Everyone interested in earning credit card rewards has run into this problem: they have large bills (rent, mortgage, daycare, etc.) that can’t be paid by credit card. This can be frustrating since it would be great to use these bills to help meet minimum spend requirements and earn rewards. Luckily, there are solutions. In this post, I’ll show you step by step how to buy and use Visa/MasterCard gift cards. Most drugstores and many grocery stores and gas stations sell MasterCard gift cards that are loadable up to $500 with a $4.95 or $5.95 fee.
Once you buy these gift cards, it is possible to transfer their value to a Bluebird/Serve card at Walmart or Serve card at RiteAid, Dollar General, or Family Dollar. Then, you can use your Bluebird/Serve to pay bills that can’t normally be paid by credit card.
Note: Some stores DO NOT allow you to use gift cards to load prepaid cards such as Bluebird/Serve. Policies vary by store and region.
Here’s how to do it:
Step 1: Find $500 gift cards
Make sure you have a way to buy $500 Visa/MC gift cards with a credit card. These gift cards come in a variety of different packages. To see the different types of cards and issuing banks, see: Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards
Step 2: Order a free American Express Bluebird or Serve Card
Order a free Serve or Bluebird card. Each person can only have one of these products, so it is impossible to get both. To help decide which is best for you, see: The Complete Guide to Bluebird & Serve and The Complete guide to the many flavors of Serve. Which is Best?
Note: You may be able to use other prepaid cards as well. For more info, see: Connecting the Dots
Step 3: Buy Visa/MasterCard gift cards and pay with your point-earning credit card.
Note: You cannot load all cards to Bluebird/Serve. To find out which cards will work see: The Beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards.
When buying Visa gift cards, buy them in $500 denominations, which is usually the most allowed. Each card usually has a $4.95-$5.95 fee. It is always best to max out the card’s value so as to pay a smaller fee as a percentage of the total.
Some stores require ID to prove that you are the credit card holder so make sure to bring along your driver’s license or other valid ID.
Step 4: Wait at least an hour for activation.
Most of the time gift cards activate right away, but some can take up to an hour to fully activate.
Step 5: Bring the gift cards and Bluebird/Serve card to store to reload
Each Bluebird/Serve card can only be loaded up to $2500 per day (and $5000 per month), so do not attempt to load more than $2,500 in one visit.
If your Walmart has a money center automated kiosk, then use that to load the money. Load $500 at a time. See this post for details: “The complete guide to loading Bluebird or Serve at a Walmart MoneyCenter Express Kiosk”. Otherwise, take your Bluebird/Serve card to the customer service desk or to a cashier and ask to reload your card. Tell them that you will pay with a debit card (this part is very important: if you tell them that you are loading from a gift card they will get confused. The trick is that you are using gift cards as debit cards.
When asked to type in your debit card PIN, use the pin number assigned to the card. Some gift cards require that the PIN be set ahead of time via phone or online, but most will work by entering the last 4 digits. Some cards will let you use any 4 digits as the PIN the first time you use it. You can find the information regarding PINs on each of the major types of cards in The Beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards
Step 6: Use Bluebird/Serve to pay your bills.
Once you have money loaded to your card, you can log onto your account and pay bills, for free.
- Click “pay bills”
- Search for the company or person you want to pay. If found, the company will be paid electronically. If not, you can enter the name, address, and phone number of the biller and American Express will send them a check in the mail.
- Enter the amount to be paid
Note that you can even use this technique to pay credit card bills!
Step 7 (optional): Pay with paper checks
If you have payments that must be made in person with a check, or where you have to mail a check along with other documentation, you can order a checkbook from Bluebird instead of using electronic bill pay. This feature is Bluebird only and requires a pre-authorization which is a bit of a hassle, but some people really like it.
By following the above steps, you can earn credit card rewards when paying bills that normally can’t be paid by credit card. The rewards come from buying gift cards with your credit card (not from the act of paying the bills). There is a cost to this, though. Each $500 gift card you buy has a $4.95 fee (or more). The fee is small: about 1%, so the benefits from most rewards credit cards outweigh the cost.
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