If you haven’t heard of Bluebird, it’s all the rage these days in the credit card churning-sphere. Bluebird is a service offered by American Express that allows you to load your card with debit, cash, checks or even direct deposit. Essentially, it’s an all in one card for those without a bank account or those that need to hit spend requirements for their latest round of credit card applications. The best part about Bluebird is that you can use it to pay credit card bills, utility bills, and even your rent or mortgage. Normally you can only pay for these types of items with a bank account so Bluebird can be very handy if you need to spend a lot of money.
The only tricky part with Bluebird is loading the account since if you load with cash or check you won’t get any bonus points. Instead, you’ll have to find Vanilla Reload Cards or prepaid debit cards with a PIN. A lot of stores are starting to crack down on buying Vanilla Reload Cards with credit card so these are getting tougher and tougher to find. You used to be able to go into Staples and buy $500 prepaid gift cards with a Chase Ink/Bold card for a $5 fee(1%) and get 5% back in Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Those were the days! Staples has stopped selling them and if you can even find one at a Walgreens or similar type store you’ll still have to pay the $5 fee and I hate fees.
Instead, I usually look for sales on prepaid gift cards to load my Bluebird. A lot of stores like Staples, Safeway/Vons, Best Buy and other chains have promotions from time to time where they’ll give you $10-$20 off the purchase of a prepaid gift card. When they do, I usually stock up on them using whatever credit card I’m trying to hit the spending requirement for at the time.
Straight to the Source
A lot of times, the credit card manufacturers themselves will have discounts on gift cards. Amex runs promotions from time to time on their gift cards and Chase is currently selling gift cards for no fee(dead as of 3/8/14). You’ll want to be careful though with buying from the source since these companies have been known to shut down accounts for suspicious activity. So if you decide to buy gift cards from them, make sure that you have lots of other regular spending and you stay below their monthly limits($2,600/month for Chase). I’d actually spend about 50-70% of their limits just to be safe.
Amex also has sales on prepaid gift cards from time to time so keep your eye out.
Loading Bluebird at Walmart
In order to load your Bluebird card you’ll need to locate the money center inside of a Walmart. On my last trip to Walmart, there was an ATM type machine that allowed me to load my Bluebird. I followed all the steps but the machine wasn’t letting me load my Bluebird. I selected Bluebird from the screen, entered the amount and then swiped my debit card. When I tried to enter my pin though, it kept rejecting the pin. I spoke with one of the associates and they told me that other people had been having trouble loading their bluebird with the machine too but I could load with the teller.
So I went up to the teller and they swiped my Bluebird card and asked me for a debit card. I actually had three different types of prepaid debit cards(all pin enabled and seen on the left). The top one I got from Vons/Safeway, the middle one from Chase(mentioned above) and the last one from Staples(all three were no fee when I bought them). When I activated the cards, I set up a pin so that I could use them with Bluebird.
At the kiosk, I first asked the teller to load $200 onto my bluebird using the Gold Mastercard(on bottom) but it didn’t go through. Eventually, we figured out that the top one and bottom one required me to hit change payment type after I swiped and that allowed me to enter in my debit pin number and it worked. The middle card(from Chase) worked without a hitch. I had $500 on it and I asked them to load $500: I swiped the card, entered my pin and I was done.
The Walmart associates aren’t always the most knowledgeable/helpful but the guy I got was pretty good. There’s a $1,000/day limit for loading Bluebird so don’t let them tell you otherwise.
When all was said and done, it only took about 10-15 minutes to load $1,000 onto my Bluebird. I like unloading prepaid gift cards this way since it allows me to use my credit cards instead and get cash back or hit spending requirements. I’m going to try and pay my rent with Bluebird checks so we’ll see how that goes next month.
Readers, have you ever used Bluebird before to pay any of your bills or rent/mortgage? Was it easy to load the card or did you have some trouble?
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-Harry @ PF Pro