How to Earns Tons of Frequent Flyer Miles for Paying Your Mortgage, Student Loans, or Anything Else You Can’t Pay with a Credit Card

Posted By Trav

Frequent Flyer Miles Mortgage

[UPDATE:  You can no longer use the steps below to pay your mortgage, student loans, etc. with a credit card.  HOWEVER, there is another, even better way.  Click here to learn how.]

(Want to see a video of me doing it?  You can check it out here!)

Earning frequent flyer miles for big, recurring monthly bills, such as a mortgage, rent, or student loan payment, has been the holy grail of frequent flyers for years.  They’ve searched high and low for ways to do it, but to no avail…

Until now!

Let me show you, step by step, just how to earn frequent flyer miles for paying your big monthly bills.

Step 1:  Apply for a Bluebird card

How to do it:

  1. Go to bluebird.com and sign up for your free Bluebird card.
  2. You’ll receive it in the mail in a few days.
  3. Activate it online at bluebird.com

Cost: $0

Step 2:  Buy Vanilla Reload Cards At CVS with a Credit Card

CVs is the only place I know that allows you to buy Vanilla Reload cards with a credit card.

Make sure you are buying the Vanilla Reload card that looks EXACTLY like this:


Get the card that looks EXACTLY like this!

How to do it:  

  1. Find the Vanilla Reload cards that look exactly like the one above.  Don’t buy anything that says Vanilla but doesn’t look the same (Frequent Miler has a great round up of all the Vanilla cards).
  2. Make sure to load each Vanilla Reload card with $500.  Again, you’ll have to pay the $4.95 activation fee regardless of the denomination, so always load with $500.
  3. Pay for the Vanilla cards with your credit card.

Cost: $3.95 activation fee per card.

Step 3: Load the Vanilla Reload Cards on to Your Bluebird Card

How to do it:

  1. Go to Vanillareload.com.
  2. Put your Bluebird card number in the “Card Number” box.
  3. Scratch off the back of the Vanilla Reload card and put that number in the “PIN Number” box.
  4. The money will automatically be transferred to your Bluebird card.

Cost: $0.

Step 4:  Use the Bluebird Card to Pay Your Mortgage or Student Loans

How to do it:

  1. Go to Bluebird.com and sign in to your account.
  2. Go to Pay Bills.
  3. Search for the company you want to pay (i.e. I’ll search for Wells Fargo for my mortgage).
    1. If it shows up, simply select it and enter your account information.
    2. If it does not show up (ex. Discover Student Loans did not show up for me), input the information and the address and Bluebird will send a check.
  4. That’s it.  You’ve paid a major bill that you previously were never able to earn miles for.

Cost: $0

Step 5:  Watch Those Miles Roll In

Self explanatory!

Is It Worth it?

I would say that this is definitely worth it to help you meet the minimum spend requirement.  As long as you live near a CVS, it’s pretty painless.

Also, because you are paying $3.95 for 500 miles, you are buying those miles for 0.8 cents per miles.

While doing this every month when not meeting a minimum spend requirement may be too much of a hassle for some people, I do it each month.

0.8 cents per mile is much less than an airline charges you to buy miles outright, and so it’s definitely worth it for me.

So, who is going to be running to the nearest CVS?

And if you’re already doing it, what places other than CVS allow you to buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card?

Comment below, folks!

(photo courtesy of kenobiwanX)


  1. Ken says:

    The problem is finding placers that 1)Carry the Vanilla Reloads, and 2) will let you buy them with a credit card.

    For me, there is no CVS stores in the state of Colorado so that pretty much seals it for me. I’m going to FL tomorrow but applied for the Bold card yesterday and still need to give recon a call to push it through.

    1. Trav says:

      @Ken- Wow, there are no CVS stores in the entire state of Colorado? I never knew that! Yes, the main obstacle to overcome is finding a place that lets you buy Vanilla Reloads with another gift card.

      I know CVS, at least in PA, allows you to do it. I’m hoping others chime in about places that let you do it so that more people can take advantage of it!

      1. Rex Allen says:

        As of April 2014, CVS will no longer sell Reload cards on credit.

        1. Trav says:

          @Rex Allen- I know, sad news…I am trying another way though. Will report back.

          1. Aw man! I just found this article last week and was about to try it!! Bummer! Please tell me of another solution

          2. Trav says:

            @Gabriel- I’m looking for new options, trust me!

  2. travel4nana says:

    here in central Virginia we can buy VR’s with a cc.

    1. Trav says:

      @travel4nana- You can buy VR’s with a cc at what store? CVS? Also, I’m assuming it works for buying with a gift card as well?

  3. Mike says:

    The fee for activating a VR is $3.95

  4. Mike says:

    My last comment was in regard to this typo:

    Make sure to load each Vanilla Reload card with $500. Again, you’ll have to pay the $4.95 activation fee regardless of the denomination, so always load with $500.

    1. Trav says:

      @Mike- Thanks buddy, I totally forgot to switch that. I’ve made the changes now. I was mixing up the fee for the Visa gift card and the fee for the Vanilla Reloads.

  5. Wes says:

    I’ve been doing this for a month or so; this week I paid my Southwest Chase bill by buying vanilla reloads with my Southwest card. I also earned Skymiles for paying my property taxes earlier this month.

