Vanilla devalues, large denomination MasterCards, and Amex Gift Cards still a deal


Less useful Vanilla

Visa Vanilla Office Depot Gold

Update: Many people have reported that Vanilla Visa gift cards do still work at Walmart when loading in denominations of $49.99 or less.

In the last day or two, reports have poured in from readers telling me that Vanilla Visa gift cards no longer work as debit cards at Walmart registers.  Even people experienced with the “change payment fast” technique have been unable to load Bluebird cards or perform any other transactions at the register requiring debit payments.  My understanding is that this problem is limited to Vanilla brand gift cards (including One Vanilla).  As far as I know, other brands still work.

Speaking of other brands…

Doctor of Credit reports that MetaBank gift cards are available online in denominations up to $1,500.  These could be very useful since the fees as a percent of total can be very low. Travel with Grant offered some important cautions, however:

Some more info as I’ve bought 4 of these cards over the last few months:
Bank of America and Chase cards run as purchases.
Citi and US Bank run as cash advances.
Customer service sucks, took 2 weeks to receive a card to CA and I called to say the card was lost in the mail and they charged me $5 to send a replacement.
I believe you can ACH the funds off the card via PayPal and Bluebird, but they don’t like that.
Personally this card isn’t worth the hassle and wait times to save a few bucks, I’d rather go to CVS and Walmart and do my MS in under 20 minutes than bother with MetaBank.

Amex Gift Card rebates down to 2.5%

Amex gift cards can’t be used as debit cards, but they can be better than free when shopping through online portals.  For a while recently, we’ve been spoiled with 4X points, or 4% cash back, but in the past few days the top rates dropped first to 3% then to 2.5% (via BeFrugal).  Mileage portals have dropped to only 1 mile per dollar.  I wouldn’t go for the 1X options, but at 2.5% cash back I’m still a buyer.  I’m not as enthusiastic of a buyer as before, but I need to get my money’s worth after signing up for a year of free shipping Smile.  Please also see: Everything you ever wanted to know about Amex gift cards.

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