Just Because Your CVS *Appears* To Be Out of Vanilla Reload Cards…

At my local CVS, Vanilla Reload cards are supposed to be here:

See, all the way down at the bottom on the right. Just where the red arrow points! (CVS isn’t quite that helpful, I had to add that in a photo editor. :p)

But today, this is where they were:

Can you see them? No?

As a refresher, this is what the cards look like:

Now let’s look again:

See them now?

Nope. But they were there.

They were hidden behind the XBoxLive cards.

So whatever frequent flyer out there thought they were clever, sorry dude! I found your stash!

That CVS is mine

Moral of the story is just because Vanilla Reloads aren’t apparent, doesn’t mean they aren’t there, somebody might have hidden them. Behind the XBoxLive cards or the Red Lobster gift cards.

There were eight cards available (that I found…) so I bought them, two at a time, the cashier knew the drill — you can only buy up to $1000 per transaction and she asks to see my drivers license when I do it, but she did four sets of two. Badabing!

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. Then you use the Vanilla card for everyday spend? Gasoline?, Grocerys? Restaurants? You would use it like a credit card?
    Is that the way to use the $$ on the Vanilla card?

  2. @Kai There has been talk that error will pop up however, people have been successful in re swiping the same CC and it works. So far i havn’t had a problem with this yet.

  3. @Ross B – I add the funds from Vanilla RELOAD cards onto my Bluebird card. Then I either use the billpay feature of bluebird to pay off the credit card, or I transfer funds from Bluebird to my checking account

  4. Over at FT, there have long been reports of people who “hided” [sic] cards in various places throughout the store. Fortunately, I haven’t once had to go hunting for them in my locale. I’m glad I live in a backwater with lots of CVS stores, but not many miles fanatics.

  5. Thanks, Gary, for the clarification. Seems like a few hoops to jump through, but I do see a couple CC applications coming up. Probably a dumb question, but why can’t you just put a $1,000 or so directly onto a Bluebird card? I would think Walmart or similar, would take a CC to pay for a Bluebird card. I have put $500 on a Walmart card with a CC. Then use that Walmart card at their gas, and Sams pumps to get the 3¢ / gallon discount there.

  6. One key thing that I’ve found out buying them at CVS is to wait until they tell you to swipe your credit card. One time I swiped my cc before the teller had even scanned my vanilla reload card (I had another item to purchase and she had scanned it) and there was an error. It didn’t want to take my cc. She had to redo the entire transaction but then everything worked fine. I always forget though that they are going to ask to see the last 4 digits of my cc so I have to get it back out of my wallet. I always but something else with the vrc just to mix things up and not be too obvious in what I’m doing.

  7. Just a tip…

    If you do not see any Vanilla Reloads on the rack, or a place holder for the Reloads… Walk up to the front counter and inquire about the cards. Usually the clerk will first act like they aren’t sure what they are, but I’ve found that 3 local CVS locations have put the cards up at the front counter hidden in a stack that can only be accessed by employees.

    After asking.. they usually look puzzled and then pull out the stack and say these? I think supervisors are doing this locally because some have resorted to hiding the Reloads. One location made it so that only a supervisor could sell them, so he could make sure each person purchasing was only doing $1k a day.

    Moral of the story.. ask about the Reloads if you don’t see any.

  8. When folks mention the $1K limit, is that two $500 VR (transaction total $1,007.90) or two $496 VR (transaction total ($999.90)?

  9. Gary,
    Thanks for the update. I’ve run into the problem some (@Kai) have reported – the “please use another form of payment” message when buying two VR at one time. I’ve wondered if that’s because the total transaction is over $1K. I don’t seem to have that problem when I buy one at a time. FWIW, the problem seems most common with AMEX cards.

  10. @MileageUpdate

    There are also a few grandfathered cards that offer 5% on drugstores, uncapped and for the life of the card, not one year like the recent citi promotion.

    I also have the Hilton Amex, and with the devaluation, using the citi card has become far less worthwhile.

  11. just tried a purchase at another CVS in the SF Bay area.
    Tried buying one card with reload of 500. same message
    had cashier swiping it as well with no luck. maybe it’s a bay area thing that they have it hardcoded into the system or blacklisted me 🙁 didnt want to try it with my other CCs as I only get 1% CB… not worthwhile.

  12. @Kai I disagree with you on that it’s not worthwhile, your theory is “they might have blacklisted me” so find out, and use a different CC. The more data points we have the better we can understand this game.

