People seemed to appreciate my last post on a few “experiments” that I ran, so I’ve decided to write about a few more things that I learned while figuring out all this prepaid stuff. You had a short play-by-play last night of this if you happen to follow me on Twitter (which I highly recommend you do).
As recent as my last post on experiments, there were PLENTY of Vanilla Reloads at CVS. Fast forward to this week where I visited 6 different CVSs (in the same general area) and found exactly zero Vanilla Reload cards. With that being said, one Manager said that his system shows 10 in stock but doesn’t know where they are. He also was very helpful in terms of when things are restocked (though it didn’t quite work out that way this last time I went). The lesson is: be friends with the Manager.
There’s only one Walgreen’s that’s nearby me, so I decided to go there after my impressive 0/6 day at CVS. To my shock and amazement, there were 9 Vanilla Reloads! I picked up 6 of them and went straight to the register. The cashier gave me a funny look when I said I wanted $500 on each. When he saw me pull out my credit card, he said “my screen says cash only.” I asked if he’d be willing to try and he said “OK, let’s try one.” He scanned it, added $500, I pressed “accept” on the electronic pad, and then his screen froze. It returned my electronic pad to the accept/reject screen, which I tried again. Nothing.
I’ve read that many people have used Walgreen’s successfully. In my case, the system simply did not allow it despite a willing cashier.
Pavilions (Safeway company)
I picked up the REloadit card from the same Pavilions I went to in my last post, where it didn’t work. The cashier again said cash only, and I asked him if he was willing to try. He said no and kind of made a big deal out of it and called the Manager. She came and I asked if she could just try, and she said “these are the only ones that are cash only.” This store seems to be well-trained in REloadit card policy.
Albertsons (SuperValu company)
I once again tried buying a REloadit from the same Albertsons as last time. The register froze on my last trip but I wasn’t so sure the cashier was competent, so I wanted to try again. I picked up another $950 card, but this time asked to load just $500 (just to change it up from last time). The register froze once again despite a willing cashier.
Bluebird Load Limits
Bluebird’s FAQs state that you can load $5,000 “per month” using Vanilla Reload packs. I put that in quotes because of the activity I’ve noticed in my own account, which doesn’t seem to match up with their FAQ statement. Here’s when and how much I added to my card:
- 10/24: $1K
- 10/25: $1K
- 10/30: $500
- 10/31: $2K
- 11/2: $1K
- 11/9: $1K
- 11/10: $1K
- 11/11: $500
- 11/12: $500
- 11/13: DENIED
Let’s look at the amounts I added here. In calendar month October, I added $4.5K. In calendar month November, I added $4K. I was denied adding anything more on 11/13, which means that it CAN’T be a calendar month rule since I was under the $5K limit. It must be something else.
The only other monthly rule that makes any sense is a rolling 30/31 day period. Based on my previous deposits, that doesn’t make any sense either. In fact all $8.5K of my deposits were made within a 30 day period. I have no idea why I was denied several times.
Update: Points to Point B pointed out in the comments that my 10/31 deposits likely fell into November. This makes sense because it would mean I’ve already loaded $5K in November, thus being denied additional Vanilla deposits. It seems to be a calendar month rule.
When I got denied I decided to add those VRs to my regular Amex Prepaids. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get a hold of any additional VRs for quite some time so I’m unable to try any more.
Bluebird Bank Transfers
I didn’t expect Vanillas to run out or expect to be denied additional deposits, so my account was left a little lower than my next mortgage payment amount. I decided I should just top off my Bluebird account with a direct transfer from my checking account to cover the mortgage payment. When I went to do this, I read a note that said it would take 5 days for my money to appear. That would be cutting it too close for my mortgage payment – I certainly didn’t want to risk a late payment and/or any kind of mark on my credit score. Now I know for next time – deposit early if it’s a checking/savings deposit!
Experiment in progress, but I’m trying to take this one slow based on what I’ve been reading. No offense to The Points Guy, but I don’t think he did enough to warn people of the dangers in his recent post. He’s been using his PayPal account actively for 10 years so he was lucky enough to get a warning. Read the comments and read other posts and you’ll find about 90% of them say to avoid PayPal at all costs. Make sure you have the ability to float money if you’re still going to try this.
Does anyone have anything to add to this? Was your experience trying to load to Bluebird different or the same as mine? I’d love to know about your experiments!