    1. John says:

      This is like the OD/Vanilla Reload deal that recently was squashed by OD and Chase. I’m doing a modification of this by buying VR’s at CVS with my SPG Amex or Hilton Amex, then loading my BB to pay my Car loan, Electric bill, Cable/Internet bill, etc.The only problem with this is my Hilton Amex has such a low CL, and 6X Hilton points are really not what I’d prefer. The SPG gets only 1 Starpoint per $. Wish SPG had category Bonus like the 6X at CVS that Hilton has!

      1. Trav says:

        @John- Agreed that the best card is probably the Hilton, which gives 6x at drugstores. And if SPG ever put in bonus categories, they’d begin to rule the roost of travel credit cards!

        As far as getting the VR’s at CVS to pay your cable and internet bill, is there a reason you are doing this instead of getting a Chase Ink card and getting 5x/$1 spent for your cable and internet bills? Just curious.

        1. John says:

          Well, Travis, I have other Chase Cards, but got declined when I applied for the Ink Plus, even with my small side business of selling on Ebay. So I have no other cards that offer category bonuses like the Ink and Bold cards, my Hilton has a low limit so really can’t exploit that card much. Plus, I’m mainly airline miles, don’t have much in the way of hotel points in my FF stash, LOL.

          1. Trav says:

            @John- Gotcha! I also prefer airline miles, so I might even take 1 Chase UR point over 6 Hilton points. Just depends on my travel plans.

    2. Trav says:

      @Wes- Nicely done! Where did you find your Vanilla Reloads and where are you located? Might help others who aren’t sure where to find them in their area.

  6. Toadhollow says:

    I don’t live far from Travis and I use the Office Depot/CVS scenario to collect points but another opportunity is coming! Chase Freedom card’s next quarterly bonus includes drugstores as a 5x bonus up to $1500 for the quarter. Here’s a chance to buy the Vanilla Reload cards directly without going through Office Depot (or to buy in addition to Office Depot)…you will only have a $4.95/$500 VR card fee so be sure to max out the $1500 quarterly amount! That’s $7500 points per Freedom card…then you need a Chase Sapphire Preferred or one of the INK cards to use these points for travel!
    Let me know if you need a link to Freedom!

    1. Trav says:

      @Toadhollow- Yes, we are lucky that we are so flush with CVS’s in our area. Makes it easy. You are right that for this quarter, you can use the Chase Freedom for your first $1,500 to buy the VR’s directly from CVS and skip the first few steps. However, that would only last a month or so if you were like me and had $2,000 worth of “big monthly bills.” Then, its back to the Ink Bold or Ink Plus to buy gift cards at Office Depot.

  7. Arent there better opportunities for the Vanilla Reload?

    1. Trav says:

      @MileageUpdate- Not as far as I know. You used to be able to buy them directly at Office Depot, meaning you could skip the middle step of having to go to CVS, but that was shut down two months ago. Is there something I’m missing?

  8. Yep, you made it again.Tried to stay away but…had to say something. Enjoy the hits from my site, hope you take constructive criticism well:-)

    1. Trav says:

      @FlyerTalkininA2- Always honored.

  9. My CVS will not sell a VR for a gift card. A person will want to try this on a small scale first to see if purchase with a gift card is allowed at their local CVS.

    1. Trav says:

      @joyhappyhappy- Really? That’s a shame! You would think that it would be a company wide policy that either all CVS’s would sell Vanilla Reloads for a gift card or none would.

      I completely agree that everyone should try this first on a smaller scale to see if it works at their particular store. I purchased 1 $500 Visa gift card from Office Depot to start and then went to CVS. I figured that if they didn’t let me buy a Vanilla Reload, I’d simply use the $500 gift card for normal purchases anyway. However, when they did let me buy a Vanilla Reload card with a gift card, I went back to Office Depot, bought 3 $500 gift cards and then turned them in to Vanilla Reloads at CVS.

  10. You clever son of a b. That is a really great idea, I’m doing it!!! Cheers.

    1. Trav says:

      @TheRunawayGuide- Yep, it’s a nice little workaround. Let’s hope it stays around for a while.

  11. Faye says:

    Walgreen’s in Stillwater, OK, lets you buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card

    1. Trav says:

      @Faye- Thanks for the data point!

  12. Nancy says:

    Ugh! Bought 2 Vanilla Reloads in early December at a Walgreen’s in Salt Lake City, now they require cash for purchase. I tried two other locations close by and they require cash as well.

    Let’s put together a spreadsheet with credit card accepting locations. I’d love to pick some up on my travels.

    1. Michael says:

      Hi Nancy, any luck finding places that take credit cards and sell Vanilla cards in Salt Lake City? Thanks!

  13. Roman says:

    Elmwood Park NJ CVS, has and will allow reloads with GCs for VR

    1. Trav says:

      @Roman- Awesome, good to know! Did they give you any trouble regarding using gift cards? Or was it as simple as handing them the gift cards and thenm running them through? If I can’t get my local CVS to take gift cards, I may have to take a drive out to Elmwood Park!

      1. Roman says:

        It was as simple as swiping the GC, the only thing I did was go to that particular cvs before hand and ask if I can purchase the VR with a gift card just as a precaution. Also going at late night is a better chance because of the staff being younger and not really caring lol

        1. Trav says:

          @Roman- Thanks! Funny thing is, the times I’ve been denied using a gift card it has been by a younger person. Yesterday I went to another local CVS and had no problem, so it looks like it just depends on what cashier you end up getting. He didn’t even bat an eye when I bought $1,500 VR’s with gift cards.

