9 ways to cope without reload cards


Yesterday, via my Quick Deals page, I published a warning that our favorite three letter drugstore may stop allowing credit card purchases of reload cards.  If the rumor is true, we may need to find other ways to manufacture credit card spend in order to meet minimum spend requirements for new signup offers, get big-spend bonuses, etc.  Below are my top 8 suggestions, and one catch-all #9…


1) Buy and cash out gift cards with PINs

Visa and MasterCard gift cards allow setting PINs.  In some cases, such as with OneVanilla cards, the PIN is set automatically the first time you use the card as a debit card.  In other cases, the PIN is, by default, the last four digits of the card number.  And, with other cards, it is necessary to call in and set the PIN.  Once you have a PIN for your gift card, it’s possible to use it as a debit card at some locations to buy money orders, pay bills, or reload prepaid cards (such as Bluebird).  You generally cannot use the PIN to get out cash at an ATM.  The trick is to buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards as cheaply as possible (with your credit card), and then find the most convenient and economical option for cashing them out.

2) Use gift cards to pay bills with Evolve Money. UPDATE Evolve Money has shut down services

Evolve Money is an online service that allows you to make many types of bill payments (mortgage, student loan, car payments, etc.) for free.  The best part is that it allows you to pay with Visa and MasterCard gift cards.  So, buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards as cheaply as possible (with your credit card), and then use them to pay bills online.  You can read more about this service here: “Pay bills online with debit and prepaid cards.”

3) Pay friends with Amazon Payments. No longer available

Use Amazon Payments to pay friends or family members, with a credit card, with no fee.  Amazon does limit each person to a maximum of $1000 sent per month.  So, many people setup circles where they pay friend B, and friend B pays friend C, and friend C pays them.  Generally if you pay just one other person back and forth without making a wider circle, you may be at risk of getting your Amazon Payments account shut down (but that won’t affect your regular Amazon account).

4) Load Serve

If you have a Serve account, you can load it up to $1000 per month ($200 per day) with a credit card (and another $1000 per month with a debit card, but this post is about increasing credit card spend so I won’t mention that).

5) Make Kiva loans

Kiva is a nonprofit organization that provides micro-loans to enterprising individuals around the world so that they may earn their own way out of poverty. One great feature of Kiva is that you can make loans using your credit card. Kiva currently reports that 98.94% of loans have paid back, but its possible to do much better than that by avoiding risky loans. For details, please see: “Minimum spend requirements? Kivalens to the rescue.”

6) Pay your taxes

If you need to pay end of year tax payments or ongoing estimated tax payments, you can pay with a credit card.  The IRS maintains a web page (here) that shows all of the services you can use to pay by credit card, and it lists the current fees.  Currently, the lowest credit card fees are 1.87% via PayTaxUSA and ValueTaxPayment.com (they’re both the same company: WorldPay US).  Due to the fees, paying taxes with your credit card only makes sense if you need the extra spend to meet minimum spend requirements, reach a big-spend threshold, or if your credit card rewards are worth more than 1.87 cents per dollar.  See more here: Buying miles and points and cash from the IRS with credit cards.

7) Load and unload the American Express for Target card. UPDATE 1/12/2016: The American Express for Target card has been discontinued

The American Express for Target card is interesting because you can reload it at Target with a credit card (and the reload counts as a purchase).  The downsides?  It has higher fees than Bluebird or Serve, it has no bill pay feature, and it’s not a debit card.  The best way to unload money from this card is to find a no-fee or very low cost ATM.  For complete details, see “Using the Target Amex card to run up spend.”

8) Buy and sell

This option is not for the faint of heart.  The idea is to to use your credit card to buy things that can be easily resold.  The goal, generally, is to earn lots of points while breaking even on spend (or even earning a profit).  There are a lot of risks in doing this and likely tax implications as well.  If you do decide to try this out, I recommend starting small and with items that you understand well.  Make sure to take advantage of the best sales, shopping portal offers, etc.  If you’re interested in learning more, please see “Tips for selling on Amazon.”

