The latest and greatest with gift cards is the news by the Federal Reserve that all gift cards will eventually come with a PIN.
Why this matters
Manufacturing spending is a great help in meeting minimum spend requirements, achieving hefty spending bonuses, earning miles on purchases you couldn’t otherwise, and buying miles on the cheap. Some people like to dabble with cash back and gift cards, but this blog focuses on miles/points so I won’t be covering that. Also, I don’t dive into money orders, because I use Bluebird to accomplish the same tasks. I feel like money orders are so 1980, but maybe I’m missing something.
Moving on…Right now, the best tool in the manufactured spending toolbox is Bluebird. And the best way to fund Bluebird is through Vanilla Reload cards. However, Vanilla Reload cards aren’t available everywhere.
But now that some gift cards have a PIN, you can load your Bluebird with them. This is a big opportunity for those who don’t have access to Vanilla Reloads, and it also opens up the ability to capitalize on grocery store category bonuses. And, sometimes you can double dip if your local grocery store gives you gas points for purchasing gift cards (a frequent promo).
This may also bring back the 5x earning potential at office supply stores, but it will take more work since $200 is the largest increment that you can buy in gift cards at Office Depot, Staples, and Office Max. This increases the cost, since each card has an activation fee. But you don’t have to go buy Vanilla Reloads anymore with your Visa gifts like I was doing after Office Depot quit selling Vanilla Reloads directly. That was a sad day.
- You can’t withdraw money from an ATM with your gift card if it has a PIN.
- Not all Mastercard and Visa gift cards have PINs, so it’s best to test the waters before diving in deep.
- It appears some people have had trouble with Mastercard gift cards and PINs, so you may want to go with Visa.
My experience from this weekend
This weekend, I ran up to my local grocery store, Randalls (a Safeway chain), to test the PIN gift cards out. I didn’t find any US Bank issued Visa gift cards, but I did find some MetaBank Visa gift cards. I bought a $100 gift card just to test it out. Randalls had up to $500 gift card options to choose from. The activation fee was $5.95 for the $100 or the $500 increment. It’s obvious what increment you would ideally want to buy, but I was testing.
When I got back to the car, I inspected the receipt and there was nothing about setting up a PIN (there is for gift cards issued by US Bank), so I googled how to assign a PIN. I came to a Hack My Trip blog post with a phone # to call that he got from DansDeal. I dialed the number (888-524-1283) and followed the initial steps, then pushed 5 and set up my PIN. Took 2 minutes, tops.
After that, I drove to Wal-Mart. Something I don’t like doing, but I’ll do anything for miles & points. [You can load your Bluebird online with a DEBIT card, but only $100 a day, and there's a $2 fee. Remember, there's also a $5,000 monthly limit when loading Bluebird (this includes Vanilla Reloads).]
At Wal-Mart, I went to the Money Center Express automated machine which didn’t have a wait or any people to deal with.
I went through the steps and within a minute, I had my Bluebird funded with the Metabank Visa Gift card. Cha-Ching. Next time I buy a gift card from a grocery store, it will be for the largest ($500) increment possible and I will use a card that I’m trying to meet a minimum spend bonus on, or a card that earns multiple points for a grocery store, gas station, or office supply store purchase.
I haven’t been to an office supply store yet, but I’m intrigued because you can still earn 5x points with certain cards. But again, the largest increment you can buy is for $200. So you would have to work harder and pay more fees, but you would be earning valuable Ultimate Rewards points. Office Max sells Metabank gift cards in $200 increments with an activation fee of $6.95. One $200 gift card would earn you 1,035 UR points that equals .671 cost per point. Not too shabby in mind.
When buying gift cards, don’t overdo it. It’s important that you stay within your means and base your purchases off of your income, credit limit, etc. This will look different for each of us.
Also, not all gift cards have PINs yet. For example, the Vanilla gift cards don’t currently, but will soon. Gift cards issued by US Bank and Metabank can be assigned a PIN. You can see which bank is backing a gift card by looking at the back of the card.
This news doesn’t actually change my manufactured spending habits yet. I can find Vanilla Reloads in my area without any issues. Sorry, not bragging. However, if I’m not meeting a minimum spend requirement, I will be checking out the 5x earning potential office supply stores gets me. That’s where the value is for me.
I hope this helps, and please comment with your experiences down below.
— Noob MasterRead More
Everywhere I turn, it’s “Bluebird is the greatest,” or “Bluebird is life changing,” or “Bluebird helped deliver my baby.” Every blog, forum, TV commercial, and news outlet is talking about Wal-Mart’s new American Express online checking account with Prepaid card.
American Express keeps sending me emails about it, and it’s even on the home page when I sign into my Amex account. It’s everywhere!
What is Bluebird?
Honestly, it’s starting to annoy the h@#$ out of me because it’s everywhere. But, that’s probably not the right posture. The truth is, there is some crazy value to be had with Bluebird. Like “whoa” value.
American Express has teamed with Wal-Mart (yes, Wally World) to launch a new checking and debit alternative. Here are a few perks of Bluebird:
- no surcharge fees at ATM’s in network after Nov. 4 there’s a $2 fee
- pay bills online or with your smartphone.
- deposit checks with your smartphone
- provide sub-accounts for family & others
- fraud protection
- online mobile account management
More specifically, you can pay your mortgage, rent, pay person to person, college tuitions, credit card bills, and utilities! I’ve posted in the past about several ways to use third parties for these services, but there’s often a fee to do so- not with Bluebird. Simply put, Bluebird is a game changer.
Using Bluebird for these bills and payments can help you tremendously in meeting minimum spend requirements and earning miles/points where you wouldn’t otherwise.