  14. Annie Cooper says:

    question: I have not done this yet, but appreciate your step by step directions. The only question I have is – would this be good for ANY large payment?? Example: property taxes, IRS, etc ?? Fortunately I do not have a mortgage or a student loan. Looking forward to your response. And, thank you.

    1. Trav says:

      @Annie Cooper- It should work for any type of large payment. Since Bluebird will send a check to anyone (or any company) that you want it to send one to, I don’t see why you couldn’t use this to pay any bill you’d like. It should be the same as sending a check from your regular bank account. So far, I’ve used it to pay a mortgage, student loan (by check) and other credit cards. I’ll be investigating some other options soon.

      If you do use it for other stuff, I’d love to hear how it went.

  15. jc says:

    What prevents you from using bluebird to pay off the chase ink credit card directly? Wouldn’t this loop the funds infinitely getting rewards up to the month limits?

    1. Trav says:

      @jc- Nothing actually prevents you from doing this, and in theory, you could rack up “infinite” amounts of points (up to the monthly limits at least). However, I’d make two cautions:

      1. Make sure to use your Ink Bold or Ink Plus card for more than just buying gift cards. If Chase sees 1 or 2 purchases a month on that card and they are all for large amounts at office supply store, they might know something is up. I try to sprinkle in other, regular spends on my Ink cards throughout the month as well.

      2. I don’t know how they’d be able to track it, but I’d be careful about being so cyclical about it. I’ve bought gift cards with my Ink card and then put them on my Bluebird card and used those funds to pay off credit cards, but I’ve never done it to pay off my actual Ink cards. Again, I’m pretty sure they won’t be able to track it (it is filtering through 2 or 3 channels before being sent back to Chase) but I still am not taking the risk.

      It’s tough not to get greedy (trust me, I’ve debated about buying TONS of gift cards and cycling them through like you said) but in the end, I’d really not like to be shut down by Chase. So I’ve settled on about $2,000 a month per each Ink card (1 Plus, 1 Bold) for a total of $4,000. I’ll send $2,000 to pay student loan and mortgage and then the other $2,000 for other payments. I think this should be small enough not to raise red flags.

      1. jc says:

        cool, thanks for the thorough reply, great blog overall!

        1. Trav says:

          @jc- Thanks. It’s a good system to use, just be careful! Glad you like the blog.

  16. ron lanier says:

    I have found plenty of places in Tucson that sells the VR cards (CVS, Walgreen, Family Dollar) all of them are requiring cash or debit card. I am trying to find a gift/reload card from Office Depot that will let me use an ATM to get the case and then go to Walmart and load the Bluebird card with cash, but so far no luck. I looked online and found a green got visa that says you can use at ATM so I going to see if office depot carries this one. I only have about $2500 month that will not take credit cards as payment and I have a lot in general purchases so I can still get about $2,000 to $3,000 a month on any gift card I buy at Office Depot, so it is still a good deal. The people that have 2 of the ink cards and say they buy $8000 month must have a lot of bills, I could not use that much cash in a month as I only spend $4000-$5000 a month on bills and spending. It would be nice to get the mortgage and car payments paid at 5-1 reward points though.

    1. Trav says:

      @ron lanier- Sounds like you have a decent plan, let me know how it goes with the green dot. I’m surprised that the CVS’s aren’t allowing you to buy VR cards with a credit card though. I’ve never had a problem with a credit card, only with another gift card, and even then, I’ve been able to ask them to “try to do it” and it works. I can’t imagine its a store by store policy, so you’d think CVS should be ok. Interesting.

      Good luck, and definitely let me know how it goes with green dot. I haven’t done any testing with that yet.

  17. Kay says:

    Hi Travis. Our nearby Office Depot has been out of the $500 Visa gift cards for at least a week.The store manager told me on the phone today that Visa has been charging them too much for the cards and he is not sure Office Depot will be selling them any more. Office Max only has the $200 gift cards. Any suggestion?

    1. Trav says:

      @Kay- Unfortunately, if OD does in fact only start selling $200 gift cards as their maximum then the usefulness of this takes a hit. You can still do it, but it will cost you a lot more. I´d suggest using it for meeting minimum spend, but maybe not for all your other purchases since it is going to cost a bit of money to get the miles.

    2. ron lanier says:

      I am finding out the very same thing about office depot and the gift card. They are doing away with the $500 cards and only selling the $200 ones. They have raised the price of the $200 cards to $6.95 so if you buy $500 worth of cards it will cost you $18.50 and you will only get $25 worth of rewards, not really worth the hassle. All of the United states are doing the same. I checked with all of the other office supply stores in Phoenix, Az and they either are not selling cards or on the $200 max cards. I just got into this a couple of months ago and was able to by $8000 worth of cards which translate to 40,000 reward points plus the 50000 points I got when I signed up for the card. So all in all I was lucky to get around 100,000 in points but unless you can come up with something better the Chase Ink Bold Bonaza has gone by the wayside.
      It was good while it lasted

  18. GL says:

    I found the Vanilla Reload cards, but can’t find the Visa Gift Cards higher than $200. I was told at Office Depot that they did away with the $20-500 one’s due to problems with activation. Does anyone know where to find these in the bay area?? THANKS!

