As quickly as I was accepted into the Chase thINK Tank, I have been kicked out…
Apparently from the email below, the same people that brought you Fight Club also run Chase’s thINK Tank and were not to happy when I encouraged other REAL Chase INK Users to try and get accepted to the program (even though it ultimately didn’t work).
The first rule of Chase thINK Tank is you DO NOT TALK ABOUT CHASE THINK TANK.
The second rule of Chase thINK Tank is you DO NOT TALK ABOUT CHASE THINK TANK.
Although I was looking forward to some free Ultimate Rewards Points, I was more looking forward to giving my honest opinion on Chase’s Ink Cards and how they could make them better.
Add real Chip & Pin capabilities to INK Cards
Expand beyond Office Supply & Telecommunications for the 5X bonus
Add in some Small Business Partners like AMEX Open does
Unfortunately I’m just an actual Chase INK user and Blogger who blogs about Credit Cards, and not a high paid “market research” consultant, so those ideas will probably never see the light of day…
Anyways, to anyone that was accepted to the program, enjoy the bonus points, and remember the rules of Chase thINK Tank…..YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT CHASE THINK TANK!
So if you haven’t heard the news, “supposedly” Office Depot has stopped carrying Vanilla Reload Cards.
The reason I say “supposedly” is because I have been on the Star Mega DO 4 all week and haven’t had a chance to check my local Office Depot yet. My Office Depot always was in stock with Vanilla Reloads and never had any issues, so I have a extremely tiny flicker of hope that maybe they still have some left…
It is unclear why Office Depot pulled the Vanilla Reload Cards since they were a hot item and Office Depot wasn’t losing anything by selling them.
It would have been hilarious though if these flimsy pieces of plastic that we know as Vanilla Reload Cards, suddenly made the news as the “Must Have Item” for this year’s Holiday Season.
Although it is a surprise that Office Depot pulled the Vanilla Reloads Cards, (I personally thought it was going to be Chase that stopped the 5x UR Points at Office Supply Stores), it was going to happen eventually.
This is really unfortunate because for the time being, it means no more earning vast sums of Ultimate Rewards Points for pennies.
On The Bright Side
Although the situation may look bad, it isn’t as bad as it seems. I promise!
As I stated last month, even if Office Depot or Chase pulls the Vanilla Reload Cards and the ability to earn 5x UR Points per $1 spent, Vanilla Reload Cards and Bluebird Prepaid Card are still AMAZING!
The reason for this is because OTHER stores still sell Vanilla Reload Cards, you just don’t earn 5x UR Points.
Why this is important is because it can help you substantially if you are trying to hit any Minimum Spend Requirements.
With Vanilla Reload Cards, you can purchase them with a Credit Card, then load your Vanilla Reloads on to your Bluebird Prepaid Card, and then simply use Bluebird to mail a check to your Credit Card company!
My 8 Credit Cards from my most recent App-O-Rama were waiting for me when I returned from the Star Mega DO 4, so I have been trying to start to meet the monster $14,000 Minimum Spend Requirement.
I was walking to Dinner on Friday Evening and stopped in to Walgreens to see if they had any Vanilla Reload Cards.
I was able to find the Vanilla Pre-Paid Cards (that you CAN’T load onto Bluebird), but was unable to find any Vanilla Reload Cards. I thought Walgreens must have pulled those too, but then when I went around the display, all the way at the bottom, I found the Vanilla Reload Cards. It was almost like they were hidden.
I then simply went up to the Register and asked to load the Vanilla Reload Card with $500. The Cashier did it without hesitation and I was able to use my American Express Platinum Card to make the purchase.
After Dinner, I decided to go back and try my luck again with a different Cashier. I did the same thing and asked for another $500 Vanilla Reload Card. It went through but then my AMEX Fraud Protection kicked in and the screen asked for manual override with a “Voice Verification”.
I didn’t even know they did this kind of stuff, but the Walgreen’s Manager had to call the Phone Number on the back of my AMEX and said he needed to Voice Verify. After about 10 minutes, he handed the phone to me and the AMEX Agent asked me for the last 4 digits of my Social Security Number, and then asked me information from my Public Record such as what Streets have I lived at. After I answered the questions, I was “Voice Approved”, so the AMEX Agent gave the Walgreen Manager a manual override code and he entered it on the screen and the transaction went through.
When I got home, I had a missed call and email from AMEX Fraud Prevention. I simply called them and told them I did in fact make the purchase.
If you are reading this and getting freaked out, don’t be. The only reason this happened is because it was 2 large purchases at the same location, for the same exact amount with a few hours of each other. At a minimum, to AMEX it could have looked like a Walgreens computer glitch. Had I simply bought two $500 Vanilla Reload Cards at the same time, it would have gone through without issue.
If you are planning on making a big Vanilla Reload purchase, just call your Credit Card company and give them a heads up. As long as you tell them in advance that you are going to be making a big purchase (don’t have to say what it is), you shouldn’t have any issues
As soon as I was home, I simply scratched off the PIN on the Vanilla Reload Cards, loaded them onto my Bluebird, and then sent a check to AMEX for $1,000.