Alright, so there are a lot of benefits here, but how can us miles addicts capitalize on Bluebird? I’ll just get into the main way today, and where the majority of the value is (IMHO) with American Express’ & Wal-Mart’s Bluebird.
The value for us miles addicts is found in how we LOAD or FUND Bluebird. First, you can load Bluebird with debit cards, which is kinda cool, since there are some debit cards that earn you miles. But, I’m not really interested in that. Kinda like how I’m not interested in any movies starring Richard Gere.
For those of you starting to get excited, slow down. You CAN’T load Bluebird with a rewards credit card. HOWEVER, you CAN load Bluebird with Vanilla Prepaid Reload cards, which you can buy with rewards credit cards. This is the real rewards perk of Bluebird.
Warning: I wouldn’t abuse this. I’m personally sticking to no more than $2,000 a month on my Ink Bold. But I have an Ink Plus too, so I will be using it to purchase Vanilla prepaid reloads as well. Replenishing my Ultimate Rewards points feels nice. So nice.
Also, it’s important that 5x purchases aren’t the only transactions that you use your Ink cards for. Also also, I always buy some candy with the Vanilla cards, so that any red flag dollar amount is avoided. I like my relationship with Chase, and I don’t want them to close my Ink accounts.
You can also buy Vanilla reloads with other rewards cards besides the Ink Bold or Ink Plus, but obviously you won’t get the 5x points per $1. But this could be a great way to help meet minimum spend requirements on other cards, or even category bonuses. However, Vanilla & Bluebird is only all up in my face because of the 5x earning potential with the Ink cards.
You can load Bluebird with $5,000 worth of Vanillas a month, and the daily max is $1,000.
Setting up Bluebird
Getting started with Bluebird is easy. Just go to your nearest Wal-Mart and and find the Bluebird stand. Trust me, you can’t miss it. You can buy your $5 starter kit there, fund it with $$ or a rewards debit card, and then go home and set up your account. After you set up your account, you will be then be mailed your permanent Bluebird card.
You can also to Bluebird.com and register.
Once you receive your permanent Bluebird card in the mail, you can fund it with your Vanilla reloads by going to Vanilla.com. After your Bluebird account is loaded, then you can pay your credit card bill, pay your mortgage, pay a person (who has Bluebird), utilities, go to the ATM (in moderation), and use it for daily spending. Boom goes the dynamite.
Paying these bills and earning points (and 5x points, at that) is incredible! Who doesn’t like earning points for paying off their credit card, or paying their mortgage? All without a fee. Cray cray.
Applying for rewards credit cards is still the quickest and easiest way to accumulate miles, but Bluebird adds a whole different dimension. Bluebird also makes meeting those increasing minimum spends easier.
The biggest reason Bluebird is blowing minds is that it lets you fund it with Vanilla reloads. And as long as you can buy Vanilla cards at Office depot with your Ink Bold and Ink Plus, it’s a tremendous perk. The kind of perk that doesn’t come around too often, so be smart about it, and do it in moderation.
Again, my plan is no more than $2,000 a month on my Ink Plus and Ink Bold. That’s 10,000 Ultimate Rewards points each month on each card and 240,000 additional points a year. Killer.
Any other funding I do will be with credit cards that I’m trying to meet minimum spend requirements on.
In the end, Bluebird is a game changer, but don’t get greedy, and stay within your means.
— Noob MasterRead More
Last week I blogged about earning miles on your mortgage with ChargeSmart. And it was magical. Not wanting to leave all you renters out- here’s how you can earn precious miles on your Rent.
For the record, I don’t rent, so I haven’t used this service personally. Nor have I ever seen the musical or the movie. There you have it. It’s out there now.
Just like with ChargeSmart, there is a fee (2.95%) to use William Paid. Who is this William, anyway?
This means I wouldn’t use this service every month to just rack up the miles, but this is a very helpful tool to help achieve minimum spending requirements, so you can get the big sign-up bonuses on cards, and in some cases, get more cards.
Here’s how to use to William Paid to pay your Rent.
1. Sign Up
After entering your email address, you will be sent a link via email to confirm your email. After confirming, you will then proceed to fill out the rest of the basic enrollment info. This is where you choose a password, enter your rent amount, payment due date, and months left on your lease.
2. Schedule or Make Payment
3. Verify Identity
After entering in my personal info, I was prompted to answer 3 security questions. No hard pull on my credit was done. Don’t worry.
4. Schedule Payment
5. Enter Landlord’s Info or Sublease Info
6. Enter Credit Card Info
The great thing about William Paid is that you can use Amex. You can’t with ChargeSmart. Of course, you can still use Visa, Discover, and Mastercard.
7. Confirm and Fees
Throughout the process, you will see options for William Paid to report your payment to the credit bureaus. Not only do they want to charge you for this, but who knows if it will actually help your credit. I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt it, especially if you don’t have any credit history, but I’m guessing you do if you’re paying your rent with a rewards credit card.
A cool feature of William Paid is that you can split up your payments on two different rewards cards. Nice.
You can cancel anytime, but you must call in or email. Annoying.
I feel the same way about William Paid as I do about ChargeSmart. It’s a great tool to use when meeting minimum spends, but I wouldn’t do it every month just for the sake of miles. The 2.95% fee makes it a hard pill to swallow on a monthly basis for me.
However, by being able to acquire more miles through rewards cards sign-up bonuses, it’s a great benefit. That’s where the value is. I can now afford to sign up for more rewards cards, which means more miles, which means more TRAVEL.
— Noob MasterRead More