Bluebird Takes Flight
As you have undoubtedly heard, the next big thing in the mileage game, American Express’s Bluebird, has taken flight.
I talked about it briefly in my recap of how to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards on every purchase. I’ve been using my Vanilla Prepaid Card to pay for all my purchases in New York this past weekend, earning 5x on everything which has been great!
While I won’t recap all of Bluebird’s features since almost every other Blogger has done so already, there is one thing that I think is really important about Bluebird that hasn’t been covered extensively yet.
If you don’t yet have your free Bluebird or free AMEX Prepaid Card, you can get them here.
Since Bluebird is a hybrid pre-paid checking account, as part of the free features of the Card, you have the ability to do free online bill pay which includes Credit Cards.
Essentially what you can do is buy the Vanilla Reload Cards with any Credit Card, load those Vanilla Cards onto Bluebird, and then use Bluebird to pay your Credit Card bill for free (up to $5,000 a month). In any other situation, this would be called kiting, but as of right now it is perfectly legal via Bluebird! The only fees incurred are the cost to purchase the Vanilla Reload Cards, which is nominal compared to the boatload of miles you are earning.
Although the ability to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards via Office Depot is pretty amazing, who knows how long it will be until Chase changes the terms on the INK Cards or starts cracking down hardcore on people who are abusing this perk. There is no way it is remotely feasible for Chase to basically pay people to buy these Vanilla Reload Card.
While I was walking around Times Square yesterday, I saw an Office Depot, so I went in thinking I would try and buy a few Vanilla Reloads. However as soon as I found the Gift Card Rack, it was apparent that someone had already wiped clean the rack. It reminds me of that movie Jingle All The Way with Arnold Schwarzenegger and his quest to find the last Turbo Man toy during Christmas.
Basically, if you are currently doing the 5x Office Depot trick, enjoy it while it lasts because who knows how long it will be around for.
However, as I was saying earlier, the Bluebird Card still is extremely useful even if Chase pulls the ability to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards Points at Office Supply Stores, due to the free online bill pay feature.
The biggest issue with doing an App-O-Rama’s is figuring how to complete the enormous Minimum Spend Requirements without unnecessarily spending money on things you don’t need. This is why I have yet to do my first App-O-Rama because there was no way for me to spend that much money in such a short amount of time! Even the $5,000 on the AMEX Business SPG was a stretch!
With Amazon Payments, you can easily move $1,000 a month for free, but when you have to spend $10,000 – $15,000 in 3 months on an App-O-Rama, that is barely a dent.
However with Bluebird because you can use it to pay your Credit Card bills, you can basically clear these high Minimum Spending Requirements for a few dollars. Although you will only be earning 1x instead of the normal 5x we are used to, it is still a pretty awesome deal as you will see below!
I am getting ready to do my first App-O-Rama in November. Pre Bluebird, what Credit Cards I was planning on getting was entirely built around how I would complete the Minimum Spend Requirement (MSR). However post Bluebird, I can get any Cards regardless of the Minimum Spend Requirements because I can use Bluebird to pay my Credit Card bills.
I am currently planning on getting the following Cards. When I actually apply for the Cards, I will do a whole post about why I chose the Cards I did. Some of the Cards may seem bizzare choices out of context, but I assure you there is a method to the madness that I will explain at a later date.
- Chase Southwest Personal – 50,000 Southwest Points after $2,000 MSR in 3 Months
- Chase Southwest Business – 50,000 Southwest Points after $2,000 MSR in 3 Months
- Barclays US Airways Preferred – 50,000 US Airway Miles after 1st Purchase & Balance Transfer
- Citibank American Airlines Personal Visa – 50,000 AA Miles after $2,500 MSR in 4 Months
- Citibank American Airlines Business AMEX – 50,000 AA Miles after $2,500 in MSR 4 Months
- American Express Business Gold Card – 50,000 Membership Rewards Points after $5,000 MSR in 3 Months
- Bank of America Hawaiian Airlines Visa – 35,000 Hawaiian Miles (or 70k Hilton Points) after $1,000 MSR in 4 Months
Although the MSR would be substantially higher ($10,000 more) if I got a Chase INK Plus Card, I am going to wait that one out since I already have the Chase INK Bold.
In total, over 3-4 Months, I am going to have spend around $15,000. That is a sizeable chunk of change.
Via Amazon Payments, I can do $1,000 a month for free, so that drops the total down to $12,000.
I probably spend $1,000 a month on groceries, travel, and other junk I don’t actually need (not including rent). That still leaves about $9,000 I need to spend.
With the Bluebird Card, you can reload it via Vanilla Reload Packs that cost $3.95 per $500 pack at Office Depot or wherever else you can buy them with a Credit Card.
That being said, once you have the pack, you can reload your Bluebird Card with them (up to $5,000 a month). Once you have put the money on your Bluebird Card, you can simply pay your Credit Card bill (again $5,000 monthly limit).
So for $9,000 in Vanilla Reloads Card ($500 increments or 18 Vanilla Cards), it will cost me $71.10 in giftcard fees.
For $71, I will be earning around 370,000 Miles / Points!
The best thing about this is that because you are using different Credit Cards to purchase all these Vanilla Reload Cards, you shouldn’t have any issues getting flagged. Whereas if you did this only with your Chase INK Cards, you might get flagged.
Chase INK Cards
Hypothetically if you got a Chase INK Card, you could also do this strategy to meet the $10,000 MSR in 3 months. However I would caution on being careful and at a minimum suggest using Amazon Payments to knock off $3,000 in MSR.
If you did that, then you would only have another $7,000 to spend. Assuming you put $1,000 in household expenses on the Card each month, you would only have $4,000 left which you could do at Office Depot without raising any flags. If you did $1,500 a month for 3 months via Vanilla Reload Cards, you would easily clear the $4,000 hurdle.
In the process because of the 5x Ultimate Rewards bonus, you would earn 20,000 additional Ultimate Rewards Points (5 UR x $4,000 in Vanilla Cards). So in total, you could potentially earn over 76,000 Ultimate Rewards Points by getting a Chase INK Card!
- 25,000 Ultimate Rewards Points instantly after sign up
- 25,000 Ultimate Rewards Points after completing $10,000 Minimum Spend
- 26,000 Ultimate Rewards Points for completing actual $10,000 Minimum Spend ($4,000 at Office Depot (20k UR), $3,000 Amazon Payments (3k UR), $3,000 in monthly household spend (3k URx))
As you can see, if used carefully and in moderation, Bluebird can be an absolute game changer in terms of completing Minimum Spend Requirements.
The glory days of 5x via Office Depot will eventually come to an end one day, so enjoy it while you can.
Although the Vanilla Reload Cards do have some fees, in total for around $71, I should be earning a whopping 370,000 Miles / Points. So of course, I am more than happy to pay such a ridiculously small fee to earn that many miles.
Even though I will only be earning 1x Points on the Vanilla Reload Cards instead of the normal 5x I do with my Chase INK Bold, basically for every $1 I am spending in fees for my App-O-Rama, I am getting 5,211 Miles in return.
Hopefully this post encourages some of you to take the dive and do your first App-O-Rama! I am counting down the days to do mine!