This post is really needed now that we have, for the most part, very limited access to Vanilla reload cards and load them to Bluebird from home (as talked about in this rookie post). Now, one of the best ways to meet spend on any new travel card is via GCs that is buying Debit Gift Cards (I often will shortcode them as VDGCs in post, that is Visa Debit Gift Cards) that will allow a PIN to be set. Once you have that, and the right kind, you are good to go. Some of them you can set a PIN online while others you have to call the number on the back of the card to get this done. Now for the rest of this post I will hand it over to Lisa!
What do you do if you, for some reason, end up with several hundred, if not thousands of dollars worth of gift cards from say the Kroger or the Officemax black Friday deal where you could buy $200 Mastercard or Visa cards and you’re wondering what to do with them all?! Having obtained a large amount of them ourselves, especially in the Mastercard variety, I was eager to get out to Walmart this week and see how it would currently go loading to Bluebird since I am the one in the family who takes care of that part. There were a couple of interesting things I noticed in the process.
For the Mastercard debit gift cards you have to call to set a PIN for each card. If you have a bunch of them this can take a little while (it drained my phone battery by 6% to get it done). When you go to load them to Bluebird at Walmart you will see the screen first ask you to confirm the amount from the clerk, then it typically blinks twice showing the amount due. Now is the point you swipe your card and you will see the screen change to white with a yellow, on-screen “button” in the bottom middle of the screen with “Change Payment” on it. You will need to press this button, in some places you will not have more than a few seconds to do this, then the screen will give you several payment options. You want to press “Debit” and then it will ask if you want cash back. I press no cash back, and then it asks for the PIN and once that has been entered it proceeds through authorization and approval.
For the Visa debit gift cards you can set the PIN using the website listed on the back of the card. After that the process is pretty much the same up to swiping the card. The difference is after swiping the card it will immediately just ask for the PIN and once that is entered it will process through authorization and approval. You can see why it is an advantage to pick the Visa ones if you can. I have found the ones issued by US Bank and Metabank work the best (it will say on the back of the card who issues them).
So far I have not pressed my Walmart clerks to process more than 5 cards per Bluebird account total at one time as in the past this has been an issue. What would happen is the computer would reject any more than that regardless of the dollar amount total I had run that day, but it was a pain because it would go through all the initial steps, I would see “Approved” on the screen and then the computer would cancel the transaction. I tested this by going back later the same day and running a total of 12 cards to the same Bluebird account for a total deposit that day of $2410 and it worked. The daily limit per Bluebird account is now $2500 and the monthly limit is still $5000. When I attempted to run a 13th card for $200 more it rejected and canceled the transaction.
One thing you want to keep in mind when doing this is that you want to have it go as smoothly and quickly as possible. You can load to Bluebird from the Money Center, the Money Center ATMs or any check out clerk in the store. The check out clerks don’t always know or remember how to do it, so they sometimes have to ask a manager which can lead to more questions. When you approach the clerk you want to just spoon feed them the transaction, so begin by simply telling them you want to add funds to your Bluebird account. They will ask you the amount, so you need to tell them the amount of the first GC, not the total you plan to try on that visit! Once they complete that transaction you simply ask them if you can run another one, and so on until you have loaded all you want to that Bluebird account. You can then say you want to do the same thing with a second Bluebird account and typically since you just did it already, they will not even consider telling you that you can’t. When I load 10 GCs to both of our Bluebird accounts I can be completely finished in under 10 minutes, but that is 10 minutes the rest of the people in line have to wait on me which can lead to the clerk getting flustered. Try to go when they are not likely to be super busy – avoid lunch hour, Fridays, first of the month, or right around 5:00pm when the whole store is always busier. Be polite most important be patient and be sure not to tell them your debit cards are GIFT CARDS!
When using the Money Center ATM, or “KATE” there are a few tips to consider there as well. Most of them will “talk” you through the transaction. I noticed that there was a headphone jack, for those hearing impaired, so I thought I would try plugging in a set of earbuds to attempt to “mute” my transactions. The minute I plugged them in, however, all the buttons on the screen grayed out and I could not proceed with a transaction. You can find which Walmart locations have these ATMs at walmart.com but make sure before you use it that it is an actual KATE machine. Almost all of them have an ATM of some sort, but not all of those are KATE or Money Center machines. If your closest store is anything like mine, the machine is broken more often than it is operational, but when it is working it is preferable to going to a clerk because there is seldom a line of people waiting to use it. I have more commonly had issues in the past with the machine canceling out my transaction before I had reached my daily dollar limit for too many similar, therefore questionable, transactions. I have tested this now and found that I could successfully load 12 debit cards in a row to the same Bluebird account with no problem. When I then attempted to load the 6th card to the second Bluebird account the machine locked and gave me a compliance issue message. The Walmart clerk then told me to just go to customer service and they could override it for me. As there was a huge line there, I opted to skip that step. One more benefit of using the machine is that when it asks you for payment to load funds the options are cash or debit, so it makes no difference if your debit is a visa or mastercard variety. When you press debit it asks you to swipe your card and then it asks for the pin, then if you want cash back and then to confirm the amount. Lastly just for reference, it took me 24 minutes to load 17 cards to 2 accounts.
Thanks Lisa for this update and your work. There are so many points to be had if we are willing to take a little time to make them. BTW we then use our Bluebird for a number of things. We pay our mortgage payment, our taxes and other things that we cannot use a travel card to earn MORE points with. Yes you can, and many do, simply pay your credit card direct from Bluebird. For no good reason other than taking a very cautious approach I empty the balance each month by paying to a line of credit we have.
Also, depending on your local store, buying the custom AMEX gift cards starting at say BeFrugal or TopCashBack, with your name on them (be sure to sign back of card) and then using them to purchase your VDGCs is a nice way to lower your cost even more. Either way, please take the time to utilize this simple way to meet spend on your latest round of travel cards or, as Delta flyers, to help meet your yearly goal of $25,000 in spend to earn MQD exempt status!- René
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