  19. Pete says:

    After you have had the Chase INK card for a year, they have you on the hook for the $95 annual fee. That fee, coupled with 12 months of activation fees ($427.20) would come to $522.20. Seems like I wouldn’t be saving THAT much money if I’ll be blowing $500+ on fees alone.


    1. Phillip says:

      I believe it would still be a very good deal. If you see the notes above where the OP has broken down the Points-to-Fees analysis, you’re still getting 120,000 miles (using his original numbers) for around $500. That’s enough for around almost 5 domestic RT Tickets, or a little over $100 for a RT Ticket, with miles that never expire. It really all comes down to if it is worth it to you.

      1. Trav says:

        @Phillip @Pete- At this point, you can no longer get 5x at Office Depot, so nowadays, you are getting 1x per $1 spent on Vanilla Reload cards. You can get this on any card (Chase Sapphire, Chase Ink Plus, etc.). If you have a Chase Ink Plus and a Chase Sapphire and don’t use the Ink Plus for anything special (like gas), I’d consider closing it at this point and just using the Sapphire Preferred.

        However, I do think there is some value for still buying Vanilla Reload cards. You are getting 500 points for $4, which is a pretty good deal. For example, you can earn 25k points, enough for a roundtrip domestic ticket, for $200. That’s a pretty good price. It especially makes sense if you are saving up for an expensive international ticket.

        1. Phillip says:

          I have hit a roadblock with this. Office Depot let me purchase 5 of the $200 Visa cards with my Chase Ink, but only after showing them my DL to ensure it matched my CC. However, I cannot locate a place that will allow me to buy the Reloadable Vanilla Card using the Visa Vanilla Gift Cards. They all say it’s because of recent cases of fraud. Maybe I don’t understand their situation, but if it is a Pre-Paid Debit Card, how could that be fraud? The BlueBird Kiosk was out of order at Walmart, and the Walmart I went to didn’t have the reloadable cards.

          1. Trav says:

            @Phillip- Yeah, I agree that I don’t know how it can be considered fraud, but at this point, I don’t know anywhere that lets you buy Reloadable Vanilla cards with other gift cards. Those days seem to be over.

            Nowadays, the only real thing to do is buy Vanilla Reloads directly with your credit card at a CVS. It’s not near as lucrative, but…it does get you points for paying your mortgage.

            Walmart, to my knowledge, doesn’t carry Vanilla Reloads. The only place that does and lets you pay with a credit card is CVS.

  20. Mark says:

    I went today to Office Depot…. $500 cards are there. Walgreeens has a lot of the vanilla reloads… I look forward to making it happen thanks for the info.

    1. Trav says:

      @Mark- Make sure that you can buy them with a credit card though. As far as I know, Office Depot won’t sell $500 gift cards when using a credit card, and Walgreens won’t let you purchase Vanilla Reloads with a credit card. Your stores could be different, but check first to make sure!

  21. Chris says:

    I went to Walgreen’s in Jacksonville, FL and bought a PayPal… money card, I guess. It’s says “LOAD MONEY: send cash to your PayPal Account”. You can load it with $20-$500. I bought a dollar drink with it, as to discourage the cashier from asking for a cash or a debit card (I really don’t think he would have asked anyway).

    I went to PayPal.com/Cash,logged in with my normal PayPal information, entered the 10-digit “My Cash Pin” on the back… and the money instantly uploaded to my PayPal account. From there I was able to payoff my “Bill Me Later” balance and transfer funds to my bank account (no fee, since I was using money from my PayPal balance).

    1. Trav says:

      @Chris- Wow, really? I haven’t heard of anyone being able to use a credit card to buy Paypal gift cards at Walgreens. They are great because they are basically just as easy to use as Vanilla Reload cards, I just didn’t know you could buy them with a credit card.

      Time to give it a try at my local Walgreen’s. If it works, that’s a major score. Thanks for the heads up!

    2. Ken says:

      @Chris – Just be careful loading Paypal and then withdrawing to your bank account. It’s a good way to get your Paypal account locked if you do it often.

      1. Trav says:

        @Ken- Yeah, I try to always withdraw strange amounts, so it doesn’t look like I’m putting in $1,000, taking out $1,000. I’ll take out $700 or something like that to try to throw it off.

  22. mariestmarie says:

    So I was just wondering why the gift cards have to be bought with a credit card?can I just buy a vanilla card with cash and then transfer that to the blue bird and then pay my mortgage with my debit card to get miles?

    1. Trav says:

      @mariestmarie- You buy the gift cards with a credit card because that is how you get the miles. The miles come from using your credit card to buy the gift cards. If you pay cash, you won’t earn miles.

  23. dr0832 says:

    Is it still possible to buy Vanilla Reloads directly with your credit card at a CVS in $500 increments and then add them to a bluebird account and use those to pay your mortgage or will this not work anymore?

    1. Trav says:

      @dr0832- I did it a few weeks ago, haven’t done it since, but I haven’t heard that it is dead. I’m pretty sure you can still do it.

      1. dr0832 says:

        Thanks, does bluebird have someplace to check whether my mortgage provider is actually supported before I sign up and do all this?

        1. Ken says:

          Who is your mortgage with and I’ll check.

