My Vanilla Debit: Pros and Cons of Using MVD to Earn Miles
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Hilary Stockton

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My Vanilla Debit: Pros and Cons of Manufacturing Spend with the MVD to Earn Miles and Points


A TravelSort reader writes in about the My Vanilla Debit card: "I’m trying to figure out how to pay my estimated quarterly federal taxes and even state estimated taxes via the My Vanilla Debit and/or AMEX Bluebird card. I have lots of Vanilla Reload cards in my area- no problem.

But I owe about $XXK in federal and $XK in state taxes each quarter. I can buy Vanilla Reload cards with my several 2% cash back credit cards.

Is there a way I can get money off the My Vanilla Debit card and get it right into my checking account with ATM withdrawals?

AMEX Bluebird is limited to a $5000 load per month using Vanilla Reload cards, which I guess I can do a little on a regular basis and build it up to lots—or should I just pay taxes each month?

What would you recommend?"

Taking this reader's second to the last question first, it is possible to set up monthly payments using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), from your checking account. If you do this, it would come directly from your bank account, so you'd want to get get the money you've loaded onto the My Vanilla Debit card or AMEX Bluebird back into the account you've linked to EFTPS.

What to Do After Reaching the $5000 Monthly Load Limit for AMEX Bluebird?

There are a few options once you reach the $5000 maximum for loading your AMEX Bluebird with Vanilla Reloads:

  • Have your spouse or partner also get an AMEX Bluebird, so you can double the amount you load to $10,000 per month. If you have other family members or business partners you trust, get them on board too.
  • Load a My Vanilla Debit card with Vanilla Reloads up to $9999 at any given time
  • Load an AMEX Prepaid card (maximum of $2500 total balance on the card at any given time)

Which Credit Card to Use to Buy Vanilla Reloads?

While you can certainly use a 2% cash back card, I personally like to use whichever cards I'm working on meeting minimum spend for the signup bonus. See Best Credit Cards to Buy Vanilla Reload Cards

Best Way to Liquidate Funds from the My Vanilla Debit Card?

  • Purchase money orders at Walmart. If you're trying to keep your MVD alive for awhile, don't go overboard with the amount of the money order--aim for $1500 or less
  • Cash Advance at a bank. While it may be tempting to load your My Vanilla Debit until it reaches $9999 then cash advance $9997 (due to the $1.95 cash advance fee), don't do this or any large amount if you want to try to keep your MVD alive. InComm has gotten quite aggressive about closing the accounts of folks that it perceives as simply loading and unloading cash, particularly through large cash advances or money orders.
  • ATM: not recommended. While you can withdraw from an ATM, the maximum you can withdraw is $400 per transaction and $1.95 fee is assessed each time, making this unattractive.

Careful with Large Cash Advances or Money Orders...

As mentioned above, a number of posters on Flyertalk have reported being shut down by InComm after a history of loading funds on to their My Vanilla Debit, then liquidating, especially through high dollar amount cash advances and/or money orders. 

For example, take Flyertalk poster groundhog: "I was doing loads almost every day (2x$500) and cash advance 1-2 times per week ($2500). It took them 3 months to lock my account."

Lukfilm was shut down after one large money order: "I did just ONE and it wasn't CA, but a MO at WM for $4,000! I was really shocked. Now the other two of my cards are monitored as well, looks like game over for me"


How Do I Avoid Getting Shut Down by InComm?

Avoid only using the My Vanilla Debit card to load and withdraw money. Have a few regular transactions, even though they do cost 50 cents each. And avoid large cash advances and money orders of over $1000 in one transaction.


What Does it Mean if My Account is "On Hold" or "Monitored"?

It means that InComm is on to you and plans to close your account--which could also affect any other My Vanilla Debit cards you have. Typically, however, you'll be given 48 hours to unload/liquidate your account, and some folks manage to get in a last reload before doing a final cash advance for the entire balance. And, per commenter Ron S., below, it's worth continuing to monitor your closed MVD accounts for a few weeks afterwards, to see if they somehow become active again.


My Account Has Been Closed and I Haven't Been Able to Get My Money Out!

If your calls to InComm haven't gotten you your money back, you can file an online complaint with the FDIC, which can speed things up, per commenter Ron S. below and several Flyertalkers.


