My Favorite CVS Still Takes Credit Cards For Vanilla Reloads — And Doesn’t Plan to Change

Just a quick update to my post earlier today about the rumored demise of Vanilla Reload cards being sold at CVS and paid for by credit card.

We certainly know that many stores have received a memo from the corporate headquarters that they’re interpreting to mean that Vanilla Reload cards can be sold for cash only, effective tomorrow March 31.

But not all stores know about the memo. I stopped at one of my two favorite area stores that always have a rich supply of the cards and permit the purchase of up to $5000 per day via credit card. I spoke with the shift manager who knew the $5000 rule, hadn’t heard anything about planned changes, and assured that they hadn’t received any memos about similar products over the past week.

Now, that only goes so far. If the company pushes through changes to the sales computer, implementing a rule at the computer level (rather than relying on staff compliance) that the cards are cash only, then it doesn’t matter if local staff know.

Whether the company will do such a thing, or do it tomorrow, is anyone’s guess. And I’ll certainly return to the store tomorrow to see what’s going on.

But not every store has gotten the memo. Soon enough we’ll know if the status quo — that ‘every store is different’ — prevails, or whether that part of the game from that store really is over.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. In WV and lots of cards on rack. Manager had heard nada about any changes. Frankly I’m skeptical about this new policy. And hopeful…..,

  2. I was so sick and was planning to rest all day in bed until read this…I jumped out of my bed and drove all the way to the nearest CVS and bought $5000 VR cards. What’s a relief the local CVS still take CC! It will be pretty overwhelming if CVS stop accepting CC.

  3. My faith in the assertion that individual store shift managers would be receiving policy change memos from high-level corporate staff is not very strong. We’ll see how the next couple days play out.

  4. I believe this is an April fools joke. Because if they “stop” selling on March 31 eveybody will be out checking to see if they work on April 1st.

  5. Where is this magical place where you have CVS that even today takes credit cards? Walgreens in Colorado stopped a year or more ago, and my domestic travels have never taken me near a CVS that sold VR for credit….

  6. Rob, every CVS I’ve been to in MA,CT, IL, IN, MI, TX and WI accept CCs. Not sure where you live but most CVS’s take CCs.

  7. Went to 3 CVS stores here in IL and they had no idea what I was talking about. Talked to the manager at one of them.

  8. I was at two CVS stores in VA today. Neither one said anything about not accepting CCs. In fact, I asked at second one because the cashier asked me if I was getting them for the points so I took the opportunity to ask.

  9. Gary – My brother went to a CVS here in N. Virginia (Ashburn) and they were all out. He then asked about the change and the Manager then confirmed that on the 31st they would no longer accept credit cards for Vanilla Reload purchases.

  10. I worked at CVS years ago and I’m sure much has changed, but it is very possible the shift supervisors haven’t heard the news yet because the store manager has not worked yet since the memo came yesterday. Typically the store manager works M-F and the shift supervisors and assistant managers work nights/weekends. Many of these memos can only be viewed by the store manager.

    Here’s where I see the potential loop hole going forward:
    If the payment type can be overridden with management approval, then this could work on occasion. Back in my day as a shift supervisor, most of us managers would leave our override card with cashiers we trusted so we didn’t have to walk to the front of the store every time they needed approval for something. Approval was required all the time for refunds, price modifies, etc and it was a huge pain to constantly come from the office, back room, basement, etc to grant approval.

    If the override is possible, I suggest going into CVS right before closing when there is likely to be a high school kid at the register and the manager is in the office counting all the cash drawers for the day. I would always leave my approval card with the cashiers then.

  11. CVS store managers have a lot of discretion, but if I recall the “famous memo” correctly, there’s going to be a “register hard stop” that prevents cashiers from processing credit cards for Vanilla Reloads. If this is true, it would seem like it’s going to take a heck of a lot of luck — or a great relationship with a store manager — to buy a Vanilla Reload card with a credit card at CVS going forward.

    That said, we’ve seen plenty of things go wrong with the technology at CVS, so perhaps that register stop won’t be in every store. So I foresee plenty of drama in future days!