          1. dr0832 says:

            Thank you. It’s through: Ocwen Loan Servicing, Formerly HomEq Servicing Corporation

          2. Ken says:

            It looks like both Ocean and HomeEq are not one of the available payees for electronic payment. But, you can always have BB mail a paper check to them.

          3. dr0832 says:

            Did you mean Ocwen or did you mistype it as Ocean?

          4. Ken says:

            Well look at that… I just assumed you spelled it wrong, but Ocwen is there with two available payees:

            Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC
            Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC (GMAC)

            So you could send a small amount to each one and see which Payee works.

  24. Eric says:

    Thanks for the info! I’m definitely trying this.

    I also saw that there’s been some fraudulent activities with the VR cards…
    Found this post from December, 2013.

    1. Trav says:

      @Eric- Interesting, I never saw that about fraudulent activities with them. I haven’t had any problem, and it’s definitely a sweet way to make minimum spends.

  25. Rahul says:

    I keep trying the 4-5 CVS stores near my house and they are always sold out of the Reload Cards. Any suggestions on how to get the cards?

    1. Trav says:

      @Rahul- No, not really, except hope and pray they come back! Same thing happened in my area for awhile, and now they are all over, so that’s good.

      1. Rahul says:

        Thanks for the update! I’ll keep on the lookout.

        1. Trav says:

          @Rahul- Yeah, let us know if you find anything in your area.

          1. Rahul says:

            No luck in the North Chicago, IL area so far. I’ll try a few more CVSs today then look into Green Dot – I’m not too fond of the extra cost per reload card with Green Dot/possible fees if not used in a month or others.

          2. Rahul says:

            It took a whole month, but I was finally able to find some reload cards. It took a lot of calls.

          3. Trav says:

            @Rahul- Where’d you find them?

          4. Rahul says:

            The LAKE FOREST, IL store. It was only 15 minutes from my house so I was lucky.

      2. Rahul says:

        Have you ever tried the Green Dot card? Any guidance on that card?

        1. Trav says:

          @Rahul- I haven’t dabbled with Green Dot at all. It may be a viable option. I know a few other bloggers have, so you may try googling it and see what you find.

  26. Christian says:

    This is very interesting! In addition to miles cards, I have one card that gives cash back at 1.5%. So 1.5% of $500 is $7.50 minus the $3.95 activation, and you net $3.55. Do that 10,000 times, and you’ve theoretically created $35,500.

    My question: is there anything preventing you from just having Bluebird mail a check made out to me? (Or my wife for example). I could then just deposit the check, and pay mortgage, etc, the way I always have.

    Thanks for the consideration!

    1. Trav says:

      @Christian- Nope, I think sending a check to you or your wife would be fine. To be safe, I’d probably have them send it to your wife, but still. Shouldn’t be an issue.

      Also, Bluebird is capped at loading $5,000 a month per account at the moment. So yes, if you did it 10,000 times, you could create that money. But if you only have $5k a month limit, it would take you 100 months. Personally, I’d probably rather get the miles, but it’s a preference.

      1. I see your point. Thanks Trav!

  27. Jonathon says:

    I got a credit card offer from Hilton just the other day. It looks like they track what purchases are made and which ones do not qualify for points earned…………”Eligible purchases are purchases for goods and services minus returns and other credits. Eligible purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks, purchases or reloading of prepaid cards, or purchases of other cash equivalents. Hilton HHonors Bonus Points received from your Card will be posted to your HHonors account 6 to 8 weeks after the end of your billing cycle.”

    So I guess i wouldn’t be able to buy the reload card from VISA at CVS to get points after all.

    1. Trav says:

      @Jonathon- I’ve never used the Hilton card specifically, but if you buy them at a CVS, it only shows up on my statements as “drug store” or “CVS”. I’d definitely buy something else with them, even if it is small, but as far as I know, there is no way to tell what you are buying at the CVS.

      1. ron says:

        I got a Citi Hilton Honors card with 40k sign up bonus. It pays 5x for drug stores, but the exchange is not very good for miles and about the only thing you can use it for is the hotels, but if you go somewhere on reward miles you generally need a hotel. I am using it for that reason and still accrueing milage on the other ones

        1. Trav says:

          @Ron- Yeah, 5x sounds good, but…like you said, the value of Hilton points is fairly atrocious. Their top end properties are 95k a night, so even though I have that card, I don’t usually bother with it when buying VR’s. I just would rather have 1x on points like Chase or SPG.

  28. MJ says:

    Hi Trav, I came across your website while doing a search for paying mortgage with CC – Can you please confirm if this strategy is still working out for you? Also – Is Wells Fargo added in Bluebird list? Thanks a lot :)

    1. Trav says:

      @MJ- Yep, still works. I’m not sure if Wells Fargo is added yet. You can easily set it up to pay them though, just get the address and pick “Pay Bill”.

      1. ron says:

        Funny you asked about Wells Fargo, I recently got a new WF Mortgage and they sent me an offer for a CC that offers 5% cash on all monies spent and the cash back goes straight to the principal on your mortgage. They only gave me 8K limit but I buy Reload cards at CVS and then pay them back out of Blue Bird. Seems to work, after 3 weeks they just credited my mortgage with $350. The process is slow because it takes a few days for BB to get the payment to them and then WF puts a 4 day hold on the funds but if you are persistant the payoff will be worth it, at least when you sell the house.