9) Miscellaneous others

There are many other approaches beyond the options I listed above.  Some people like to buy and return items, but that crosses the line for me (see “Drawing the line”).  Some people increase spend by opening new bank accounts that can be funded by credit card.  Riskier approaches include gambling online and investing online (more here).  Do you have any favorite approaches that I missed in this list?  Please comment below.

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Harry @ PF Pro

FYI, I just wrote an updated article on my experience using Loyal3 to MS $8,000 now that they lowered their cc purchase limit: http://yourpfpro.com/racking-miles-points-loyal3/

[…] 9 ways to cope without reload cards […]


Can I use Amex gift cards to buy VR cards at CVS? Will CVS consider it as a credit card transaction and decline or is it considered as a debit card transaction?


You can do that until your CVS stores go cash-only. It doesn’t look like they’ll accept debit cards anyway, but even if they did, Amex gift cards can only be used as credit cards.


Hi, just visited 2 CVS in the Houston area suburbs today and was able to purchase VR cards using CC. The cashier however, pointed out that by 04/03/14, they will only accept cash or debit on all re-loadable cards.


I’m not sure why you would post about specific ways to use GCs with Pins. That is the last reliable method to load BB and earn points. In addition, it has another great use that you mentioned in this post. We’re in a bunch of trouble if all stores start checking cards and looking for our names to be on them. In summary, I understand you have money to make. But, please consider the viability of a deal if beginning MSers start arguing with cashiers or showing their cards to the folks processing the transactions.


Maybe you should get a job so that you don’t have to depend on gift cards so much.


Just visited a CVS in the suburbs of DC (Gaithersburg) for the second time today for another 5K (after GMT reset). Without prompting, the cashier told me “this is coming to an end!” as if he was ending my evil reign (no joke). I tried not to laugh, played dumb and asked him what he was referring to, and he showed me the memo saying the reload cards (all the ones from the original memo) would be cash only as of 4/4. Not sure if it meant that 4/4 would be the last day or 4/3.

I tried to take a picture but he wouldnt allow it without his managers permission. When his manager came around I asked him, and he wouldnt even let me see the memo (but the clerk already had). In any case, unfortunately, this is no april fools joke.

The game changes, but the game goes on.


@Mario When I was traveling in South Florida I had very good luck buying them at a Circle K gas with a 5X Freedom card……..mid February……..I recommend going when they are not busy as it will stress them and you out if you back up the gas pay line as they have to activate the cards on a different machine than a cash register……..but they had the cards and they took CC so if I lived there I think I would bookmark their site locator……………..


Did the charge get coded as “gas”?


It did for me on my Freedom

Ben W

Just to add to the info, tried our favorite 3 letter store for VR in South Jersey a week ago and they accepted credit cards, went to 3 stores today and all said cash only… its all over folks and I think we know why…


The damn bloggers, right?


I’m in Florida and yesterday had mixed results. One store accepted a $500 cc purchase with no problem while the other asked for an alternate form of payment (machine rejected, not the store clerk). Anyone know of other places to buy with a cc?


Sane way to deal with the uncertain times………..So the only option to keep bluebird alive is with a debit card/gift card daily download of $100 per day/$1000 per month…..????That will get old real quick….
Have you posted a guide to paying taxes with gift/debit cards or is it just credit card/Suntrust debit that works?


You can’t even use gift cards for loading, just real debit cards. You can set it up once per month to automatically load $100 per day, so it’s not too horrible. Yes, I’ve written about paying taxes many times. I’ll do a summary post soon.


