’m not NEW to the game. Thanks for the condescending comment. Most people are here to help each other as no one is an expert on everything in the MS game. Hopefully someone who knows how to respect others and appreciate that they once didn’t know everything about a subject will assist me. I didn’t realize we were all supposed to be all-knowing.

        • First, there was no need for a condescending comment to me or anyone. I just don’t understand the need to do that to anyone on here. Someone could post a mistake fare in the comments and while I wouldn’t approve I wouldn’t talk down to them nor support someone who did.

          Second, this blog and many others are revealing so I don’t see why people flip when someone says something in the comments. If the owner of the blog didn’t want us talking openly comments would be moderated, not posted instantly.

  22. There are way too many people asking questions that show they have jumped in without knowing the rules and/or weighing the risks. If you cant afford to float the $$$ if there is a bump in the road don’t play the game. Sad.

    • Pretty sure this blog is here to teach and help others learn. If everyone knew it all what would be the point? I don’t understand all you negative people. If you’re so afraid this people talking here will hurt you in some way then why don’t you bash the author instead of the readers? Which I don’t support as I think he does a great thing.

      • Many people have followed the bloggers like lemmings and are know holding the bag. Yet, they gave the bloggers lots of $$ through affiliate link clicks, so I am sure the bloggers are doing fine right now.

  23. Let’s be clear here. No one is left holding the bag. There are plenty of ways to liquidate these Vanilla Visas, even if you can’t do it at Walmart anymore. Try Amazon payments or Evolve Money, or I don’t know, spend it on actual purchases. Quit with the drama people.

    • Yes: 1) buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards (but not the Vanilla brand cards) with a credit card; 2) Setup the PIN (usually by calling); 3) Use gift card at Walmart as a debit card to reload BB. Caution: Walmart could shut down other gift cards at any time.

  24. I’m stuck with $2500 of Vanilla Visas I’m trying to unload. I’ve heard from several sources that the gift cards from Meta Bank and US Bank are still working at Walmart. I’ll use the Staples gift cards and the Vanilla Visas with Evolve Money.

    • There are other ways besides Evolve. Some grocery stores will not check and you can use your cards to buy Money Orders.

  25. My Walmart has already shut it down. We don’t have a kiosk. But Customer Service said they were told no more cards onto Bluebird. I may have to try a few more stores.

  26. I was able to load my BB with $200 Visa, the past 3 days at 1k each. This may be slowly rolling out to each store and will eventually hit mine I assume.

  27. IMHO, You are reading to much into this. Bancorp is in trouble with the FDIC. They are working towards an agreement but are currently suspended from shipping anymore OV or VGC. This Pseudo bank created by WM and AMEX is way to important and profitable to both companies so they have decided to suspend doing business with Bancorp. This may or may not be permanent. Bancorp One Vanilla products continue to work just about everywhere else. In fact, WM continues to accept these as payment for purchases at the register.

    • “but are currently suspended from shipping anymore OV or VGC”
      There is no suspension. CVS has continued to get shipments over the past 2 months.

  28. Tried loading regular Visa debits cards (purchased at the supermarket) today at WM. The message on the terminal said “alternative form of payment required. Woman at the counter said they had recently upgraded their system.

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