Over the weekend, I shared a tweet of a CVS memo that detailed that several prepaid products, including Vanilla Reload cards, would become cash-only items starting March 31st. Many of us drove hastily around our cities over the weekend to stock up for the upcoming month of loads. Today was “D-Day” and I was curious to see when exactly this policy would go into place.
First off – I had always been under the assumption that you were only allowed $5,000 per day, and that the clock was a rolling 24-hour clock. Apparently, I was misinformed – according to this thread, the clock resets at midnight GMT. Currently, that’s 8pm Eastern (or 5pm Pacific for me in L.A.). I successfully tested this out over the weekend, where I was able to buy $5,000 at 3:30pm, then another $5,000 at 5:15pm the same day. That thread also has great crowd-sourced information: it seems the first areas that were hit with the cash-only transition were in the northeast, with reports in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire (the area where CVS is headquartered, coincidentally). However, many others report that they can still buy with credit cards.
This morning, I stopped at a couple of stores and bought less than $1,000 at each — both were willing to take credit cards. I had already “used up” my $5,000 limit the day before.
In the evening, I stopped by several other stores shortly after 5pm Pacific. The first store was willing to sell me the maximum $5,000 and my transaction went through. However, the next three stores all had zero reloads on the racks – this was odd because each was flush with reloads the past few days. I asked a cashier at each store if they had them behind the counter, and each told mainly the same grim tale – the district manager had called and said to take reloads off the shelf until “the system was updated.” I’m guessing this means the transition to cash-only.
I headed down to another store in another city (and hopefully another district) – this store thankfully had reloads on the rack, and I went up to test buying one. The cashier noted that I was allowed to buy up to $5,000 but that starting April 3rd, that store would only accept cash.
It seems like the cash-only policy is regional for now, but spreading. There are other ways to manufacture spending, but Vanilla Reloads are among the easiest. The key exclusion from the memo were Visa and Mastercard gift cards which have PIN functionality, but those take a little more legwork to unload (which is fine if you don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease).
Frankly, I’m quite surprised CVS allowed this to go on for as long as it did: I recall first buying Vanilla Reloads at CVS in November 2012, almost 18 months ago. Back then, you could only buy $1,000 at a time, but the rules changed to $5,000 in 24 hours last summer. I thought CVS would only be a temporary reload-fix after Office Depot stopped accepting credit cards after their brief eight-ish month spell (I even made a somewhat popular video that same day, mostly because I was bored and someone on twitter said someone should do a video):
All good things eventually come to an end. Time to look for the next opportunity (or even take a break and use up all the points we’ve accumulated!).