October 18th, 2013
Bluebird from American Express came around a year ago and rocked our world. It’s alternative to a debit/checking account with no fees. Although you need a social security number to signup there is no credit pull that is done.
There have been some changes and it remains a great tool today.
Today for example they sent out an email saying you can only link 1 debit card to fund your Bluebird online. That’s no big deal as I wrote earlier this week that you should not load gift cards online to Bluebird anyway as it would cause them to freeze your account.
Vanilla Reloads remain the easiest way to load Bluebird. Office Depot and Walgreens no longer allow you to buy them with a credit card but stores like CVS will let you use a credit card. They’ll sell you a $500 Vanilla Reload card for a $3.95 fee and you can transfer those funds onto Bluebird from your computer. CVS officially allows you to buy $5,000 per day though some stores (or certain cashiers) may limit that. Ask them to find the CVS memo that talks about the $5,000 limit and allows you to pay by credit card. That’s a very cheap way to buy miles even if you’re not trying to meet a spend threshold and it’s an incredibly cheap way to meet a spend threshold.
Heavily populated areas like NYC can be tougher to find Vanilla Reloads, but plenty of DDF members have had success even there. Just a matter of finding the right store. Or getting a manager to order more in when they are out of stock.
To put it in perspective the $3.95 fee is 0.79 cents per mile without accounting for any signup bonus points. That’s $35 for a BA one-way short-haul award, or $474 for a United one-way business class flight to Israel. Of course if you’re earning 50,000 miles on top of that for a signup bonus it will be a tiny fraction of those costs.
You can also load gift cards onto Bluebird at WalMart. At a WalMart ATM machine just click to load your WalMart money card, swipe your Bluebird, and swipe the gift card to load it onto Bluebird. It’s even quicker to load it with a WalMart cashier though some cashiers won’t allow you to load a gift card to Bluebird.
Of course there’s no reason to ask if you can load your gift card to Bluebird, just say you want to load your Bluebird card with your debit card. Today I loaded $2,000 of OneVanilla Visa debit cards on 2 Bluebirds cards at WalMart. Those cards earned me 11,000 points, more than enough for a free round-trip award. I was asked if they were gift cards and repliad that they were Visa debit cards, which is exactly what they say on them.
I buy Visa gift cards from stores like Staples and Office Max to earn 5x the points thanks to cards like the Chase Ink Plus, Chase Ink Bold, and the Chase Ink Cash. The 5x points easily wipes out the $6.95 fee for the $200 Visa gift card. I just use the last 4 digits of the card number as the pin when prompted. With Mastercards from those stores you need to call and set a pin. Plus the WalMart system seems to recognize it as a credit card instead of a debit card. However if you press the cancel button it gives you the option to switch it to debit which will allow you to load it to Bluebird.
Bluebird still gives free paper checks that you can request. Or pay off your credit card bill, mortgage, etc, thanks to free bill payment.
Unless you have a lot of family members (say like this guy) you probably won’t make as many miles as I and many others did back in the mint coin heyday. That’s due to the $5,000 per month funding limit from Vanilla Reload and Walmart debit reloads per card. But it won’t hurt your back either