Today May Be the Last Day to Buy Vanilla Reload Cards with a Credit Card at CVS

Lots of discussion across the blogosphere on this and I haven’t had a chance to get into my neighborhood CVS, but once I’m done with my travel day I do plan to stop by one of the ones that has been both well-stocked and willing to sell $5000 per person per day with a credit card in a single transaction.

Vanilla Reload cards are one of the tools people use to fund cards like Bluebird, MyVanilla Debit, and the JH Preferred Prepaid Visa.

There have been lots of false reports and early declaration sf death for the Vanilla Reload card. Office Depot used to sell them and stopped. Many individual stores, and even regions, declared them cash only. But there was no chain-wide policy against allowing the purchase with a credit card.

Apparently now there is a memo directing that most such cards be sold cash-only. The memo circulating the internet has a local phone number for contact so appears to be specific to a single region. There are reports, though, of similar memos across multiple locations. We do not yet know if this is chain-wide, or will be spreading chain-wide, but it appears much more credible and likely than past reports.

So if you want to pick some up, it cannot hurt to do so today versus waiting until tomorrow.

Hopefully my own locale will be spared!


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. Haven’t bought any in a while (shame on me) but the several months back my CVS was entering in my driver’s license number as part of the transaction. Hope they continue doing so while accepting credit cards.

  2. What’s the point of these policies? Why wouldn’t CVS (or anybody) want to sell these on a CC? Do the merchant fees exceed the profit they make on the cards? is it pressure from the CC companies? I can obviously understand why the banks don’t like it, but I’m always confused when a retail outlet just decides not to make a popular product available.

  3. Is there anywhere else that sells VRCs with a credit card? 7-11 stopped accepting them as well right?

  4. The phone number in the memo is a (401) number at CVS headquarters in RI. There have been multiple confirmed reports of this memo in multiple regions. Unfortunately, it looks like this is really going to happen.

  5. Stopped by Family Dollar after hitting CVS. They sell a reloadable VR that has no 8 digit PIN on back to scratch off. I’ve never heard of these before. Are they common? Might this be the “reloadable” for cash only going forward?

  6. Confirmed. Stopped at a Boston CVS today. They have a copy of the new policy and decided to implement it one day early (:

  7. One CVS within 10 minutes of your hometown CVS was still selling this morning. No word of a memo or change in policy. But if the push comes from the top down through the POS system, then it doesn’t matter whether the staff know the new rules or not. It will just happen.

  8. Confirmed too. Bought $5,000 this morning from NYC CVS and manager told me policy will be implemented tomorrow 🙁

  9. Just bought $5000 at my local CVS (Wisconsin). Manager said he had heard nothing about going to cash only from national HQ or anywhere else. Seems to be business as usual.

  10. @Gavin:

    Under normal circumstances I would not think of asking this question, but I still have a few thousand left to do on my Citi Executive and won’t be able to get to my usual place in NJ today. If you care to hint about any location in the city where I could complete that spend this afternoon I would appreciate it. (Obviously, if you think there’s any chance that this is NOT going away tomorrow I withdraw my question).

  11. I went to my local CVS this morning and picked up $5k. Was told that they were going “cash only” in the next couple of weeks.

    Anyone know a place in Connecticut where they can still be had with Credit cards?

  12. Any risk other than cash flow for buying VR cards that you can’t load until May? I read about one fraud involving removing the PIN and covering it over, but that was just one.

    Any precautions one should take after purchase (besides keeping receipt). Think I should check to make sure the PIN is there?

  13. @Beachfan – I keep the receipt. I immediately check the receipt to ensure that all of the activation codes are on it. There’s risk of loss (or forgetting) the cards, or potentially someone redeeming the PIN code at random but I haven’t really heard reports of that.

  14. Northern CA has seen the memo and will implement…….it is the end of an era……….ok where is the next source?

  15. Can someone explain why merchants such as CVS wouldn’t want to sell the cards? When I buy the VRs, I usually also buy a water and anything else I need. Doesn’t this drive foot traffic? I don’t get it. Please advise.

  16. @Beachfan, all the reports of missing money on FlyerTalk have been from the Atlanta area. Just make sure the cards you’re buying have the newer-style scratch off area that isn’t a sticker but is more flush with the card surface itself. It should be gray with wavy lines and some diagonal text. Don’t buy any cards that have the green and gray “Scratch Here” type of sticker. Those are easier to tamper with and are more likely to be scams.

    You can also check the value on the card by entering the PIN on the VR website to start the load process and then just not enter the BB card # on the next page.

  17. It costs the store real money in credit card processing fees, and at max load those fees are likely greater than the margins on the card.

  18. Thanks Gary and thanks Autolycus! Great head’s up and great tip.

    Now I just hope there are still more left at CVS when I go after 6pm today (went at 6pm yesterday).

  19. How does one do more than $1,000 per day at CVS? All of mine scan my drivers license and said $1,000/day. Is it just $1,000 per transaction? $1,000 per store?

  20. @mark: At a cost of $7.50 to $10.00 to earn, at most, $3.95 the question is why would a store ever have accepted credit card payment for that product in the first place?

  21. I bought $5000 in VR’s this morning. I had a problem with one of them in that a couple of the numbers were not readable. Has anyone ever had this problem. I have tried guessing the numbers, etc. What should I do? When I scratched the silver strip (lightly) the numbers came off too.

  22. @Daniel, well all the CVS stores near me scan licenses when you hit $1000, that’s hard-coded into the register. But they allow $5k per day and all in a single transaction. You could of course do $995 as many times as you wish at different stores with no license scan I suppose.

  23. Am I the only one who thinks this memo says reloadABLE cards and not reload cards, so shouldn’t count VRs? I guess we’ll find out.

  24. Just purchased $5K. Girls hadn’t heard anything about the memo. I’ll buy some more tomorrow and see what happens on Tuesday :/

  25. @Kathy – You will have to call Incomm. They should be able to help you by using the serial number on the back of the card that is not covered by the silver strip. You will probably have to send them some information like a copy of the front and back of the card and your store receipt.

    @Gary – Had a couple of posts in this thread. Now they are gone?

  26. Tried to purchase today (3/30) at a CVS where I’ve always had success in the past. Cashier said “cash only, manager just informed me” when I tried to check out. Crap.

  27. Update: I was able to call the 1-800 # on the back of the card and give them the serial number (like Dan said) and they were quickly able to clarify the number for me after I told them where I bought the card and how much I loaded on it. i was very grateful. This is the 2nd time this has happened. I figured out the numbers last time, by chance.

  28. @ Jon L, I’m in Madison, so I’m usually at CVS here or in Guilford, or maybe Clinton or Branford. Anywhere on the shoreline (New Haven is an option as well, maybe once a week). Just feeling a bit left out these days, as you might imagine.

  29. And we’re done. Checked the CVS in Madison CT (assume everyone here). Vanilla Reloads are hard coded for CASH only! I spoke with the morning manager to confirm (after one manager told me about it yesterday… guess they’re going to miss me).

    ANYONE have any ideas for where to find VR with a Credit Card along the Connecticut Shoreline?

  30. I was going to try today in DC.

    I wonder if it’s only hard coded as cash only if your only buying VRs. If you buy a candy bar, too, does that allow it to use accept credit?

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