How to Load Debit Gift Cards Onto Bluebird at Walmart (VISA, Simon Mall, Etc.)

by FI Fighter on May 5, 2014

in Travel Hacking

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Now that the Vanilla Reload game is no longer viable (unless you are able to locate VR cards at a non-CVS store), I’ve been forced to resort to other means for loading my Bluebird card. Since I’m unable to locate VR cards in the Bay Area, I’ve turned to using debit gift cards for loading onto Bluebird. With these debit gift cards, the only way to load them onto Bluebird is by making a trip to Walmart.

Update 5-29-14: The rules of this game change quick! I’ve been hearing from various sources that loading debit gift cards at Walmart is becoming increasingly more challenging, and in some cases, the cards are being denied (transaction failures) when trying to load through customer service, cashier, or kiosk. YMMV… If you are considering trying this, it might be prudent to attempt smaller amounts at first (try just one or two debit gift cards at a time, or load less funds onto each card) to make sure everything still works at your local store. Please feel free to leave a comment about your own experience below!

Objective: Earn Reward Points!

For my own situation, I have lots of mortgages to pay (five rental properties; ~$4,500/month), so it only makes sense for me to continue using Bluebird so that I can earn more credit card points/miles. Sure, I could make these payments directly from my own checking account, but I wouldn’t earn ANYTHING! And that’s no fun… By using Bluebird, I’m able to purchase debit gift cards with credit cards (which DO earn me points/miles!) and still pay my recurring monthly bills.

However, you don’t necessarily need to have lots of mortgages to pay in order to take advantage of the opportunities available to earn more reward points. You can use Bluebird like you would a standard checking account and pay for other things such as: student loans, rent, utilities, credit card bills, etc.

There are many great rewards promotions out there, such as the Citibank AAdvantage Executive card. By spending $10,000 in three months, you will earn 100,000 AA bonus miles.

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For many people, spending $10,000 in three months would qualify as a difficult task. If you make use of Bluebird, you would only need two months to load $10,000 worth of debit gift cards onto it (Bluebird is capped at $5000/month). By utilizing Bluebird, you can clear the minimum spend requirement in the allotted timeframe, and earn the bonus rewards. Once the funds are in Bluebird, they won’t expire, so you can spend like you would a regular checking account (or transfer funds back out). No more time pressure!

In this article, I will outline step-by-step the process involved in loading a Bluebird card at Walmart using debit gift cards.

There are a variety of debit gift cards out there that will work, but for simplicity (and clarity), I will focus on two specific cards:

1. VISA Gift Cards (Vanilla)

2. Simon VISA Gift Cards (US Bank)

Purchasing Debit Gift Cards

VISA Gift Cards:

VISA gift cards (Vanilla) are readily available and easy to locate. These gift cards also come in Mastercard variety, but I have heard from others where on occasion these don’t work successfully at Walmart. If possible, it may be safer to just go with the VISA variety.

Step 1: VISA Gift cards (Vanilla) can be found almost anywhere, but if you want a sure bet, visit a CVS store. Yes, although the Vanilla Reload cards got shut down by corporate (can only be purchased with cash), CVS stores are STILL accepting credit card payment at this time for VISA gift cards (Vanilla).

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Step 2: Locate the gift card aisle, which every CVS store should have. These VISA gift cards (Vanilla) come in a variety of different packages and styles (shown below).

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VISA gift cards

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Different styles

Step 3: Make sure you are buying the right cards. In order to load gift cards onto Bluebird, you will need to make sure that the VISA gift card (Vanilla) you are purchasing is indeed a debit and has a pin number.

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Frontside: Look for “Debit”

To check for this, flip the gift card, and on the back, you should find in bold text: “Select any 4 digit PIN at first use“.

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Backside: Make sure gift card has debit pin

Step 4: Purchase the VISA gift card (Vanilla) with your credit card (use whichever credit card you need to meet minimum spend requirements on, or the card that you would like to earn more miles/points on). There is a $4.95 purchase charge fee to activate these VISA gift cards (Vanilla). To maximize your dollars, load as much as possible. At CVS, the maximum amount you can load onto each card is $500. Some grocery stores, and other retailers who also carry these VISA gift cards (Vanilla) only allow loading for up to $50 on each card… This is why I recommend going to CVS for purchasing these VISA gift cards (Vanilla).

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VISA debit gift card

Simon VISA Gift Cards:

Simon VISA gift cards (US Bank) may be more difficult to locate, but I would say they are worth the hassle. Just like with the VISA gift cards (Vanilla), these cards can be loaded to Bluebird. The purchase charge fee for these cards is only $2.95, and you should also be able to load up to $500/card. If you qualify for a corporate account (business), you may even be able to load $1,000/card. For only a $2.95 purchase charge fee, that’s a great deal!

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Local mall that sells Simon gift cards

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Simon gift cards

Pin Numbers

For the VISA gift cards (Vanilla) there is no phone number you need to dial to acquire a pin number. You simply make up a 4 digit pin number on your first use (at Walmart). It can be anything… 1234…

For the Simon VISA gift cards (US Bank), you will need to call in and obtain your pin number prior to your trip to Walmart. The phone number is 1-866-300-9401.

Step 1: Call 1-866-300-9401

Step 2: Press 1 for English.

Step 3: Enter 16 digit account number found on front of Simon VISA gift card.

Step 4: Enter 3 digit security code found on back of card and then press #.

Step 5: Press 1 to check balance on the card. Confirm this amount is correct.

