(Editor’s Note: I wrote this article a couple weeks ago and since then CVS has instituted a new policy that requires cash to pay for Vanilla Reloads. Sadly, it looks like this deal is now dead unless you can find VR’s somewhere else)
According to my credit card statements, I spend a lot of money. At any one time, the sum of my credit card balances tends to hover anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 yet I only spend about $1,000-$2,000 a month. The reason why my balances are so high is because I do what’s known as manufactured spending. As you might have guessed, manufactured spending is just what it sounds like: it’s spending that you manufacture on a credit card.
Ok let’s not sugar coat it, it’s basically a legal way to launder money(but a lot of people like to pretend they’re not doing something unethical). I’ll admit that manufactured spending is slightly unethical but when a credit card company is on the losing end of a deal you might as well call me Robin Hood.
Now that that’s out of the way, the reason why you might want to MS is so that you can meet the terms of credit card sign-up bonuses. Most higher end credit cards will ask you to spend a few thousand dollars in 3 months in order to get 50,000 or 40,000 points.
Generally, the higher the sign-up bonus, the more you have to spend though. I’m currently in the midst of trying to meet my largest single spend requirement ever: $10,000 in 3 months for the Citi Executive AA card. $10,000 in 3 months might seem like a lot but that’s where manufactured spending comes in.
What are Vanilla Reloads?
Vanilla Reloads are like a prepaid debit card that can be added to accounts with various payment services. I use Vanilla Reloads to load my Bluebird credit card from Amex and then pay my rent, mortgage, or even write someone a check. Bluebird is a pretty cool service but you need both Bluebird and Vanilla reloads in order to MS.
You can buy Vanilla Reloads at grocery stores, drug stores and gas stations but a lot of stores are starting to crack down on paying for Vanilla Reloads with a credit card. The Vanilla Reloads cost $3.95 and you can load up to $500 per card. So you’re basically paying a fee of .8% for Vanilla Reloads but you’re getting back at least 1% back by paying with a credit card.
Where Can You Find Vanilla Reloads?
I actually tried buying a Vanilla Reload for the first time the other day and it was a success! I went to the CVS in Seal Beach and bought a Powerade and two vanilla reload cards for $500 each. The cashier was pretty nice about it, she took down some info from my ID, rang me up and I was on my way. Apparently, if you buy more than $500 in Vanilla Reloads the CVS cashier is forced to type in some information from your driver’s license. But I don’t really see this as a big deal since you’re not doing anything wrong(not yet at least!) by buying these cards. CVS even recently raised their Vanilla Reload limit to $5,000 per day.
A lot of people have reported having some trouble finding stores willing to accept credit card payment for Vanilla Reloads but in my case it was pretty easy. I’d suggest keeping an eye out for them on your next trip to the grocery store and try to buy one along with your normal groceries and see what happens.
What do you do with a Vanilla Reload?
The cool thing about the Vanilla Reloads is that as soon as you buy them you can go to www.vanillareload.com and load them onto your Bluebird card instantly. All you need is the 10 digit PIN found on the back of your Vanilla Reload and the 15 digit account number on the front of your Bluebird card. I had both my cards loaded up in about 30 seconds and I wrote a check to my fiancee for $1,000.
Bluebird is a free payment service from American Express but pretty much the only reason I use it is for manufactured spending. You can use Bluebird to write checks to your landlord, pay your mortgage, or even pay your credit card bill(yes the same credit card bill that you bought the Vanilla Reloads with). I try to stay under the radar and mix up my Bluebird spending but they don’t seem to be too strict.
So there you have it, what do you think about manufactured spending with Vanilla Reloads? After Amazon Payments, Vanilla Reloads are probably the second easiest way of MS’ing. The only trouble you’ll have is finding a merchant willing to accept credit card payment for Vanilla Reloads.
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-Harry @ PF Pro