Maybe this sudden splash of publicity is an advertising campaign for Vanilla Network. I’m sure they figured by now where their income comes from. 😀

Burt K

Why has this ended? Idiots. Hoards of idiot zombie users who folioed the circles and arrows, and do stupid things like try to by $10,000 worth at a time, and when they run into trouble, they call the corporate headquarters asking why they can’t get a free trip to Tahiti. Idiot bloggers who only care about making a quick buck off the rubes’ credit card applications and explain ever single step in such excruciating detail that a dead rock could follow the instructions.

So now you idiots have killed this. Every idiot blogger is now explaining how to kill the next deal to all the simpletons who aparently can’t figure out how to put on their underpants in the morning without circles and arrows providing all the instructions.

What a shock it will be when then next item on your list gets killed off. Gee, thanks for that.

Bloggers ruin everything.


LOL, LOL, LOL, Burt K, this world is a terrible place, you should end it all now, I heard that in the afterworld there are no bloggers and you can MS for free everywhere!! check it out Burt…..


Oh shut up!


If you can find AMEX gifts cards with no fee, what would be the best way to liquidate them?

[…] Link – Frequent Miler […]


Blue Bird: has this function lost its usefulness? I just got my card in the mail today, ordered it when VR was still an option. Now I’ve got an account I don’t know what to do with. Someone mentioned going to Wal Mart? And dealing with employees who think you are a criminal?


So far the idea of CVS going cash-only is still just a rumor. Some people in a few parts of the country (around Boston and somewhere in Florida) have said that their stores that used to allow credit no longer do, but many others have been successful today buying VR. So, don’t worry yet! If it does go cash only, Bluebird is still useful if you have a nice Walmart nearby. Otherwise, not so much.


I buy $500 gift cards all the time, take them to Walmart and load them onto my BB. I usually go to whatever cashier is free and load up $1K.

As for “dealing with employees who think you are a criminal” I’ve never had a cashier or customer support person even blink. Some ask me if I like my bluebird card and I always answer that it’s great and they are happy.


So is it correct that if you load the Target card with my new Citi AA Executive card it will be treated like a cash advance? Great timing. Trying to figure out how to meet my $10,000 spend.


I’ve never tried, but I’d be very surprised if Citi treated it as a cash advance. I think you’re safe

[…] and even come up with new ones. As always, The Frequent Miler is on top of this and posted his suggestions for a post-Vanilla Reload world of manufactured […]

Robert Hanson

To answer my own question, now that I am more familiar with this site:

Go to the top of the page, look for Gift Cards, there are numerous links for this topic.


I think readers would greatly benefit from an update of this post:


The big problem with buying gift cards, instead of Vanilla Reloads, is getting your money out of the card. There are tons of suggestions to do this at Walmart with a Bluebird — either through their special ATM machines (if your store has one) or at a cashier (or buying money orders). But this seems very YMMV. And a real PITA, given that you have to deal with ill-trained Walmart employees at a $1000 daily limit. Alternatives to cashing out at Walmart would be extremely useful.


Thanks — that IS a helpful article!

I’m particularly intrigued with the Bill Pay feature at Walmart. I still wouldn’t be very happy about stopping by my Walmart, but I can see myself doing Bill Pay more than I could see myself buying lots of money orders. If CVS VR is truly dead, I’m going to try unloading gift cards at Walmart.


Walmart virtual billpay?

Jerry Mandel

1. No $1,000 daily limit at Walmart. 3 transactions is the limit. Max money order is $1,000. 2. I have bought three $1,000 money orders in ONE transaction. Six $500 debit card swipes to meet a $3,000 min spend. Deposit into bank or credit union. 3. Pay utilities and cable in advance for min spend. No fees and you get it back from no monthly payments for many months. If you like, you can split the advance payments among several. 4. Amazon, Blue bird, and Serve are silly. Pay bills online from your bank or credit union. Write very few checks.


VR can still be purchased by CC in Northern VA area.
Just tested and loaded $500.

Robert Hanson

What Jerry asked…especially since our local pharmacy may no longer be available.


About paying your taxes with a credit card, will Citibank charge a cash advance fee if I use my new Citii executive? Thanks for your blog.


