November 7th, 2013
The naysayers said it wasn’t sustainable, but 13 months later Bluebird from American Express is still going strong.
The Bluebird thread on DDF has over 6,200 posts, the most of any DDF thread.
Bluebird is a checking alternative where you can get free checks, pay your credit card bills, pay your mortgage, etc. You need a social security number to get it but there is no credit check or hard pull.
If your local CVS has Vanilla Reloads loading your Bluebird is easy. You get a $500 Vanilla Reload for $503.95 and load the $500 to your Bluebird online. You can buy up to $5,000 per day.
If you’re going for a signup bonus this is a no-brainer.
But let’s say just using your Starwood card and not trying to meet the $5,000 needed to have a total of 30,000 Starpoints. You are buying 500 Starpoints for $3.95. With the 25% bonus for transferring Starpoints into miles that’s 625 miles. That’s like buying miles for 0.63 cents each.
-You can use 60,000 ANA miles for a round-trip to Israel on United or USAirways without fuel surcharges. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $378 for the 60,000 miles for the round-trip.
-You can use 25,000 Flying Blue miles plus $280 in fuel surcharges for a round-trip to Israel. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $157.50 for the 25,000 miles plus the $280 in surcharges or $437.50 for the round-trip.
-You can use 90,000 ANA miles for a round-trip in business class to Israel on United or USAirways without fuel surcharges. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $567 for the 90,000 miles for the round-trip.
-You can use 90,000 USAirways miles for a round-trip in business class to Asia without fuel surcharges. You can even get a free stopover in Israel for as long as you want along the way. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $567 for the 90,000 miles for the round-trip.
-You can use 135,000 American miles for a round-trip in first class to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific without fuel surcharges. If you did that with Vanilla Reloads it would cost $850.50 for the 135,000 miles for the round-trip. That’s a flight that would normally cost $25,000.
Gift Cards at WalMart:
Yesterday at one of my local WalMarts I was able to load $2,000 onto 2 Bluebird cards using the ATM. Previously I had chosen to load my WalMart Money Card and the machine would require an override to load more than $1,800 within about 30 minutes. When I had used the Bluebird option previously it didn’t work. This time the “load Bluebird” option worked perfectly. Even better, when using this option it had no problem with the $2,000 of back-to-back-to-back loading. Plus it didn’t give me any errors and it seemed to work a lot faster than with the WalMart money card option.
If the ATM machine is broken at your local store be sure to file a complaint with WalMart corporate.
Today some people on DDF reported issues loading using a WalMart cashier so I went back to try that as well. I’m happy to report no issues at all. At customer service last time they asked if it was a gift card and I replied that it was a debit card with a pin, which is the truth. They said it wouldn’t work but of course it did. This time I just went to a regular cashier and loaded it with them without problems. On occasion a regular cashier won’t know how to do it-just tell them to use “70 action code” to process a Bliebird load, they should know what the means.
Gift cards at other stores:
I’m sitting on a nice pile of gift cards and Bluebird has a $1,000 daily load limit at WalMart so I also went to a grocery store to buy a money order. The store charges 58 cents for a $500 money order. WalMart also sells money order and has a billpay option without going through Bluebird, but those are tougher to do thanks to the customer service counter often rejecting gift cards and frowning upon split tender transactions when you use more than one card at a time..
I had no problem splitting the charge using 4 gift cards to get a $500 money order for $500.58. I won’t be depositing it into a checking account with a bank at which I also have credit cards.
Many of these gift cards came from when Chase was still offering free gift cards. But I also have lots of gift cards from Staples and Office Max bought on Ink cards.
A $200 Visa gift card costs $206.95. At Staples you can get an automatic $3 rebate on each card thanks to Plink.
The pin on these gift cards is the last 4 digits of the card number, no need to set anything.
Again, if you’re just trying to reach the spend threshold this is a no-brainer.
But let’s say just using your Ink Plus, Ink Bold, or Ink Cash card and not trying to meet the $5,000 needed to have a total of 55,000 points. Thanks to quintuple points on cable, telecom, and office supplies you get 1,035 points for each card purchased.
You are buying 1,035 points for for $3.95 ($6.95 fee less $3 plink rebate). That’s like buying miles for 0.38 cents each.
-You can use 22,000 points transferred to Hyatt for a $1,500 villa in the Maldives. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $83.60 per night.
-You can use 30,000 points transferred to Korean for a round-trip to Hawaii on Alaska or Hawaiian. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $114 for the round-trip.
-You can use 30,000 points transferred to Southwest for about $570 worth of paid flights. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $114 for those flights.
-You can use 80,000 points transferred to United for a round-trip to Israel. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $304 for the round-trip. (Effective 02/01 this goes up to 85,000 or $323)
-You can use 120,000 points transferred to United for a round-trip business class ticket to Israel. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $456 for the round-trip. (Effective for tickets bought after 01/31 this goes up to 140,000 on United or $532. On partner airlines this goes up to 160,000 or $608.)
-You can use 160,000 points transferred to Korean for a round-trip in Kosmo Suites class to Asia. If you did that with gift cards it would cost $608 for the round-trip. That’s a flight that would normally cost $20,000. Just be sure to enjoy the open bar with $200 bottles of scotch