  12. The memo says “register hard stop will halt..”, i think that’s the definitive statement – whatever that means.

  13. Went to my local CVS in Chicago where I always find Vanilla reloads. Was able to buy one on a credit card today. I asked the cashier if he had heard anything about them being cash only as of tomorrow. He confirmed his manager had told him prepaid cards (including Vanilla reloads) will be cash only.

  14. Alexandria/Mount vernon area. A number of CVS cashiers and at least one manager around here have know for many months what was going on.

  15. If this pans out to be true, doesn’t this seem to be a rather abrupt change of course by CVS management? I would think a change like this would be rolled out in a more orderly fashion with new signage to put up on the racks, etc.

  16. Gary:

    “MA,CT, IL, IN, MI, TX and WI ”

    Well, those “back east” states are places I literally never go. Although I was in MA a couple years ago.

    Colorado has no CVS, but for a while you could buy Vanilla Reloads at Walgreens. So far it hasn’t been much of a pain for me, as I have a Safeway and a Walmart close to me, so Visa gift cards achieve the same goal.

  17. I’m in San Diego. Bought $10K today just in case. My “go to” cashier said he was unaware of any change and there were over 100 VR’s on the rack.

  18. nw chicago burbs – bought 4k earlier this morning. just bought 2k and chatted with night guy who is a car guy like me. he had not heard anything about this. will be interesting to see if it works later or if it is subject to a hard stop at the register as the note above implies.

  19. I got an odd hard stop when I tried to buy a VR for the first (and only so far) time a few months ago. The cash register wouldn’t accept my card as a method of payment even though I’d been using it previously. Not sure if it was the card (Chase Freedom) or an internal policy. The card continued working though and I never got a call from Chase about suspicious activity or anything.

    The cashiers themselves had no idea why it was doing that, they never told me anything about the cards being cash-only, and most already have experience with local university students trying to convert their meal plan money into Amex/Visa/MC gift cards (now banned), so it should be a process they’re familiar with. I didn’t try again since the other CVS locations in the area didn’t have any in stock (this one had only three), and there aren’t any WalMarts around.

  20. since so many of the staff are not aware of it, i suppose that increases the chance they will implement it at software level instead of relying on personnel. like Walgreens & Office Deopt did, i had staff swiping the card but transaction rejected.

  21. Went to CVS in Maryland on Sunday afternoon. The cashier refused to ring it up and said that an e-mail went out yesterday saying to stop credit cards for Vanilla Reloads immediately as of 3/29.

  22. I left one card in the rack at San Rafael….unfortunately it was not out of simpatico but because both my wife and I had reached our daily limit……reminds me of playing musical chairs as acid and you don’t to be left standing in coach! Only one alert in 2 days of insanity……….all this work and one measly credit card app is more profitable and easily done from the comfort of your office……..hmmmmmmm…..

  23. not on acid “as a kid and you don’t want to be left standing in coach”……….Boarding Area spell check stinks but then so does my spelling……

  24. The first CVS I went to in Santa Fe was all out, but the second one had a bunch. They limited me to the usual $5,000 no problem. I didn’t ask about the memo. A sad day for me since I just started with the VRs last week.

  25. Well, sad to confirm that my go-to CVS store in CT where all three staff know me encountered the register hard stop when I tried to buy VR cards with a credit card!

    They did not know about the memo or the change in policy. The register simply would not accept payment type of credit card for the transaction.

  26. Went to my local CVS tonight (Bellmore, Long Island) where I have been purchasing My Vanilla reloads for the past year. I was told no more credit cards–he even showed me the email from corporate. Will try some other CVS’s tomorrow.

  27. I’m a CVs employee. The whole chain will go cash only by 4/4. I’m staring at the memo on my desk

  28. Checked at CVS today in Puerto Rico. All stores have changed the rules, no longer accepting cc for reload.

  29. What kind of debit card can I purchase to use @ Walmart to load my Bluebird card? What a bummer on this news about CVS…..

  30. 4/1, 3:30pm – Couldn’t buy them in MA. Register said another form of tender was required.

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