SUCCESS! Still Able to Purchase Vanilla Reloads With Credit Card at CVS!

Since word went out that CVS was changing its policies to no longer allow the sale of certain prepaid and reloadable cards with credit card, I made one of my local, reliable stores my first stop on the way back from the airport yesterday.

I bought my usual $5000 in Vanilla Reloads with a credit card in a single transaction there, and the shift manager did not know anything about pending changes to these cards.

This morning I made another stop at CVS on my way into work to see whether anything had changed.

There were still plenty of Vanilla Reload cards on the rack (surprising, given the run on these cards that must have happened over the weekened…).

I first took just one card up to the register to see what would happen. The clerk wasn’t fazed at all, and just say to me “$500?”

Purchase successful.

And I was able to buy more, no problem.

None of this means I will still be able to buy Vanilla Reload cards at this CVS this afternoon, tomorrow, or any time in the future. Corporate could be pushing through new software updates throughout the day that will prevent stores from selling these cards to customers who want to pay by credit card. Stating the change would happen March 31 didn’t necessarily mean 12:01am on the 31st (my CVS is 24 hours!).

But don’t be fooled into thinking that just because the memo said you couldn’t pay by credit card starting on the 31st you can’t still pay by credit card.

Your store may have gotten the memo and dispersed the word, and may be unwilling to sell you the cards that way. Many commenters report that situation locally for them.

At my store they don’t know about any change of policy, and their registers do not know it either.

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, 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. Yesterday 3/30, they showed me the memo and said “cash only”. I had to argue that, it was not 3/31. They called a manager who said I could buy it if the machine allowed it. Obviously, today it’s going to be that much more difficult to convince them to attempt.

  2. The memo seemed to state that this would be a back-end move pushed through the POS system. I’m not an IT guy, but those sorts of rollouts don’t always happen instantly at a company as big as CVS. Let’s see how things play out over the next week.

  3. On 30MAR a store in Santa Monica, CA had not heard that VR’s were going cash only. They were more than happy to sell them to me… except they were sold out.

    I found them at another CVS and transactions were processed without issue. My usual VR joint by the airport were gone. Run on the bank, but hopefully for nothing out here in SoCal.

  4. I stopped at a CVS in PA near Maryland stateline and bought $1500 this morning with credit card around 10am

  5. Six CVS’s in Miami had no idea about the change. However some CVS’s did have an issue selling multiples VR’s. I expect it to be phased out over the month.

  6. I bought one this morning but one of my normal cashiers paused for a moment and said, “that was weird, I’ve never seen the register say that before”

  7. Was able to buy Vanilla reload with credit cards at CVS in Chicago. The cashier did say a message popped up but it said that cannot sell Vanilla reloads to customers over the phone. Did not ask about he memo because did not want to call attention to it.

  8. Orange County, CA. Went to my usual place over the weekend without issues. Clerk last night did mention that a manager mentioned about going cash only due to “fraud issues.” Keeping fingers crossed as this place always has plenty VR on stock! Will go back tomorrow and see what happen!

  9. One nice thing about messing with the coding of transactions – changes often come with unintended consequences. Christmas came early with HIGC, for example, so keep your eyes peeled at CVS.

  10. Went yesterday and the clerk said that they got the memo in PA and that yesterday was the last day for cc purchases. They also said that the daily limit was only $2500 per day and even called a manager that confirmed it was a per day limit of $2500 on the VRs
    RIP VRs in Southern PA anyway – I will try again this week but it seemed certain yesterday that they had gotten the memo.

  11. $5000 in one transaction?? I can never get a straight answer from employees where I live. One told me “only $500 per day”. One manager tried to tell me that you can’t buy them with credit cards at all but couldn’t explain why.

    The recent issue I was having was just trying to find available cards. I guess I will try buying $2000 worth in a shot. I wasn’t aware of any memo.

  12. Just bought $500 to test the waters in DC and was able to buy it just like always. No mention of a memo and the clerk processed the transaction without mentioning anything. She did look at her screen a little funny when she rang it up, but I noticed that every now and again before talk of a new policy so, at least for now, things seem good here.

  13. no changes in suburbs of philly. bought 1 to see what would happen and everything went through like normal

  14. Went to my usual CVS in San Francisco. System will not accept credit cards. Cash only for VR.

  15. May it be the trick that some cashiers/store managers try to stop people buying these cards (so they can buy them) ? It happened to me in the past (8 months ago), only those particular cashiers/store managers gave that wrong info. More and more people are trying to look for these cards, and some of those guys are not dumb to put a question “what is the secret?” in their head.