I also used Amazon Payments Friday night to complete another $1,000 in free Minimum Spend. So in the span of my Friday Evening, I was able to clear $2,000 of my $14,000 Minimum Spend Requirement (MSR) with a trip to Walgreens, $8 in Vanilla Reload Fees, and a couple clicks of the mouse. Not bad!
In fact those $2,000 in “purchases” combined with my LA and Star MegaDO Trip have me almost past the $3,000 Minimum Spend Requirement mark on the AMEX Platinum. That is fairly astonish because I got the Card in my hands only 10 days ago!
The point of this post is to encourage people not to freak out about not being able to get 5x at Office Depot but instead look at this as an opportunity.
In my case, if I did 5x solely with Office Depot and a Chase INK Card, my $14,000 MSR would net me 70,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, which isn’t bad.
However because I can purchase the Vanilla Reload Cards anywhere, by getting 8 Credit Cards and “spending” $14,000, I can earn 420,000 Miles / Points. This is 6x more than I’d earn if I only used an INK Card at Office Depot!
Where To Buy Vanilla Reload Cards
So I went in to Walgreens on a hunch that they might sell the Vanilla Reload Cards and allow you to use Credit Cards to purchase them. In this case, I just happened to be right.
You may go into your local Walgreens and they might not carry them, or the Cashier might not know how to ring it up with a Credit Card, etc. Basically YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary), but you just have to find 1 Store that works for you.
If you don’t have Walgreens near you, try Duane Reade, or CVS. I have read on Twitter that CVS works well.
You can also try most Big Box Retailers like Walmart, Target, etc or even Gas Stations or Grocery Stores.
You can literally find Vanilla Cards everywhere, it is just finding a Store that will let you pay with a Credit Card.
How To Take Advantage Of This
One of my Friends asked me today if he should sign his Girlfriend up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred or INK Card.
The Sapphire Preferred gets 40,000 UR Points after $3,000 MSR in 3 months while the INK Cards get 50,000 UR Points after $5,000 MSR in 3 months.
Although the INK Cards have $2,000 in additional MSR, you also get 10,000 more Ultimate Rewards Points! The best part is that with Vanilla Reload Cards, you can easily “spend” an additional $2,000 more for $16 in fees! Not bad for an additional 10,000 Ultimate Rewards Points!
Anyways if you haven’t done an App-O-Rama or gotten a Chase INK Card, I’D HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT! As I said above, you can purchase Vanilla Reload Cards at most Retailers with a Credit Card and complete the entire Minimum Spend Requirement with Amazon Payments & Vanilla Reload Cards in 3 months for $16 in fees and earn 55,000 UR Points (after you complete the MSR)!
That is almost enough miles for a FREE Economy Trip to Europe!
To put this all into perspective, if I was to do my entire $14,000 Minimum Spend Requirement with Vanilla Reload Cards (which I’m not doing but am doing a substantial amount with them), it would only cost me $98 in fees for 420,000 Miles & Points!
I’ll let you be the judge if that is a good deal or not…
I finally returned back in Chicago after my 3 day trip to NYC turned into a week long extravaganza thanks to Hurricane Sandy!
That being said there was some silver lining to the whole situation. I was originally booked on an American Airlines Award Ticket that I booked using British Airways Avios, so I wasn’t supposed to earn any Miles on the flight. However due to the flight cancellations, when AA re-booked me, they couldn’t say “We don’t have any availability for Saver Award Tickets”, so I was booked in O Fare Class, aka deep discount economy. Well thankfully, O Fare Class on AA earns miles, so on my flight home to Chicago, I earned 717 Miles. Although 717 Miles isn’t worth being stranded for a week, it is better than nothing!
Anyways when I returned home yesterday, I was happy to see my American Express Bluebird Pre-Paid Card had arrived in the mail!
Basically with a Chase INK Plus Card and a free Bluebird Pre-Paid Card, you can go to Office Depot and buy Vanilla Reload Cards for which you will earn 5 Ultimate Rewards Points per $1 spent. In my case, I bought $2,500 worth of Vanilla Reload Cards and earned 12,500 Ultimate Rewards Points in one visit.
Once you have your Vanilla Reload Cards, simply go home and load them for free onto your Bluebird Card. Then anywhere you use your Bluebird Card, you basically earn 5x points!
If that wasn’t awesome enough, since Bluebird is a hybrid-checking account, you can do free Online Bill Pay.
This means you can purchase the Vanilla Reload Cards on a Credit Card, then load those Vanilla Reload Cards onto your Bluebird Card, and then simply use Bluebird’s free Online Bill pay to pay off your Credit Card. Of course to not raise suspicion, you should use your Bluebird Card for Everyday Purchases too since you are earning 5x!
Although the Chase INK Plus has a $10,000 Minimum Spend Requirement in 3 months, as you will see below, using Vanilla Reload Cards, you can clear this hurdle very easily without spending any additional money. Even if for some reason you aren’t able to complete the $10,000 Minimum Spend Requirement, you still do get 25,000 Ultimate Rewards Points instantly after you sign up and make 1 purchase, so it is still worth it in my opinion.