        I think they only offer this to new mortgagees, and the 5% is only good for 6 mos. but if I hustle, I might be able to lower my mortgage principal by 4-5k in the 6 months. And yes I pay my WF mortgage with blue bird. Just another way to beat the establishment, until they catch on, but nothing gained nothing lost…..

        1. Trav says:

          @Ron- Wow, very nice. Thanks for the heads up! Good on ya!

          1. MJ says:

            Thanks a lot Trav & Ron !

            @Trav – Can you please tell me which credit card you use for miles? Would you recommend any – the one that gives the maximum miles back?

          2. Trav says:

            @MJ- It totally depends on your spending habits and where you want to go. There are a few that would fit well. If you’d like to fill out the Free Credit Card Consultation Page with your info, I can help you pick the best one for your situation.

          3. MJ says:

            @Trav – Thanks a lot for the link – I have filled in my information over there – Along with the best credit card for miles, can you please recommend one for cash back as well? I was looking into Fidelity card which gives 2% into your brokerage account for all purchases.

            Also, do you know any good credit cards for purchasing Vanilla Reload cards at CVS? Maybe ones that give 5% cash back on drugstores? I couldn’t find any yet :(

  29. nellanayrb says:

    Couldn’t you pay your credit card with the same credit card this way? Theoretically earning unlimited points for only $4.95 each time, and revolving the same $500 back and forth? Or would it cause an infinite loop and end the universe, or at least raise a ton of red flags with your bank and CVS?

    1. Trav says:

      nellanayrb- Well, you can only load $5k per month on to a Bluebird card, so that’s the limitation. You’d be earning 500 points for $4.95, not a bad deal, but not exactly free. Also, you’d want to make sure to spend other money besides just at CVS, or the banks might get angry.

  30. Eric says:

    WooHoo! Just bought 5 vanilla cards all on Chase SP card!
    Four cards per transaction, the clerk told me, so I broke up the trans into two.
    …then on the drive home it just dawned on me that had I used a Barclay card, I would’ve earned 5,000 points instead of 2500!
    Oh, why didn’t I sign up for the Barclay card?????
    Signing up for that card right now! ^_^

    1. Trav says:

      @Eric- Did you get the Barclays Arrival card? If so, congrats. If you haven’t applied yet and use a link from this site, like on the Best Current Deals page, I appreciate it!

  31. Terri says:

    So far in NJ 3 places that sell the vanilla reload cards are cash only. I checked out CVS, Family Dollar and Walgreens. Great idea but won’t work for me.

    1. Trav says:

      @Terri- CVS won’t allow you to buy with credit card? Hmmmm, they should. I’ve only been told once, and that was in downtown Philly. It’s always been ok in the suburbs.

  32. MJ says:

    CVS is not accepting credit cards for Vanilla Reload anymore :(

    What to do? Please help !

    1. Trav says:

      @MJ- I’m working on a plan. Will update as soon as I know.

  33. ron says:


    I sure hope you can find a work around for the vanilla reload cards-cvs problem, this has hit me pretty bad. It was like a never ending money train, that is gone, I was on my way to a million points, without having to apply for so many cards that it lowered my credit rating. Keep trying for all of us.


    1. Trav says:

      @ron- I’m working on it!

  34. John Thornhill says:

    Texas CVS no longer selling Vanilla Reloads if you pay via credit cards…cash only. :( bummer, dude. Trav, you and I have talked via email about this before, using them for SPG points and flying in style…but I simply can’t find a way around this issue. Still looking though, and will let you know if I discover a solution.

    1. Trav says:

      @John Thornhill- Yeah, if you find another option, please let us know. It certainly is a bummer!

  35. justdiana says:

    CVS in NW suburban Chicago will not sell Vanilla Reload on credit. =(

    1. John says:

      Since April 4th, NO CVS will sell Vanilla Reloads on credit cards! However, they do sell One Vanilla cards on credit, this is a slightly different card, that I haven’t tried, maybe it’ll work with Bluebird. What I do is buy Visa Gift Cards from Malls,Supermarkets, gas stations,etc, load them, get a PIN for them, then load them onto my BB at a WalMart, either at the Kiosk, or more usually, at a register, works in my area!

      1. Trav says:

        @John- Awesome, thanks for the data point. Yes, it’s an extra step, but it seems to work at most Walmarts. I’ve had some issues at times though with the kiosks not functioning properly.

        1. ron says:

          I am confused do you buy one vanilla cards on credit and add them to bluebird at walmart or do you buy the one vanilla cards on credit to by visa gift cards and blue bird will accept them as a deposit, what about the service fees to buy them will you come out ahead

    2. Trav says:

      @justdiana- As far as I know, no CVS will sell Vanilla Reloads on credit anymore. Bummer!

  36. Ronen says:

    Hey, how about Delete this crap since no CVS will sell Vanilla Reloads on credit anymore. That will save people tons of time, also, if you are blogging, do it properly & update stuff accordingly. I am sure you enjoying the loyalty out of tax payers money by traveling for free scumbag.

    1. Trav says:

      @Ronen- It’s been updated. Sorry to have offended you so much, but if you think I’m a scumbag, feel free to not read this blog.

