Last week was a tough week for those that manufacture spend on a regular basis. Target’s Prepaid Redcard, otherwise known as Redbird, became obsolete literally overnight. That doesn’t mean that manufactured spend as we know it has ended.
As I pointed out in one of my previous posts, I actually preferred Bluebird over Redbird for many reasons, and I suspect anyone else that manufactures over $10K a month would as well. Since Redbird reigned supreme for the last 6+ months, I figured now would be a good time for a refresher on how to manufacture spend using Bluebird along with some updates you may have missed.
In case it isn’t clear, I’ll say it here: never tell the Walmart employee that you’re using a gift card – always say it’s debit card (which it technically is).
Bluebird Load Limits and Gift Card Limitations
The first thing you need to know is how much you can load onto the card, when you can do it, and an optimal strategy for doing so. The gist of it is this: You can load up to $5K per calendar month and $2.5K per day. Walmart resets the clock at midnight Eastern.
It’s well known that Bluebird can not be loaded with a credit card, but instead requires a PIN-enabled debit (gift) card to load. Unfortunately there’s an additional limitation that came into play over the last year: You cannot use a Vanilla-branded gift card to load Bluebird or buy money orders at Walmart anymore.
I know Vanilla products have been a staple (no pun intended) of the manufactured spend world, but they won’t work for this process. Instead you’ll have to search for basically any other gift card that isn’t Vanilla-branded. I recommend using Visa gift cards because they’re generally easier to use. These are sold at nearly all big chain grocery stores (up to $500 for a $5.95 fee) and at office supply stores like Staples, OfficeMax, and Office Depot (up to $200 for a $6.95 fee). You may have other locations (gas stations, convenience stores, etc.) that will also sell these cards.
Lucky for us, many of these stores fit into credit card bonus categories for extra points or cash back to help offset the fees.
How to Load Bluebird with Gift Cards
Grab your Bluebird card and unwrap your prepaid card(s), then head to Walmart. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a Walmart nearby that has a working MoneyCenter Express machine. If your store has one of these then consider yourself fortunate.
If you do have the machine you simply need to follow the on-screen instructions to load your Bluebird card. If you purchased a $500 gift card you’ll load all $500 onto Bluebird. The PIN is just the last four digits of the gift card. Easy.
If you don’t have the machine you’ll need to deal with a human. Go to any register at the front of the store, hand the cashier your Bluebird card and say “Hi! I’d like to load my Bluebird card with $500 using my debit card.” They will swipe your Bluebird card on their register, then direct you to the signature pad to confirm the amount, swipe your gift card, and enter your PIN. They’ll print out a receipt for you and you’re done.
Maximizing Your Time
Loading $500 at a time isn’t very efficient. Scaling up isn’t hard to do, but it will take more than a few minutes out of your day.
If your Walmart has a working MoneyCenter machine then you can/should load $1,999.99 in a row. That means if you’re using $500 gift cards, you’ll want to use 3 gift cards in 3 separate transactions in a row for $500 each. Then on the 4th one, load only $499.99, leaving a penny on the gift card. The reason for this is that when $2K is loaded via the machine within a certain time period, it requires a Manager override to complete the final transaction. Remember…avoid people, especially Managers.
Once you’ve loaded that fourth card, take note of the time. Wait 10 full minutes, then return to the machine and load your final $500 gift card. After this fifth gift card, you’ll have loaded $2,499.99 out of the daily limit of $2,500. If you have other Bluebird cards then continue to load them, but again remember to stop at $1,999.99 per loading session.
Without the machine, you’ll simply have to do 5 separate transactions at registers with the cashiers. You can go to 5 different cashiers and ask to load $500 each (there’s no Manager approval needed here – you can do all 5 in a row with cashiers), or you can try to save time by doing multiple per cashier. Simply say “Hi! I’d like to load my Bluebird card for $500 using my debit card. And if you don’t mind, I’d actually like to load it a second time with a different debit card.” The cashier will have to do two separate transactions, but it should be pretty easy.
Do that twice plus a third cashier for a single load of $500 and you’ve hit your $2.5K daily limit. Come back another day to do repeat the process and you’ve already hit your $5K monthly Bluebird limit. Easy as pie.
Okay, so maybe these aren’t all that advanced, but these are still some useful tips.
If you really hate Walmart, hopefully you can find a 24 hour one nearby or one that closes after the midnight Eastern reset time. Get there 30 minutes before Walmart considers it a new day (on the West Coast that means getting there at 8:30pm), and load your first $2,500 before the clock hits midnight on the East Coast. You’re good for another $2,500 in loads when the new day starts, so repeat the process with another $2,500. This obviously works easiest if you have a working machine.
Occasionally an employee may ask to see your debit card. A common “trick” that many of us use is what I refer to as the “ninja tactic” that involves some sleight of hand. Essentially, I always hold my gift card and my actual debit card. On the very rare occasion when I’m asked to see the card I just hand them my real debit card. They confirm it’s a legitimate debit card and hand it back, then ask you to swipe at the terminal. Quickly and discreetly switch back to your gift card and swipe that one instead (pretend to drop it on the floor if necessary). It’ll be so quick and silent that you’ll feel like a real ninja! Just don’t wear a mask or carry a sword while doing it.
What About Money Orders?
I’ve stopped buying money orders at Walmart for several reasons. First of all, they’re just too complicated for the average Walmart employee. Second, buying a money order from Walmart costs 70 cents, which is exactly 70 cents more than it costs to load Bluebird. Third, MoneyCenter employees have increasingly started to ask to see the debit cards being used and even the “ninja” tactic above becomes difficult when you’re using 2+ gift cards per transaction.
All that to say that money orders can still be done, but I don’t bother when Bluebird is a perfectly useful and cheaper option.
Yes, Redbird is dead. But Bluebird lives and remains a go-to of mine to manufacture spend. If you know the correct gift cards to buy and the correct process to go through, you can easily figure out how to maximize your time at Walmart.
Remember, practice makes perfect, but always start slow if you’re doing this for the first couple of times. Start with just a single gift card the first time. Then use two, and so on. This applies particularly to transactions that involve another human.