Update: There are several reports online (with reader comment confirmation) indicating that Office Depot is no longer selling Vanilla Reload cards. If that is the case, the following earning opportunity is not nearly as lucrative.
If you don’t collect credit card rewards, then good for you. This post isn’t supposed to convince anyone to jump ship. However, if you’re a credit card user, I want to introduce you to a fantastic new product from American Express that could help you earn a lot more points or miles.
The product? Bluebird.
As you may or may not know, I have another blog that focuses on credit card rewards (specifically for travel). I usually keep the credit card reward talk over there, but this a great opportunity that I want to tell you about.
The Key Ingredients for Earning More Credit Card Rewards
- Focus on the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. It is the best all around points program on the planet. You can use your points to transfer to a variety of airlines like United, British Airways, Southwest, and Korean Air. They can be transferred to hotel programs like Hyatt (the only hotel transfer that typically makes sense), Priority Club, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott. They can be transferred to Amtrak (with some great reception options). If you want to use your points to book travel, you can get a 25% bonus. If you want, you can even get cash back (1 penny per one point).
- You need an Ink Bold or Ink Plus credit card. Yes, these are business credit cards, so you’ll need to have some type of a business. This can be a very small business where you buy and resell products on Ebay or something similar. Why specifically these two cards? When you use either of these cards at an office store, you can get 5 points per dollar spent.
- You’ll need to have an Office Depot near your house that sells Vanilla Prepaid Reload cards.
Thus, enters the value of the new Bluebird by American Express.
Bluebird is a checking account and debit card alternative. You load funds onto the card, and then you can use the funds in various ways. What makes the Bluebird particularly good is because you can load funds to your card with Vanilla Prepaid Reload cards (which you can buy at Office Depot and get 5x points).
The Recipe for Getting a Bunch of Credit Card Rewards
1. Sign up for a free Bluebird card.
2. Go to Office Depot and purchase some Vanilla Prepaid Reload cards.
They cost $3.95, and you can fund the card with up to $500. When you go to Office Depot and buy a $500 card with your Ink Bold or Ink Plus card, you’ll get 2520 Ultimate Rewards points (503.95*5). Those points are very conservatively (worst case scenario) worth $25.30. A good return for your $3.95 fee.
3. Go to vanillareload.com and add your funds to your Bluebird card.
4. Use the funds in Bluebird on things that you couldn’t otherwise use with a credit card.
Bluebird has a bill pay feature that allows you to send checks or make electronic payments. This means you can charge something on a credit card (for the points, not to defer payments) that you would otherwise not be able to earn points for.
In my home, this includes things like taxes, contributions, utilities, and rent. These are all things I can’t pay with a credit card, or I’m charged extra to pay with a credit card.
As an example, you can use Bluebird to pay your rent or mortgage payment.
Let’s say you have either a rent or mortgage payment that is $1,000. You’ve been faithfully paying your rent or mortgage, but not getting any miles. If there were a way to get miles, you’d be happy to go ahead and get a credit card reward for something you’re already spending money on.
Here’s what you can do. Every month, buy $1,000 worth of Vanilla Prepaid Reload cards for $1,007.90. Then you order a check to be sent from Bluebird to your lending institution or rent.
The result would be that, after a year, you’ve paid $94.80 more for a year’s worth of rent (the Vanilla Reload fee). However, you’ve also earned 60,474 Ultimate Rewards miles for something you’d be buying anyway.
Need help putting 60,474 Ultimate Rewards in perspective? How about this: you can transfer them to United and get a ticket to anywhere in Asia. Hong Kong – yes. Thailand – yes. Japan – yes. That’s not a bad return for a $94.80 investment.
The Ink Bold and Ink Plus cards both come with a 50,000 Ultimate Reward bonus if you spend $10,000 in the first three months. This does seem like (and is) a huge amount, but remember you can purchase a couple thousand dollars of Vanilla Reload cards each month.
A word of warning:
If you’re interested in doing this, you’ll need to use the Bluebird card in a variety of ways and load funds in different ways. Don’t abuse the system, and you can still responsibly earn thousands of extra miles every year. You don’t want to get shut down by Chase for only using the card at office stores, and you don’t want to cause issues at American Express by only loading with Vanilla cards and sending checks.
I’d suggest loading and buying a maximum of $2,000 worth of Vanilla Reload cards each month. That is assuming you’ll also be using the Ink Bold or Plus cards for other spending.
Use your account in a natural way as a banking substitute, and you’ll be able to earn some valuable points.
Again, if you’re a credit card user, I hope this information helps. If you don’t use credit cards, I’m cool with that, too.