A lot of people seemed to forget about the good old Amex Prepaid cards when Bluebird came along. And for good reason – Bluebird is by far the easiest way to create points for ultra cheap, but it’s not the only way. In fact, there are a couple of ways now, including one that will make you consider the Amex Prepaid card once again.
One of the methods that’s been discussed is PayPal. No, I’m not talking about just loading and then cashing out (although this also works to some extent), but using it to load your Bluebird card. For example, you buy PayPal reloads at CVS, load them to your PayPal account, go to Walmart, and load your Bluebird card for free using the pin-based PayPal debit card. No Vanilla Reloads required, and the PayPal reloads cost the same $3.95 fee as a Vanilla Reload does.
Sure, there’s an extra step or two of having to load PayPal and then load Bluebird at a physical Walmart, but hey…it’s nearly free points! You can’t complain too much when you’re at the very least meeting minimum spend with little effort.
BUT, there’s another way that isn’t discussed very often. I’m not sure why exactly, but in my mind this method is just as useful to meet minimum spend or simply create more points for cheap. I’m talking about Green Dot MoneyPak Reloads from RiteAid.
We’ve all seen the Green Dot cards and MoneyPaks hanging next to the Vanilla Reload cards at CVS and elsewhere. Green Dot is a huge prepaid company and their MoneyPaks can load dozens and dozens of different prepaid cards. Two of the accounts that you can add funds to are PayPal and the Amex Prepaid card.
You’ll recall that the Amex Prepaid card allows you to load $2,500 per month and that each person can have three cards in their name. These cards can be taken to an ATM to withdraw $400 at a time. The first withdrawal is free, but each subsequent withdrawal is $2, plus you always have to pay the ATM owner’s fee. For more info on this card, see Frequent Miler’s One Card to Rule Them All post.
While that sounds like a lot of fees, you’ll be happy to know that at almost every RiteAid I’ve been to recently, Green Dot MoneyPaks are being sold for a promotional $0 fee. That makes this a very attractive option for those of us that either can’t find Vanilla Reload cards or are simply looking to earn more points.
Before I continue, I have to note a somewhat large caveat. It’s not always easy to find a RiteAid that will allow you to use a credit card to purchase these, but it’s not a system/register restriction. I’ve gone to the same store over and over, and some cashiers allow it while others will not. If they allow it, it’s a quick and easy transaction because they don’t even check your ID. Simply swipe, sign, and you’re on your way. But you have to find a cashier that will work with you.
Let’s say your goal was to simply load the maximum monthly amount of $2,500 and withdraw all the cash soon after. How much would that cost? We know that Costco ATMs have a low fee of $1.25, but I’ll use $2 in my example in case you don’t have a Costco nearby.
Say you buy $2,500 worth of MoneyPaks using your SPG card (or any other points-earning card). This earns you 2,500 points. You’ll have to go to the ATM 7 times to withdraw all the cash completely. The first time is free from Amex, but there’s a $2 charge from the ATM. Each subsequent trip to the ATM will cost you a $2 Amex fee + $2 ATM fee.
By the time you withdraw all $2,500, you’ll have spent $26 in Amex and ATM fees. You’ll receive 2,500 SPG points (or Ultimate Rewards Points if using a Sapphire Preferred, Amex points if using a Membership Rewards card, etc.). That means you paid $26/2,500 points = $.0104/point. You paid just over a penny per point. In almost all cases, this is a fantastic value.
Note that the chart above is actually estimating costs on the high end. If I did use the $1.25 Costco ATM fee and didn’t bother to withdraw the last $100 in a separate transaction (you should only ever withdraw $400 at a time to save costs), then the actual cost per point would be $17.50 / 2,400 points = $.0073/point. Well under a penny per point.
Adding Money to Your Card
The process of adding money to your Amex Prepaid card is similar to the Vanilla Reload method. Simply go to MoneyPak.com, enter your card number where it says “Reload a Prepaid Card,” enter the MoneyPak code, enter your zip code, and you’re done. The money should be in your account nearly instantly (I’ve noticed a lag of a few minutes sometimes).
Of course there are some limitations and other annoyances. As I mentioned, you can only do $2,500 per card or $7,500 per person (with the max of 3 cards), per month. I’m sure you could find some willing friends or family members if you really wanted more.
There’s also the fact that this method is much more time consuming than the others. Having to make trips to RiteAid, then trips to the ATM machine to withdraw, then trips to your own bank to deposit…it can get time consuming pretty quick. You’ll have to decide if it’s worth it.
And, of course, there’s the pesky cashiers. Many of them know they’re not supposed to allow credit cards and aren’t even willing to try it (because they know it works). But there are always new employees that don’t know the rules or cashiers that simply don’t care. Find them and your points account will be a lot richer.
My personal recommendation is to use this method when trying to meet minimum spend requirements or achieve another spend requirement (i.e. $30K for BA Travel Together ticket, $10K HHonors Reserve free night certificate, etc.). It’s not easy to scale this one up like you can with Bluebird, but it’s still extremely useful.
- If you find a willing cashier, they don’t check ID. That means you can use a $500 Amex/Visa gift card if you have some laying around still.
- You cannot use more than one card per transaction – RiteAid’s system simply doesn’t allow it (i.e. Can’t use two $500 gift cards to buy $1,000 worth of MoneyPaks in one transaction).
- Avoid the Managers. They know you’re not allowed to buy it with a credit card.
- I recommend using the prepaid cards at least a little so it doesn’t look like you’re simply cycling the money.
- If you hate those silver security strips on Vanilla Reloads, you’ll hate MoneyPaks’ even more. The code is longer.