Free First Class Next Month: Bluebird


Hey! You’re reading an outdated Free First Class Next Month series. Check out the latest version published in April of 2015 here.

This is the sixth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Putting All Your Spending on Credit Cards.

Yesterday I talked about how to increase the amount of money you spend each month on credit cards without increasing the amount of money you spend each month.

This is key because the more money you spend on cards the more cards you can get, since so many require a minimum spend before the bonus is unlocked. And getting new cards means new mega sign up bonuses.

If you’re like most Americans, you have some big expenses that can’t be paid by credit card like mortgage, rent, car payment, student loan, or credit card bills. That’s where Bluebird comes in. Bluebird allows us to pay all of those with a credit card for a 0.8% fee–a fee so low that it is definitely worth paying to unlock more huge credit card sign up bonuses.

What is Bluebird?

Bluebird is a prepaid debit card offered by American Express and Walmart. It can be loaded for a 0.8% fee with Vanilla Reload cards, among other ways. Bluebird can be used for purchases, free ATM withdrawals, to write checks for free, and to transfer money to a bank account for free.

Sign up for your Bluebird today at Bluebird is not a credit card, so you will not get a credit pull. Your Bluebird will arrive in the mail in about a week.

How to Load Your Bluebird

Once you have your Bluebird, you will want to load it with money, since it is a prepaid card that you must load before using. Bluebird can be loaded by a Vanilla Reload card. Vanilla Reload cards can be purchased at many CVS stores with a credit card. Not all CVS stores carry Vanilla Reloads, and those that do may not accept credit cards or may have a cap on the number you can buy. To use Bluebird to put more spending on credit cards, you need to find a CVS that sells Vanilla Reloads.

Vanilla Reloads can be loaded for up to $500. Loading a Vanilla Reload incurs a flat $3.95 fee, so the best idea is to always load Vanilla Reloads for $500 in order to make that fee less than 0.8%.

To add money from a Vanilla Reload to your Bluebird, scratch off the film covering the PIN number on the back of the Vanilla Reload card. Enter the Vanilla Reload pin and Bluebird card number at The balance will transfer instantly, and you can find the funds in your Bluebird account immediately.

Using the Bluebird

Regular Spending

The card can be used any time you can use an American Express credit card.

ATM Withdrawals

You can withdraw $500 per day and $2,000 per month at ATMs with your Bluebird.

American Express will charge $2 per Bluebird ATM withdrawal, and the bank operating the ATM will charge a fee too.

Transfer to your Bank Account

Direct transfers can be made from your Bluebird to your linked bank account. There is no maximum to the amount you can transfer to your bank account.

Bluebird will write a Check to Anyone

Bluebird will write a check to anyone you want for up to $5,000. Bluebird will write and mail this check for free.

There is a list of approved businesses that you can pay through the bill-pay section on You can send up to $10,000 per month to the listed payees.

If you want a check sent to someone else, enter their information, and the check will be sent for free. You can send up to $5,000 per month to unlisted payees.

This means you can pay your rent, mortgage, student loan, credit card bills, parking tickets, and friends with Bluebird. Many of those previously had to be paid with cash. Many of the others could be paid with a credit card for a fee. Now they can be paid for free with a Bluebird that was loaded with a points-earning card for a 0.8% fee.

The checks arrive the day that American Express says they will in my experience, which is usually three days after requesting them. The beauty is that your landlord or bank doesn’t need to sign up with Bluebird or do anything special to accept the checks. They just get normal checks in the mail with your name as the sender and your account number listed.

Basic Strategy for Maximizing Point-Earning Potential of Bluebird

The biggest points earning potential is Bluebird’s ability to increase the total amount of spending you do on credit cards. More spending means you can unlock more sign up bonuses since most good credit-card offers come with a minimum spending requirement.

Follow these steps:

  1. Set up Bluebird account for free.
  2. Buy Vanilla Reloads with a credit card for a 0.8% fee.
  3. Load Bluebird with Vanilla Reloads for free.
  4. Use Bluebird as a credit card, a way to write checks, and more for free.

Follow those steps, and you can put expenses you previously had to pay by check on a credit card for a 0.8% fee.

So figure out all the things you used to pay with checks each month like your credit card bill, rent, mortgage, car payment, student loan, etc. Now you can pay those with a Bluebird check.

Add this amount to the amount you figured you could spend in yesterday’s post, and you now have the new amount you can spend per month on credit cards without increasing your total monthly spending much.

Example: Looking at your old credit and debit cards statements shows you spend $1,000 a month on cards normally. Looking at my list of things to pay with credit cards made you realize that you send in an $80 check each month to pay your cell phone bill instead of setting up autopay with a credit card.

You send $1,000 per month to your brother on Amazon Payments.

You send in a $1,000 check every month for your mortgage, when you could pay $1,008 (0.8% fee) with a Bluebird check with the process noted above. Same thing with your $300 car payment and $500 student loan (now $302.40 and $504).