Even Citi cards should be safe for paying for taxes.


Too expensive!


# 1 you mention

The trick is to buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards as cheaply as possible (with your credit card), and then find the most convenient and economical option for cashing them out.

In your opinion what / where is the most convenient and best option for cashing them out ??


I love the convenience of Evolve Money, but that doesn’t work for everyone and is limited to bills you have to pay. Next best is probably Walmart billpay / buy money orders

Harry @ PF Pro

Thanks for the mention FM.

I’ve always gotten by just fine using 3 AP accounts(2k/month) in addition to normal spend. But I tried out a CVS a few weeks a go and bought 1k in VR’s with no problem. Loaded to my BB when I got home and paid my cc bill – couldn’t have been easier.

I much prefer methods like these that are 1-2 steps max. I hated going to Walmart and loading my BB with a prepaid card, always had problems with that. One option that you mentioned that I think more people could/should do is opening a bank account and funding with a CC. I just wrote about Santander bank who has a completely free checking account and they actually pay you $20/month for a couple DD’s and bay pills/month. I loaded $500 and just got my first $20/month so double bonus 🙂


Thanks for the Santander tip!


Wow, you can open a checking account with a whopping $500 charged to your credit card. Absolutely not worth the effort. I was hoping this would be like back when you could charge $25,000 to your credit card when opening a Citi checking account!

Harry @ PF Pro

Well the Santander deal nets you $20/month too indefinitely so think of the ability to churn the $500 as a bonus 🙂

Life is not all about instant gratification, sometimes you need to think about the long run – that is the PF side in me talking haha.


I have to admit I had to go to their website in order to decode “a couple DD’s and bay pills/month”.

It sounded like the investment was for a bank funding some bizarre porn/drug thing…

The Other Carl

FM, everyone is asking the question you pose here: How can we live without VR? But I’ve got a different question: Last week I saw the biggest stacks of VRs in my local shop that I’d ever seen, and my wife thought I was nuts for walking right by the display without stopping. “I’ve got enough to cover the next couple of months,” I told her, “so I don’t want to over-indulge and tie up cash.” Well, with all the worrisome reports over the weekend, what do you think I did? I stocked up on more cards. Which leads to my question: How can we live with (or liquidate) a surplus of VRs? All I’ve done to date is BB, and the rest of the options seem like a blur of shutdown reports. I’m sure I’m not the only one in this position. Any thoughts on viable and reliable places to apply my VRs will be appreciated!


Great suggestion. I’ll think about a follow up post on that topic. In the meantime, consider that getting shutdown with NetSpend, MyVanilla, etc is not so bad as long as you either: 1) don’t have money in the account when shutdown; or 2) don’t mind waiting quite a while for a check.


You can load Nationwide Buxx spending cards with a CC and cash out at ATMs, but there are reload and ATM fees involved.


Yep, good catch! Forgot to mention that one.


@Dave, if you link a prepaid like OneVanilla to you Serve account for debit or credit online loading, you WILL get your Serve card shutdown. Don’t do it…


FM, when using Visa gift cards to load Serve online, does that count as debit or credit?


You can’t use gift cards to load Serve online. Use a real credit card and/or a real debit card in your name.



Why would it matter if a blogger or anyone else inquires with a CVS manager about the policy change? Wouldn’t the system deny the transaction with a credit card, regardless if a store’s management ever read the memo?


You left out Bluebird next to Serve. I’m so sick of all the rookie bloggers out there going to different CVS showing the memos and asking whether they’re changing the policy to cash. By confirming, they’re raising awareness to all the managers who may wonder if they missed the memo and whether it makes sense for them to move to cash only as well. This is not a smart move at all.


I mentioned Bluebird in option 1. Since you can’t load Bluebird with a credit card (only debit card) online, I didn’t think it deserved to be on its own in this post.


And I only got into the game a week ago 🙁