  16. Party over for me here in downtown SF, and the store has been amazing at keeping plenty in stock.

  17. No problem $5000 over in Philly metro VR on my BA Visa. Have a good relationship with the staff in the pharmacy there so they wanted to help as much as they could to get it done.

  18. Was able to purchase $1K without problem in Philly subs using my “leftovers”. But 100s of VR cards gone over the weekend 🙂

  19. My partner also tried this morning at our other reliable CVS in Atlanta, and CASH ONLY. 🙁 This is a sad day, as the other MS methods available are a PITA.

  20. Former retail worker, sometimes changes from corporate won’t take effect until the systems update, which each store does at different times. So it could take a while to filter down.

  21. Got rejected today in Boston. Looks like it’s in effect at least in the two stores I go to.

  22. @Jeff — I’m glad to hear that as I often buy mine in Bee Caves just west of Austin. I happen to be in picking up $500 on Friday before I heard about the memo. The clerk mentioned something about not being able to sell VR over the phone due to fraud. The clerks there have always been very nice to me; I sure hate to see this end if it does. Do you you know of any other stores in Austin that will sell them using cc? I don’t. 🙁

  23. got rejected in southeastern MA, cash only- had bought one last night no problem, went back for two today with new credit card and they said it’s a system change for cvs where they are cash only from now on. good thing i am not in the middle of too many spends, as a $5k spend for example would be tough without the VRs since I’m not comfortable with the Amazon payment idea.

  24. I just love it how they code the transaction “manufactured spend”.

    Don’t believe me? see the line with the redacted card number:
    ************8985 MS


  25. Tried a usual place in DC today. Manager saw me with them while standing in line and asked me if I knew it was cash only. I didn’t try to press it to see if they would attempt to run the sale and see if the register would accept it. I may try again this week. I’ll also have to try a few others in the area to see if they say the same thing.

  26. Stopped at 3 DFW stores on my way home from work, 2 were sold out of VRs, 3rd location had 6 left, no problem paying with CC.

  27. Bought them in the chicago suburbs 9pm 3/31, clerk noted “systemwide change to cash-only by April 4th”
    will try another round tomorrow night

  28. BOSTON said NO on March 31st. Showed me BOTH memo + cash register said “Cash Tender ONLY”. Sale would NOT go thru!

    So what are our ALTERNATIVES??? HELP!!

    My Health Insurance + Rent + Utilities + Misc. = $5000/month. NONE accept Credit Cards. I will lose about $60,000 Mileage Points a year with this!!

    WHO has a SOLUTION for us?? This is like someone dying…I am in GRIEF…

  29. Sad data point for Serve swipe loads (11:30pm 3/31):
    – Register first accepted and auto-cancelled a transaction;
    – then, when retried, denied CC (or debit) altogether.
    – Earlier today it was working alright.

  30. BAD NEWS from Boston/Cambridge…. CRAP – my local CVS clerk pointed me to a new policy member printed in BOLD letters warning them that starting 3/31, no more CC purchases for VRs or any prepaid gift card for that matter!!!

    AHHH!!! hope its just a local thing. Anyone else from Boston area experience this epic VR shutdown??!!?!

  31. The kind lady at my local target showed me the flyer that they had received from corporate, but allowed me to buy 5000 dollars worth of VRs. She, however pointed out that starting tomorrow, the policy will be enforced strictly. Also, interestingly, the memo said that this will be ‘rolled out chain-wide by 4/4’

    End of great run. CVS will never be the same again.

  32. I just went this morning to CVS in Hurst, TX – I was able to purchase 2 $500 ea with credit card –
    The store manager said “EFF 4/4 – only cash and only one card per transaction”

    I will try again tomorrow … does anyone know where else you can purchase them .. THX

  33. I have no idea why anyone would want to buy a VR card for? It costs money; even the cheapest VR card I’ve found is $3.95. Is it really worth 3.95 for airline points?? pls explain.

  34. Perry,

    It is worth it if you are trying to get a large sign up bonus. For example you might need to spend $3,000 to get 50,000 bonus points as a sign up bonus on a credit card. If you don’t spend that much you normally then you can manufacture spend by buying gift cards or other menthods.

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