So to summarize:

My Vanilla Debit Card Pros

  • Often more widely available than Vanilla Reload cards
  • Can typically be purchased with a credit card and loaded up to $500, even by stores that don't allow credit card payment for Vanilla Reload cards
  • Can load up to $10,000 per month on the My Vanilla Debit Card using Vanilla Reloads: twice as much as with AMEX Bluebird
  • Some banks will allow a cash advance on a temporary My Vanilla Debit Card that has been registered, even before you receive the permanent card

My Vanilla Debit Card Cons

  • Many fees associated with the My Vanilla Debit card. See My Vanilla Debit Fees
  • InComm has been shutting down those My Vanilla Debit card users that it deems to be not using the card the way InComm intended--i.e., miles and points hounds that are not sufficiently profitable to InComm
  • Maximum of 3 permanent cards allowed per SSN
  • Lacks the more robust bill paying and check writing features of AMEX Bluebird
In sum, I'd recommend maxing out AMEX Bluebird first, ideally leveraging a spouse or business partner in order to be able to load $10,000 per month on a couple of AMEX Bluebird cards. I'd then only use My Vanilla Debit to fill in the gaps, keeping loading and unloading in a modest range (ideally money orders and cash advances in the $1000 or less range per transaction, with some regular spend mixed in) if the goal is to be able to use My Vanilla Debit for awhile. 
What's your experience with My Vanilla Debit--have you used it to earn frequent flyer miles and points? Had any problems or been shut down or had your account monitored? Share in the comments!
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User_avatar_default Ron S. commented 11 Jun 2013
You can load MVD up to $9999K at a time - not just a month. I don't think there is a monthly limit (or at least I never found one). I pushed thru $175K in ~2.5 months across 2 cards before they closed me the first time (magically, the cards came back to life a few weeks later and I loaded another $20K before they realized what was going on, lol). The limiting factor was VR availabilty, not MVD, or I'd have pushed thru more volume. And it was all fee-free (except the very last time once they decided to close my account - but since I withdrew the entire amount, they had to eat the $1.95 CA fee, lol) And if you get shut down, file a complaint with the FDIC or Comptroller of the Currency - as loading/unloading is not illegal and doesn't violate any of their T&Cs - it just makes you an unprofitable customer that they want to get rid of. That stinks and is inconvenient, so to make their life a bit harder, file complaints for such arbitrary closures - and demand interest for the time they take to send you your money back. Finally, you'll know when the end is nigh - your account will say "on hold" or "monitored" rather than "active". But you can still load with an account that is "on hold". So load up your card as high as possible before calling in and get the "news" they are closing your account. Most of the time they reopen your account and you get 48 hours to unload (ie, go do a CA for the entire amount - don't leave a penny in the account for them to rip you off with fees for them closing your account). Keep your cards after they close your account and check your online log ins for up to a month later - as they cards sometimes come back to life (as 2 of mine did). Was funny as heck to call in to hear them tell me they were closing my account for the second time in a month - and send me another check. Incomm is a screwed up company.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 11 Jun 2013
Ron, wow, thanks for sharing your experience--sounds like you've done very well by the MVD in terms of miles and points! Will update the post to reflect the ability to load $9999 at any given time, and the link to the FDIC online complaint form.
User_avatar_default Sil L. commented 11 Jun 2013
I registered for my MVD online. When it came time to activate, CSR said Birth date I input does not match with what I initially input online. Was mad so cancelled card. Can I go to Vons/Safeway, buy the MVD and reload $500. 1. Can i reload with VR without registering MVD? 2. Can I cash advance once I registered the card and before the card arrives? 3. I have Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo close to me. Which bank is most successful for CA? 4. I only plan to do CA once to meet min spending? What is the most I should CA? 5. Do I call after i do my LAST CA and don't want to use my MVD to cancel so I don't have dormancy fee to pay?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 11 Jun 2013
Sil, you would need to register your MVD in order to reload with Vanilla Reload cards. I have been able to do a cash advance on a MVD after registering but before the permanent card arrived. In terms of banks (and Ron and others, please chime in with your experience) I believe it depends more on the individual branch/teller/supervisor than the bank. Only you can decide the amount you're comfortable with doing a cash advance with, but even if you're only doing one, keep in mind any account monitoring/hold/closure could affect your other MVD cards, and you're limited to 3 total. Yes, the safest thing to do would be to call to cancel your MVD to avoid any possibility of a dormancy fee, even after you've liquidated the balance.
User_avatar_default Raymond P. commented 11 Jun 2013
I think GoBank going beyond $10K.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 11 Jun 2013
Raymond, thanks for the comment, actually, I think you can have up to a $50K GoBank balance. Unfortunately, GoBank is less useful for those of us living in NYC, with no Walmart around to load it. I suppose it may be possible to buy MoneyPaks, although they cost $1 more per pack than Vanilla Reload cards. I'm also just as (if not more) leery of GoBank account closures, given all the reports.
User_avatar_default Ron S. commented 12 Jun 2013