Add it up, and you see that you could spend $3,886.40 ($1,000 + $80 + $1,000 + $1,008 + $302.40 + $504) a month on cards without affecting your total monthly spending by much.

If you’ve calculated your new possible monthly credit card spend, write that down because you’ll use it in a few days to figure out how many of the best current offers you can apply for at once.

Continue to Double Credit Card Miles with Business Cards.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

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  1. Great post! This is something that I’ve been wanting to join, but haven’t had the time to explore it. You’re post was thoughtful and succint.

    Question: I thought I had read that there is a fear that you could be shut down if it appears that you are laundering money from your credit card (through a Vanilla Card and a Blue Bird Card) to your bank account. Any truth to that?

    • I haven’t seen confirmed shut downs, but it does seem an obvious thing AMEX would look out for, so that’s why I don’t recommend doing that exclusively or even a lot of that. It’s better to make legit check payments I think and put some regular spending on your Bluebird at restaurants or stores.

    • At the same rate you could use any AMEX credit card (1.9% fee or so.) There are better ways to pay taxes–namely buy prepaid debit cards like the My Vanilla debit card for about a 0.8% fee with your credit card then using them to pay.

  2. Note: ATM withdrawals at Walmart’s own ATMs (MoneyPass logo?) is no fee (charged by BB or by machine), EVEN IF the machine makes you accept a fee during the transaction, e.g. “$3 ATM fee,” there will be no fee reflected on the account. You can confirm by reviewing it online. $300 limit for these withdrawals.

  3. Can I link a BB card to a business checking account? I would like to have one in my name linked to personal checking and one in my husband’s name linked to business checking.

  4. Don’t know if you’ve heard of Simple, but they do a pretty similar thing (and have way better customer service in my opinion)

  5. Hello Scott,

    Hope all is well with you. After reading your site late one night this week, I started pulling triggers– I grabbed the Amex Business Rewards card with 75K point bonus with 10K spend in 4 months. I’ve been waiting to pay off some 0% interest credit cards that I used to finance PV for my house, so I loved the idea of vanilla reload cards to Bluebird to pay off credit cards. I went to Long’s tonight (CVS in HI), and they carried the fake Visa Vanilla cards. Then I went to Walgreens, and they had the real Vanilla, but cash only. Is there any other way to use an Amex to fund Bluebird???


    P.S. Booked summer family vacation-5 roundtrips on United HNL-Urumqi with a 22 hour stopover in PEK and a 5 day layover in Tokyo on the way back; JW Marriott in Beijing and Park Hyatt in Tokyo. 100% points.

    • Great trip! There’s no other way to load the Bluebird with that card. You’ll either need to get them to sell you the Reloads with a card or you’ll have to buy other types of prepaid credit cards and cash them out on Amazon Payments or use them for regular spending.

  6. […] This is the sixth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go. Previously Bluebird. […]

    • Gene,
      I got my first VR and wasn’t able to load. Kept getting error 83. Reading around the internet it appears that is some sort of fraud alert. Reading Mommy Points, she had a similar experience. I called VR, they were not familiar, having read MP I had an idea where the conversation would go, I conviced VR to call Bluebird on conference. While on hold for an extended period of time with Bluebird I signed in online, the Bluebird site gave me the option to activate my card. I activated the Bluebird, went on the VR site and it all of a sudden worked. I thanked the VR rep on the phone and we ended the call.

      What does not make sense in all of this is that I am 99% certain I had activated the Bluebird card. Furthermore, I would think a different error would come up for attempting to tranfer to an un-activated card, not an error 83 (fraud alert) that the VR representative knows nothing about.

  7. What do you guys think of buying VRs with a Chase card then paying that exact same card off with Bluebird? Any reports of Chase shut downs yet? I haven’t heard of shutdowns yet. Seems very risky but it seems tons of people still do this.

  8. Hi,

    So if Bluebird is not a credit card, how can I earn points for mileage when using Bluebird even though it’s not considered a credit card? So when I buy vanilla to put money I can buy this card with a credit card, then once there is money on the account for Bluebird, I can pay bills by checks with Bluebird. How will I get points by using this service?

  9. The bluebird free cheque book offer has been extended to 8/13.. but you are limited to just one cheque book.. I ordered a 100 page right away..

  10. You should add a bit about the new check book feature they have introduced.. you can order a check book and write a check on your own.. no need to wait for them to send the check to the recipient.. the 50 page check book costs $26 and 100 page costs $ 34.. but the fee is waived till 8/31.. You are only allowed one free order.. so I ordered a 100 page cheque book.. makes life simple, don’t you think..???

  11. I keep reading on multiple blogs and forums (FT for example) differing results with Bluebird and specifically that the way to load it with Vanilla Reloads is no longer supported using credit cards. Is there a definitive yes you can or no you can’t now with this option ?

    Thanks WC

    • You must go to a store that sells VR and attempt to buy one with a CC. Different stores have different policies.

