Prepaid gift cards will now allow you to set a PIN number, enabling you to use these prepaid cards as debit cards. This means you'll be able to:
- Load up to $1000 per day via 4 cards (up to a total of $5000 per month) to AMEX Bluebird, at WalMart
- Get cash back from WalMart and potentially other retailers
- Buy other prepaid cards at certain stores that allow you to pay by debit card but not credit card
- Possibly receive cash advances at certain banks
While you could also buy money orders, I really don't recommend this option–depositing large amounts will cause your bank to file a suspicious activity report and possibly get your account shut down.
Which Gift Cards?
Currently not all gift cards have the PIN functionality enabled yet. So far it seems to work with cards issued by U.S. Bank and Metabank, which can be found in a number of grocery stores and some office supply stores. It's not yet working with the Vanilla Visa cards, although hopefully that will change soon.
Can I Load AMEX Bluebird with Debit Card for Free Anywhere Else Besides Walmart?
Currently no, unfortunately. While you can load online using a debit card, the limit is up to $100 per day, and there's a $2 fee per transaction, which makes it not worth it.
Doing the Math
Since prepaid gift cards come with fees, it's best to:
- Look for sales (sometimes they're sold at a discount or come with a rebate, for example a Staples gift card); and/or
- Buy them with a card that earns you bonus points or miles. Top picks include:
- Ink Bold or Ink Plus: 5X Ultimate Rewards points at office supply stores (although only gift cards up to $200 denomination are sold)
- AMEX Blue Cash Preferred: 6% back on grocery store purchases up to $6000 per year
- AMEX Premier Rewards Gold: 2X Membership Rewards points at grocery stores
Let's say you're able to find $200 Visa prepaid cards from U.S. Bank or Metabank at an office supply store, or that Vanilla Visa products soon come with a PIN that is able to be used to load AMEX Bluebird at Walmart. Assuming there are no other deals or sales on these cards and you purchased 4 of them (the maximum that you can load in one day at Walmart), you would pay $6.95 in fees per card, or $27.80 in fees for the 4 cards, with a total transaction price of $827.80. You would earn 5X points on the purchase, so 8 x 827.80 = 4139 points total. That's equivalent to buying each point at 0.67 cents–a pretty good deal.
Of course, if you have easy access to Vanilla Reloads that you can buy via a points earning credit card, then that's a better deal, as is earning credit card signup bonuses for spend you would have made anyway. But if it's hard to find Vanilla reloads in your area yet you do have a Walmart nearby, this could give you a nice option for loading Bluebird up to the daily and monthly maximum limits at reasonable cost, earning valuable Ultimate Rewards points or helping meet minimum spend on a new Ink Bold or Ink Plus card.
Can You Withdraw Cash from ATMs?
No. But apuraja on Flyertalk has reported being able to get a cash advance from a bank. As always, your mileage may vary.
How Do I Get Cash Back?
So far Walmart has proven the most reliable place to get cash back, and the limit appears to be $100, in increments of $20.
Is This for Everybody?
No–it really isn't so useful for folks without a convenient WalMart (such as those of us in NYC). I'll continue to meet minimum spend with Amazon Payments and with 5X for all Amazon spend, and to front load some spend to get 5X points on all restaurants with the Chase Freedom Q2 5X Dining Category. Make sure you take into account the hassle factor and the value of your time, especially if Walmart isn't especially convenient to you.
Do you plan to take advantage of the new Prepaid Gift Card PIN capability to load AMEX Bluebird or get cash back?