As I have pointed out many times before, you don’t need a Business to get a Business Card. Any idea for a future business will work. More information here.
With this strategy of paying off your Credit Card bills with Bluebird, Minimum Spend Requirements are also basically dead.
I am a few days away from doing my first App-O-Rama. Needless to say I am EXTREMELY excited now that my Bluebird Card has arrived.
Once all my new Credit Cards from my App-O-Rama arrive, I am simply going to go to Office Depot and use them to purchase Vanilla Reload Cards. Then I’m going to load those Vanilla Reload Cards onto my Bluebird and then use that money to do free Online Bill Pay and pay off my Credit Cards. The only expenses to do this are the $3.95 per $500 of Vanilla Reload Cards.
A few of you have asked how to load your Bluebird Card with the Vanilla Reload Cards, so I thought I would explain it.
As I said in 5x UR Everywhere post, you want to buy the Vanilla Reload Cards and NOT the Vanilla Pre-Paid Card. The Vanilla Reload Cards look like this.
Where it says Load Card Number, enter the 15 digit Card number on your American Express Bluebird Card.
Where it says PIN Number, enter the 10 digit Pin Code on the back of your Vanilla Reload Card.
After you hit Submit, it will then ask you if you Agree with the Vanilla Reload terms.
After you hit Agree, it will take you to the confirmation page. Review that and then hit Submit.
Once you hit Submit, it will process your reload and give you a Confirmation that it went through and was loaded.
After you get confirmation it has been loaded, I’d recommend logging into Bluebird.com and double check that it did in fact load.
I loaded $500 on to my Bluebird Card today and another $1,000 yesterday.
Believe The Hype
A few other Travel Bloggers have been saying “Bluebird Is Over Rated” and that “Bluebird Isn’t A Game Changer”, I am going to beg to differ.
I have been doing this for a couple years now (although in comparison to the Veterans, I am a baby), starting in 2009 with the US Mint.
There will always be Debbie Downers for anything and back in the day no one believed that the US Mint thing would work or last. However it lasted for 2 full years and some people I met at Chicago Seminars said they cleared $1,000,000 in Coins during that period. In other words, they got 1,000,000 Miles for free.
The ironic part about the US Mint is that you had to take physical delivery of the Coins, then physically take them to the Bank and deposit them. Not to mention there wasn’t even any 5x multiplier.
That being said with Bluebird, all you have to do is go to Office Depot, buy the Vanilla Reload Cards, and then load them online onto Bluebird and pay your Credit Card bilsl. 95% of the process is electronic plus you get 5x multiplier.
If you are sitting on the sidelines saying this sounds too good to be true, or are unsure whether to dive in, I urge you to take the plunge because this 5x will not last long! You will not regret it!
The Chase INK Plus and Bluebird AMEX are both free to get (although obviously the Chase INK Plus is a Credit Card), so I would say there isn’t any real risk involved.
As I said earlier, I went to Office Depot and in one $2,500 purchase, I earned 12,500 Ultimate Rewards Points which is enough for a One Way almost anywhere in the United States. You won’t find any other “deal” that is as effective in earning points.
As I explained in the previous post, if you bought $2,500 worth of Vanilla Reload Cards at Office Depot every month (which isn’t a lot), because you are earning 5x at Office Depot with the Chase INK Plus, you would earn 150,000 Ultimate Rewards Points ($2,500 X 5x UR X 12 Months) for around $237 in Vanilla Reload Card fees ($3.95 a Card x 60 Cards).
With those 150,000 Ultimate Rewards Points, you could transfer them to United and take a First Class trip anywhere in the World! If your Travel Partner got their own Chase INK Plus and did the same thing, then that is 300,000 Ultimate Rewards between the both of you!
Even if Chase decides to stop offering 5x UR per $1 spent at Office Depot, because Walmart and Walgreens still sell Vanilla Reload Cards, Bluebird is still extremely valuable!
Although you wouldn’t earn 5x at Walmat or Walgreens, as I said in the last post, with Bluebird you can clear any Minimum Spend Requirement for only the cost of the Vanilla Reload Card fees.
For my upcoming App-O-Rama, I am going to need to spend $12,000 in 4 months. There is no way I could normally do that without spending money unnecessarily. However with Vanilla Reload Cards and Bluebird, for less than $100, I can easily clear the Minimum Spend Requirement for free and earn around 290,000 Miles! That is without any 5x Chase INK multiplier!
I cannot state the importance of this enough!
The 5x UR per $1 spent at Office Depot is pretty cool, but that is the SHORT game. The LONG game is using Vanilla Reload Cards to do App-O-Ramas and earning 290,000+ Miles in 1 sitting!
Anyways, I am going to write about my full App-O-Rama coming up but as I said before, I strongly encourage everyone to get in on this 5x Office Depot and Bluebird offer while you can.
Don’t ever miss another FFU Update or Travel Deal!
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