  13. @kai – I purchased 4 (2×2) yesterday at about 5:30 EDT on the east coast without any problem

  14. One time I board Vanilla at one CVS and tried to buy another $1,000 at a CVS a block away. The second CVS had rejected my card because of a fraud alert. So make sure that your credit card isn’t fraud alerted.

  15. @calwatch Try using a different card. It was probably a fraud alert because you tried to make multiple transactions in quick succession.

  16. Gary’s Saturday post reminded me to head for CVS Saturday night. The store had that end of the day messy look. As a general rule no way in heck am I gonna pick something off the floor. However, I smiled as I approach the card rack, as the VR was on the floor and I picked it up. Others were in the proper usual spots.

  17. My cvs actually started keeping these at the checkout register for this very reason…

  18. As “fatso” said ( #11), its crazy that they only allow 2 per “group” of people. Our cashier thought only two could be sold the entire day for the entire store. Clearly, they are all up in arms about this and confusion is rampant among employees. So, I’m thinking my husband and I have to act like we’re strangers and go in one at a time. Ridiculous. Makes you feel like you’re breaking the law.

  19. At a CVS in Austin the clerk followed the VR “hider” twice and saw her take the VR cards to another section of the store and hide them behind merchandise. Now they are displayed by the register … and I am waiting for the chance to get a picture of the culprit.

  20. I bought a $20.00 VR to check it out. After I was sent the actual card from Vanilla I tried to reload it with a cc at my local CVS, but they would only take cash. Do some CVS still reload with a cc?

  21. For those folks who are experiencing the error code “use another form of tender” it could be your card company. CITI did that to me – called it “unusual activity” but when I called them it went thru. I guess they wondered about $1000 at a pharmacy? Once I made the call, and answered some ID questions for the rep, they allowed it.

  22. VR PULLED from my NJ store. Cops at the store yesterday investigating.
    Thanks a lot you greedy bastards.

  23. @e – if there were really ‘cops investigating’ vanilla reloads clearly it wasn’t because of miles and points, much more likely actual money laundering related to other illegal activities…

  24. Are stores legally allowed to say “ONLY cash for VR?” I just tried buying them in a Waelgreens, but couldn’t use a cc. Who made that rule? Vanilla? Waelgreens (why should they care?)

  25. Tried to buy a VR at CVS in Waukegan IL on 6/18/2013 with aCiti AA cc. Clerk tried it several times then said it could not be purchased with a cc.

    How do I make it work?

  26. Excited to be earning miles on my rent payment, I managed to buy a grand total of 4 cards from 3 different CVSs in the West Covina / City of Industry / Walnut (CA) areas over a few weeks. Now each of the CVSs no longer seems to stock the VR cards! I can see the space where it should be on the rack in each of the stores, yet none have appeared despite several revisits. When asked, store clerks don’t know anything. Then I went to a CVS near Ontario, CA and there were three left on the rack. It’s too far for regular trips though. So, sadly my excitement quickly dissipated!

  27. I’ve been checking the local CVS stores in San Jose, CA lately and they have been out of VRs. I asked a clerk this morning about when they would restock the VRs and she told me that all VRs have been recalled. Anybody heard anything about this?

  28. Further to my earlier comment, I gave up looking for them but if I happened to be in a CVS then I would, of course, check the rack. Much to my surprise, after months without any VR cards (and the manager saying they’ve been ordered but never arrive), lo and behold there were suddenly FIVE there today! Bought two, one with AMEX, the other with a VISA credit card, no problems. Is this a last gasp distribution before they go away completely – or a resurgence?

  29. I just *found* some VRs hidden behind some Disney Dolphin game cards (or something like that), and breathed a sigh of relief, because I really needed at least two. Then I got up to the check out and saw them hanging by every register, too. So, I needn’t have worried. I’m not sure I would have thought to check by the register, though, unless I was actually going up there to buy something. But from now on I will.

  30. Had to ask at a South San Jose CVS today as none on otherwise full display, supervisor didn’t think they would be kept separate but checked safe and low and behold there they were 🙂

    Bought with cc without problem save handing cc to cashier post swipe for verification or whatever

  31. It would be very helpful if you would allow the date of the posts to be visible, as some of this information is time sensitive. Thanks for your consideration.

  32. This is somewhat really outdated. CVS allows $5000 per day VR purchases with a valid drivers license. The cash register/computer will not allow over $5000 per day per person. (Have not checked at different stores in same day – that would work for the $1000 limit). Also many of the CVS in the Austin area are stocking huge amounts of VR cards. Many times the rack by the cash register is full of VR cards.

  33. Gary – DUH on my part … 🙂 I should have remembered that. Thanks for all the great tips over the years!

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