  12. Hi Scott,
    I was able to buy $5000 worth of Vanilla cards at CVS and loaded them onto my Bluebird card using my new Amex card satisfying my bonus requirement. Now I am reading the fine print on the amex card. “eligiable purchases do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchases of travelers checks,purchases or reloading of prepaid cards or purchases of other cash equivalents.”
    I haven’t read all of my card’s fine print yet. I just completed my ap orama and got 7 cards and Bluebird was a huge part of my plan.
    I welcome your thoughts.

  13. Hi Scott, Love your blog! SO much valuable information! None of the CVSs or Super America’s now have reload Vanilla cards, at least in twin cities. Could you please tell more about other types of reload cards and how to use them? Appreciated

  14. Hi,
    I’m having trouble signing up for Bluebird. I filled out the application and got the following: “Sorry, but we cannot approve you for a Bluebird Account at this time because you have an existing Serve Account.” I had no idea what a Serve Account is so I Googled it; it’s a prepaid account from American Express. I don’t think I’ve ever had an account here. I tried to reset my password, since I have no idea what it would be as I didn’t create the account. I put in every e-mail address I’ve ever had, even the ones that no longer work. But no luck, it didn’t recognize any of them. Any ideas? Thanks!

  15. Hey man i have been trying to put my mortgages on credit card for years to get the miles and thought it was impossible. Is bluebird the only way? Im trying to understand do I have to go to cvs every day and spend 500 a day in vanilla cards and transfer to bluebird to have enough to send checks to my mortgage companies and do this each and every month? I have 5 mortgages totaling around 5000 bucks this would be 10 trips to cvs a 1/3 of the month every month?

    • You can buy $1,000 of Vanilla Reloads at a time. You could buy $5,000 in five trips over however many days you want.

    • Correct, Slim! I pay my Wells Fargo home mortgage every month via an online payment using Bluebird, i.e. Bluebird sends WF a check. Only a few day turnaround. Never had a problem.

      You can now buy Vanilla Reloads up to $5,000/day at CVS (if you can find them) with an ID scan before your second $500 purchase in the same transaction. Day = 24 hours, not calendar day.

      • Man thanks mark that is unreal. What do you mean 5000 with an id scan after second 500 though in the same day? Can I just charge 5000 or what lol!? Also sounds like cvs w the vanilla reloads are hard to find? I guess ill call all the ones in town but i bet the clerks are clueless might have to go door to door. Sorry man im new to this. thanks again

  16. I have been buying vanilla reload cards for a while at my local CVS using my favorite credit cards. However, recently there is a pop up message on the cashier screen telling them cash only. Anyone else experiencing the same? I contacted Vanilla Reload and it seems like it is cash only now?? If this is indeed the case, anyone know of other ways of paying your mortgage with CCs?

  17. I don’t bother with the Vanilla Reloads. Too hard to find in my area, and those that can be found can be bought only with cash. We use our Chase Ink Business CC at Staples, Staples online, or OfficeMax to buy the $200 VISA gift cards for $6.95 fee. Chase Ink has its 5x points at office supply stores promotion running all the time, so we get 5x points for every gift card purchase as office supply stores. While we’re there, we buy other gift cards at merchants we use (Home Depot, Lowes, Chipotle, Southwest Air, etc.) — all of which give us 5X points on our Chase Ink. After we buy the $200 VISA gift cards, we go right to Wal-Mart, to its Customer Service desk, and load the VISA gift cards to our BB cards. When you load your VISA gift cards to your BB card, the register will ask you for the PIN. Here’s what most people don’t know: The LAST FOUR DIGITS of your VISA gift cards is your PIN! But you must be careful which VISA $200 gift cards you buy at Staples or Office Max. I believe they’re the ones issued by US Bank. Be very careful about this because not every VISA gift card works this way.

    You can also reduce the actual $6.95 VISA $200 gift card fee from $6.95 to $4.88 by enrolling your Ink business card in the VISA Savings Edge, which gives you 1% back on all of your purchases through participating merchants — and Staples is always a participating merchant. 1% of $206.95 = $2.07 off the cost of the VISA gift card, which effectively reduces the $6.95 purchase fee to $4.88 per VISA gift card. Here’s the link for enrollment:

  18. Dora, we have attempted to use American Express gift cards to load onto our BB, and we have not been successful. One would think that since they’re both AmEx products, you’d be able to load the BB with AmEx gift cards. But we have not had success.

  19. I want to correct one point on my previous statement. The $200 VISA gift cards that we get at Staples, Office Max, etc. are issued by MetaBank — NOT USBank. They are taxicab-yellow in color. These are the $200 gift cards that you can use the last four digits on the face of the card as your PIN when you load the gift cards to your Bluebird card. Sorry for any confusion.

  20. We use our Bluebird card at Costco, so that everything we buy at Costco is bought at 5x points using the Chase Ink Business CC to purchase $200 VISA gift cards at office supply stores, as I described above. Costco accepts only cash, checks, debit cards and American Express cards at its registers. Since the BB card is an Amex product, it is accepted at Costco.


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