      1. ron says:

        Trav, Just wanted to say, I dont think you are a scum bag and wanted to thank you for turning me on to Bluebird and trying to help us find an alternative to CVS and Office Depot stopped selling reload cards on credit. I purchse a visa debit card with a credit card, then I go to a walmart Kiosk and load it straight into the bluebird account using the pin from the visa debit card The visa debit cost $5.95 per $500 card so if you only have a card that pays 1:1 rewards you actually lose money, but I have a couple that pay 5:1 so I still do as good as with the vanilla reload, which I could buy for 3.95 at CVS. So thanks again, with out you I would never have found out about bluebird. As the saying goes, where there is a will there is a way.

        1. Trav says:

          @ron- Thanks, and agreed it can still be done in a decent way. What cards do you use that get you 5:1? And my issue has been that Walmart never lets me load them on, it never seems to work. Lucky that you can do it at your kiosk!

          1. Rahul says:

            Ron- Can you send a picture of what Visa Debit cards let you input the funds into the Blue Bird Card.

            Also what do the Walmart Kiosks look like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Blue bird Kiosk at Walmart.

  37. Curtis says:

    What is the workaround for the mortgage using the credit card.

    1. Trav says:

      @Curtis- See this new updated post for instructions.

  38. Jenny says:

    It appears as though you can still load a Redcard with cash. What are your thoughts on using a Chase (Ink Plus for business) or Citi (AA Platinum for business) to get a cash advance, and then take that cash into the Target store to reload? Or is that a non-starter (if you don’t earn points for cash advances)? It looks like both Citi and Chase charge a 5% fee on cash advances, meaning the fee for $5000 would be $250, which is about $75 more than the cost of the fees for buying enough $200 gift cards to hit the $5000 monthly max, but would theoretically be far less of a headache at the register in Target. Of course the interest rates on cash advances are astronomical, so this would assume that you could pay your credit card bill right away to avoid the interest charges.

    1. Trav says:

      @Jenny- I always shy away from any type of cash advance stuff, and almost always, cash advances will not earn you points. So for that reason, I don’t see why you would do it, since it won’t earn you any points and cost you money.

  39. Charlie charlie says:

    update 22 June: I’ll try to keep this short (husband rolling his eyes at that comment). Method thoroughly tested, here are results.
    The card that DEFINITELY works is a VISA ONEVANILLA PREPAID VISA CARD, it says $20 – $500 on top right hand side. Important to note – nowhere on this card does it say GIFT CARD. The minute a Target employee sees the words Gift Card, they will refuse it. They always ask “what kind of card is this?” and I can say with glee “IT’s a DEBIT card”.
    I’ve tried just about every other debit card out there, and I”m always told at checkout “Nope you must pay cash for this, no credit cards.” That’s why I always always go for the ONEVANILLA Prepaid Visa Card.
    Where do I get them? CVS and Walgreens.
    Buying at CVS: $2000 limit, so you can only buy 4 cards maximum at one time ($500 each) AND they scan my driver’s license every time.
    Walgreens is somewhat interesting: Depending on who the cashier is, you’ll be told “you can only purchase one card for $500 per day.” NO matter that I show them the receipt from last week where I purchased 4, they tell me no, you can’t. Walgreens policy is ONLY ONE $500 CARD PER PERSON PER DAY.
    Then you try a different cashier, and there’s no problem buying 4 cards of $500 each. Like tonight, my husband went to Walgreens, intending to buy 4. There was a massive queue at checkout so he went to photo – they told him only one card allowed. So he bought one card at $500 and when he came out to the car (where I was waiting, like a getaway driver), he told me – so I went in, waited for the massive queue to go down and went to the cashier, and bought THREE cards at $500 each, he didn’t bat an eyelid, it was no problem at all.

    so: lesson for today people: if you can’t buy more than one debit card at walgreens, just try again, either a different cashier or different Walgreens. I do NOT like going to CVS because I feel it’s an invasion of my privacy, to have them scan my driver’s license in. I actually hate that aspect.

    Target: I know them pretty well by now, especially the one guy – at first he had the “deer in the headlights” look when he would see me go in, and he’d try to duck behind the counter (kidding, he didn’t really, although I know he wanted to) – now it’s “hey, how are you – want the usual?” Yes please, fill up red card! and it’s done.
    Make sure you say it’s a debit card!!!!! put your pin in and you’re done. I only do $2000 a day top up, for some reason more than that doesn’t work, even though the limit is supposed to be $2500/day (max $5k).

    Good luck everyone. IT’S REALLY WORTH IT!!!

    1. Trav says:

      @Charlie charlie – Thanks sooooo much for taking the time to test this and for letting us know about it. One quick question: Where do you get the pin? Do you set it yourself?

      And thanks to your husband for putting up with our “hobby.” My wife feels the same way!

  40. charlie charlie says:

    Hi Trav – when you swipe your OneVanilla card at Target, it asks you to enter your pin – that’s just a random 4 digit code (if you’re not going to empty your card then you should probably remember it) – I always use 1234, or sometimes, just to be crazy, 4321. Then it asks you if you want to put it all on your redcard (I say yes), and that’s it. Money transferred to Redcard and the onevanilla is now empty and ready for throwing away or shredding or whatever.
    I have NOT tried putting SOME of the money from the Onevanilla card on the target red card and then trying to use the onevanilla card again – I always empty them, put every penny that’s on the onevanilla card right into redcard. So the 4 digit pin is only entered that one time, when I empty the onevanilla card at target and put all funds onto target redcard.

