Vanilla Reload “Cash Only” Policy Seems Regional Right Now

Is the Vanilla Reload/Bluebird method dead?

UPDATE: Yes, yes it is dead. Cash only everywhere, hard coded into the register, as of April 5, 2014.

I’ve received several text messages and emails from friends and several more messages on Twitter about “the memo” that CVS stores received this past week. That memo tells stores that nearly all reload cards and cash-like prepaid cards would be hard coded by the registers to only accept cash as a form of payment. A copy of that memo is below (I believe credit goes to @Ringsthecaddy):

"The Memo"

“The Memo”

I hoped this was all an elaborate April Fool’s joke (it would have been pretty epic), but it  looks to be real. So far, however, this policy seems to be applied only regionally. I’ve received reports that Florida and Boston are a no-go, even though credit card purchases were allowed there yesterday. These were hard coded into the register. But so far Orange County/Los Angeles, Michigan, and New York seem to be still working as usual. I encourage you to report other locations in the comments below.

There are other reports that say a new pop-up screen saying “Cash Only” pops up on the CVS register as soon as the first Vanilla Reload is scanned, but that the register still allows the purchase to be made with a credit card. This obviously requires you to sweet-talk your cashier a bit, but if you can make friends with them it might be worthwhile for the long term! But again…this is an unverified report.

As for my stores, I talked to my CVS Manager and asked about “the memo” to see if he’d heard anything. He said he literally just finished reading corporate memos and saw nothing about gift cards or any new policy. This was Sunday 3/30/14 at 3:30PM.

So here’s my current analysis: The memo seems to be real. The changes the memo suggests have been implemented at several CVSs around the country, but not at others. It might be possible for the cashier to bypass the “cash only” rule, but I wouldn’t count on it. All you can do is hope your CVS is not affected by this yet.

OR…you can start to move on. The gravy train of Vanilla Reloads has lasted for about 1.5 years now, and it’s bound to end at some point (at least in it’s current, easy form). It looks like it’s on it’s last legs right now, so I encourage you to look for other methods to manufacture spend.

One of my favorite quotes is “Necessity is the mother of invention.” It’s been really great to have Vanilla Reloads for so long. It’s made it so easy for us. So easy, in fact, that I think it actually stunted the growth of the manufactured spend arena a bit. If it’s so easy and cheap to just buy these cards every single day, why look for anything else? Now we”ll be forced to use other methods and even come up with new ones. As always, The Frequent Miler is on top of this and posted his suggestions for a post-Vanilla Reload world of manufactured spend.

Now go out there and experiment!


      • Come on. Plenty of ways to MS without CVS without bothering with the many hassles/risks of buying/reselling. Suggesting that a noob try reselling is akin to throwing them to the lions.

        Wonder what your response is to Matt at Saverocity and his angry blog about those asking CVS “if it’s true” (as you did)?.

        • Which Saverocity post are you referring to? I don’t think I read it. Either way, I have a good relationship with my CVS manager and have no qualms about asking him. You want/need them to be on your side when things come up, and this was a question worth asking.

    • The Bluebird account can still be loaded with PIN-enabled gift cards (Visa/MC) bought from grocery stores. They must be loaded at Walmart locations, so it’s an extra step.

  1. Would you be able to obtain cash from your credit card and then use that for the VR purchase? I don’t know if you earn points from pulling cash off your credit card. That would need to be looked in to before hand. Just a random thought.

  2. I’m brand-new to this. I’m having difficulty determining what’s the next-best way to manufacture points. I sense that aside from actually using the card normally, the two general ways are vanilla reloads or other prepaid cards which require a Wal-Mart nearby to load onto Bluebird. Is there another way to do this if I don’t live near a Wal-Mart? Thanks!

    • That’s correct. If you want to continue using Bluebird, you’ll have to buy PIN-enabled gift cards and load them in-person at Walmart. Unfortunately there’s no other good ways to load Bluebird cards.

      You can try Green Dot reloads if they’re convenient. Amazon payments should be a given. Check out the other items on The Frequent Miler’s list or my own list in the links in the post.

  3. I have been told in the past at a few CVS stores that policy was cash only but asked cashier to let the computer decide.I was never turned down in the past by the computer.Since the above notice regarding cash only,I have tried twice to buy Vanilla reloads with a CC and again was told cash only.Asked cashier to try anyway and computer accepted CC payment both times for spouse and myself. Will try again and see what happens but may be worth people trying to pay with CC and not accepting cashier statements about cash only.

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