GoBank is also calling people who make "unusual" amounts of loads - they aren't telling people what level that is but it's nowhere near the $50K they say you can have on the card. They are GreenDot and notorious for shutting people down for tiny amounts of loading on their other products. Since they are trying to compete with WM/Bluebird, my guess is ~$5K a month is what they might deem acceptable loads/month. At least GoBank is making an effor to talk to people about their usage rather than simply closing accounts unilaterally like Incomm/GreenDot typically do.
User_avatar_default Ruth J. commented 11 Jun 2013
All good info here. Any other cards besides BB & the MVD that are like V reloads? Does Amex have anything that you can get for 500-1000 and load up onto another card on then do CA at bank?
User_avatar_default Ron S. commented 12 Jun 2013
No Amex card can be CA'd as far as I know. They do have Amex Prepaid cards that can be loaded upto $2500/mo with either MoneyPaks or VRs (can get 3 cards per SSN). But to unload, you need to hit ATMs and absorb fees. Cheapest around me is using Costco ATMs for $1.25. Add in the card's $2 fee, and you'll pay $3.25 per $400 withdrawal. That's only acceptable for meeting minimum spend or if you are loading using 5x/6x cards to buy VRs. Otherwise the fees are too high. That said, no monthly fee, and you get one free ATM per month from Amex (ie, no $2 fee, but you still pay the $1.25 Costco fee). If you only load one $500 VR per month, you can get fees down to $1.25 per $400 withdrawal (and leave $98.75 balance). And then every 4th month, make two ~$400 withdrawals to drain the card for the most cost efficient manner. If you have Significant Other, can get 6 cards and load $3K per month. Not huge, but better than sharp stick in the eye.
User_avatar_default Yeshu J. commented 15 Oct 2013
Ron, can't we do money orders with Amex prepaid?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 13 Jun 2013
Ron, thanks for adding the AMEX Prepaid info--great summary and couldn't have said it better myself!
User_avatar_default Sil L. commented 13 Jun 2013
I was told with Go Bank Prepaid card, you can't load with Moneypak except with the first load for the deposit. Is this true?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 13 Jun 2013
Sil, hmm, can you point me to where you read that? As far as I'm aware, you can load Go Bank Prepaid with Moneypak on an ongoing basis, but the harder issue for many is being able to buy Moneypak with a credit card, since many places take cash only for the Moneypak reloads.
User_avatar_default Sil L. commented 13 Jun 2013
I didn't read it. I called and talked to the CSR.
Picture?type=large William L. commented 25 Jun 2013
I have 3 MVD cards. the first two got shutdown( declined at WM). I called in for the first card, and be given 48 hours to empty it, which I did. so my question is that is this same 48 hours for the second or third card? or each card will have its own final 48 hours? Thanks
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 25 Jun 2013
I would assume that the 48 hours applies to both cards that were shut down, although not the still open card, if you're lucky enough to keep that active. But I don't have personal experience getting shut down, so hopefully Ron S. or someone else with more familiarity can chime in.
User_avatar_default Ron S. commented 25 Jun 2013
Each card has it's own shut down. So you have to call in and get the 48 hour window per card. Whenever a card is placed on "hold" status, you can still load. So whenever I found my card was put on hold (and thus about to die), I loaded as much as possible on the card (ie as close to $10K as possible) and then called in to get the 48 hour unload limit. I'd advise taking out every penny from your account. That will leave your card in a negative balance that will keep the card open. For me, after a few weeks, my login information worked again (ie, went back to "active" status) and I loaded the cards successfully one more time (ie, load ~$10K and then do a CA). They shut me down a second time as soon as I did the CA, but it was more for my amusement than anything ($10K was a fast and easy cash out avenue, but barely makes a dent in my spend). I'll keep watching my accounts and see if my accounts comes back to life again like it did the first time - and then load again :)
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 26 Jun 2013
Ron, thanks so much for sharing these details from your experience! Very helpful to William and anyone else facing a hold or shutdown situation. Will be very interested to hear if your accounts become live again :)
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 26 Jun 2013
Ron, thanks so much for sharing these details from your experience! Very helpful to William and anyone else facing a hold or shutdown situation. Will be very interested to hear if your accounts become live again :)
Picture?type=large William L. commented 25 Jun 2013
Hilary/Ron, Thank you for the information, really appreciate it! I am going accumulate/load the VR, then call them to get 48 hours death window for each card. :)
Picture?type=large William L. commented 28 Jun 2013
6/28 update: loading about $4K to the MVD #1, cashed out after calling, it is still open. in the mean time, I have been loading $5000 into the MVD #2, today, my log for #2 is not working, called in, then heading to BOA to cash it out.
Picture?type=large Andrea K. commented 01 Dec 2013
Good day!!! I dislike the MVD! We were trying to get the money off the card to pay our rent and bills. MVD would not let us get past $300 CA. Then we realized couldn't change our minimum spending and ATM CA like you can with most banks. Then I logged into the account and saw what you all are saying we lost $0.50 for small purchases and $1.95 for all big CA and purchases. Ultimately I don't recommend this company or card to anybody. Walmart cards have always been good to me one time fee of $3 a month if you deposit less than $1000 and my Bestie has the rush card. I don't like being told how to spend my money and I can't imagine anybody else does. Andrea Marie
Picture?type=large Glenn C. commented 18 Jan 2014
For those that have had their cards shut down are you able to buy new ones and register them? I just had my first two Vanilla Visa shut down and was thinking about buying new ones and registering them.
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