    Hope that helps? :-)
    I think it’s my husband’s hobby, he’s the one who discovered this whole thing, and was desperate to make it work. funny how I”m the one doing all the legwork and buying onevanilla cards and trolling into target to do the topping up etc. But boy is it worth it!!!!

    We went to Walgreens tonight – a new guy there behind the counter (no, we can’t take credit card payment for this card. Yes you can. no we can’t. Has to be cash. No, for the OTHER cards you have to pay cash, but for THIS one, you can use credit card. Trust me, I do it all the time. No, he says, it has to be cash. Had to call the manager. etc. Manager said it was fine, guy was apologetic – I said it’s no problem, he just wanted to be sure he was doing the right thing and not aiding and abetting some credit card fraudster or something. Rather he calls the manager and is OK than fretting and stressing that he’s doing the wrong thing).

  41. charlie charlie says:


    Walgreens on Davie Boulevard and US1 was HORRIBLE – the “shift leader” on duty said he could not sell more than $500 to me – I said I had bought up to $2000 at a time (4 onevanilla cards) – he said that was wrong. I asked if he could call his boss. He did – that person said $500! So I said that’s also wrong, please, call the STORE manager this time – so he did – and THAT person (the store manager, I think he name is Minesh) said “make sure you check her credit card and drivers license – do they match?” (shift leader said yes) – and then he was told by Minesh – then that’s fine – go ahead and make the sale! The shift leader ran up the sale, and I was just about to run the credit card, and I saw iced tea on sale and asked to add some – he added that, and when I said I didn’t have my walgreens card with me, the next cashier (who’d been listening to this whole thing and telling him that it was OK to make the sale – said she’d use her walgreens card, so I could get the sale price). SHIFT LEADER SPITEFULLY said no, I’m going to cancel this. I said (incredulous) why??? You mean you are going to cancel the iced tea or everything? He didn’t respond, just cancelled the sale. He wouldn’t give me a reason. HE ACTUALLY CANCELLED THE SALE! the person at the next till told him “but it’s fine! I sell $2000 all the time in those cards – it’s perfectly fine!” but he ignored her and walked away from me, refused to make eye contact. I was absolutely shaking with shock. There was no reason for him to do that – I had been perfectly polite, I had not raised my voice or used any type of profanity (which I abhorr when people do that) – I kept it professional the entire time. The other cashier suggested I try another till in the store so I went to pharmacy and asked the guy there to please run for $1000 (I got 2 cards) – and he was super nice – ran it, no problem. I had just hit “DONE” on the thing and the receipt started printing out for the two cards, when SHIFT LEADER called pharmacy on the phone (he must have been watching me on the surveillance camera) and told them DO NOT GIVE HER THE CARDS. The guy was confused, but his boss (a much older really grumpy nasy man, probably the pharmacist) snapped at me when I asked why basically for me to do as I’m told and wait for the manager. I was HORRIFIED. I had paid the money, the transaction had gone through and yet I’d had the cards confiscated. I had to wait for SHIFT LEADER to show up – then he went off to help another customer – then he came back – TOOK THE CARDS I’D PAID FOR AND SAID I told you I wouldn’t sell to you. I said (in an even tone, didn’t raise my voice) “You’re just doing this out of spite, aren’t you? The cards were processed, there was no problem, your own STORE manager told you you could sell them to me – so you’re just being spiteful, now aren’t you? just admit it?” he said the store manager had NOTHING to do with it – HE’S IN CHARGE – HE’S THE MANAGER FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES – I said yes, but the store manager is your boss – why else would you call him and ask for his help? HE (Manish) told you to sell them! SHIFT LEADER SAID: THE MANAGER IS NOT HERE NOW, IT’S MY DECISION SO WHAT I SAY GOES. HE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.
    He told me he would void the transactions, which he did – he didn’t want to give me a receipt of the void so I made him give me a photocopy – and I walked out of there SHAKING LIKE I’D BEEN TREATED LIKE A CRIMINAL. Who treats their customers like that????? He did it purely out of spite! What a nasty, nasty, petty man. If I had the time I’d report him.

    IT GETS WORSE: My husband today went to a CVS, they asked for his drivers license, he gave them his UK drivers license – they told him sorry, must be US, so he gave them his US drivers license – they SCANNED IT (they always scan at CVS) – and he was told he could not get $2000 (which is what he’d originally asked for) , only $1000, which was OK – but they had to call the manager, the manager came and they scanned the license and then went off into the back AND THEN THE POLICE SHOWED UP!!!!! My husband said the cashier wouldn’t say anything in front of him, spoke to the police on the side and pointed at my husband – who was finishing up the transaction – the police didn’t speak to my husband but my husband is 100% sure they were called for him – why I don’t know – he has a valid drivers license, credit card in his name, and he’s not breaking the law –

    But why else would the police show up????
    anyway he left….. went to a walgreens and got $500 (they had to call the manager to verify – but they didn’t scan his drivers license, only looked at it).

    This is getting horrible. We’re not breaking the law but are treated like criminals now.
    WE WILL NEVER DO BUSINESS WITH CVS EVER AGAIN, NO MATTER WHAT. We will only use Walgreens and buy $500 at a time.

  42. cj says:

    This no longer works
    Update the page.

  43. cj says:

    this is out of date and doesn’t work

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