Step 6: Press 1 to go back to the main menu.

Step 7: Press 7 to get your 4 digit pin number.

Loading at Walmart

Once you’ve purchased a VISA gift card (Vanilla) or Simon VISA gift card (US Bank), the next step will be to load these funds onto Bluebird. Unlike Vanilla Reloads, you won’t be able to load these debit gift cards online, or in the comfort of your own home.

Unfortunately, the only way to complete the “loading to Bluebird” step is to visit your local Walmart store.

There are three ways to load Bluebird with a debit gift card at Walmart.

Kiosk Kate:

Step 1: Walk up to the Walmart MoneyCenter Express machine, or “Kiosk Kate”. Under ‘Card Services’, select ‘Walmart MoneyCard’.

Yes, there is also a button for “Bluebird” directly underneath ‘Walmart MoneyCard’. Personally, I have never selected that and am not sure if it works or not (it very well could work). I’ve ALWAYS just gone with selecting ‘Walmart MoneyCard’ and NEVER had a problem with it… I would recommend you select ‘Walmart MoneyCard’ and the rest of this step-by-step guide will assume that’s what you selected. ;)

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Step 2: Select ‘Reload’.

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Step 3: You will be able to load $20.00 to $1,100 at one time to your Walmart MoneyCard. If you are loading to Bluebird, you are limited to $1,000/day, and $5,000/month. Select ‘Continue’.

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Step 4: Swipe your Bluebird card.

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Swipe Bluebird

Step 5: Select amount you are loading. For most cases (if you are trying to max out each debit gift card), you will select $500 (or $1,000 if you qualify for Simon Corporate Card). Once you’ve inputted your amount to load, hit the ‘Enter’ button.

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Step 6: Select ‘Finish and Pay’.

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Step 7: Select ‘Debit’ as Payment Type.

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Step 8: Swipe your debit gift card and enter your pin number. For VISA gift cards (Vanilla) you make up a 4 digit pin number on first use. It can be anything you want it to be! For the Simon VISA gift card (US Bank) you need to telephone 1-866-300-9401 before getting to this step (see above).

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Swipe debit gift card and enter pin

Step 9: Select ‘No’ when asked for Cash Back.

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Step 10: All done! Take your receipt and smile. :) If you are trying to load multiple debit gift cards to Bluebird, tell the cashier you want to do another transaction. Repeat Steps 1-9.

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Cashier:

The cashiers at Walmart are trained (most of them) to know how to help you load funds onto Bluebird using a debit card. From my experience, they typically don’t ask you for ID or to see you debit gift card. YMMV.

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Cashier approach

Step 1: Wait in line and wait your turn. :)

Step 2: Tell the cashier that you want to load your Bluebird card.

Step 3: Hand your Bluebird card to the cashier.

Step 4: Tell the cashier the amount you want to load (Again, $500 would be a typical answer if you are maximizing the load on each debit gift card, or $1,000 if you are using a Simon Business Card.).

Step 5: Confirm the amount on the touchscreen.

Step 6: Swipe your card.

Step 7: Take you receipt and leave happy. :) If you are trying to load multiple debit gift cards to Bluebird, tell the cashier you want to do another transaction. Repeat Steps 1-6.

Customer Service:

Customer service is usually my last resort, and I only use this when Kiosk Kate is down, or the lines to the cashiers are too long. Customer service reps have been known to be more difficult from my own experience, and are more likely to ask for ID and to see your debit card before following through with the loading process. Depending on the customer service rep you get, they may deny your attempts to load and say, “we don’t accept gift cards.” Since the VISA gift cards (Vanilla) and Simon VISA gift cards (US Bank) each have the word “giftcard” or “gift card” plastered onto the card, it might be hard to get around that… Again, YMMV.

Step 1: Wait in line and wait your turn. :)

Step 2: Tell the customer service rep that you want to load your Bluebird card.

Step 3: Hand your Bluebird card to the cashier.

Step 4: Tell the cashier the amount you want to load (Again, $500 would be a typical answer if you are maximizing the load on each debit gift card, or $1,000 if you are using a Simon Business Card.).

Step 5: Confirm the amount on the touchscreen.

Step 6: Swipe your card.

Step 7: Take you receipt and leave happy. :) If you are trying to load multiple debit gift cards to Bluebird, tell the cashier you want to do another transaction. Repeat Steps 1-6.

Summary

Vanilla Reloads may be a thing of the past (thanks to CVS), but the travel hacking game lives on. Sure, the approaches we have to use today are a bit more tedious, but for those who are looking to earn lots of travel points and miles, the game is still definitely worth playing. With today’s methods, unfortunately, this means you’ll probably need to spend a lot more time at your local Walmart to get the job done.

One trick I like to use is to visit my local Walmart around 8:50 PM PST. This way, I can load $1,000 to Bluebird, wait until 9:00 PM PST (the $1,000 limit clock on Bluebird resets at 12:00 AM EST), and then re-load another $1,000. By doing it this way, I can load $2,000 on each Walmart trip. One thing I have observed, though, is that if you try to “overload” Kiosk Kate with $1,500 or $2,000 within a 10-20 minute window or so, she has been known to complain and lock-up. If she does lock-up, you will need to seek assistance with a store manager to reset the machine… If this happens to me, I usually just give up on the machine and go wait in line, instead.

No one said it would be easy… but if you want to earn the points, you gotta do the work. It’ll be worth it (hopefully!). :)

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