This post is a beginner’s guide to manufacturing spend by loading Bluebird with gift cards at Walmart. Loading Bluebird using gift cards is my current method for manufacturing spending and also a good way to meet minimum spend requirements on new credit cards.
When I first opened a Bluebird account, I used it heavily by loading Bluebird with Vanilla Reloads. Since Vanilla Reloads are now almost impossible to buy with a credit card, I have moved on to loading Bluebird with gift cards at Walmart stores. Fortunately, I live less than a mile away from a Walmart so this is a convenient method for me.
How Does This Work?
Here is a quick summary on how to load a gift card to Bluebird – I will break down each step later:
- Open a Bluebird account.
- Purchase a pin-enabled gift card using your points earning credit card.
- Set a pin number in order to use the gift card like a debit card.
- Go to a Walmart store and load your Bluebird with the gift card while pretending it is a debit card.
- Use your Bluebird account to pay bills.
Opening a Bluebird Account
Bluebird is a prepaid account offered by American Express. There are no fees to open or maintain a Bluebird.
Bluebird is similar to Serve (another American Express product used to manufacture spend) and you can only choose one or the other. (See related post: How to Manufacture Spending by Loading Serve with Gift Cards at Walmart and Other Stores for more information on Serve.)
When you sign up for Bluebird American Express will request your social security number. However, there is no credit pull so it will not show up on your credit report.
Purchasing a Gift Card
The next step is to find gift cards to purchase with your credit cards. You are looking for gift cards than you can set a PIN for. Not all gift cards will work. I would not recommend buying many gift cards all at once.
What gift cards do you buy?
- DO buy Visa or MasterCard gift cards. (If there is a choice between Visa or MasterCard, purchase the Visa.)
- Do NOT purchase American Express gift cards because they do not allow you to set up a pin.
- Do NOT purchase OneVanilla Visa or Vanilla Visa gift cards. While OneVanilla gift cards used to work and allow you to set a pin they no longer register as a debit card at Walmart.
- Gift cards have purchase fees so it is best to buy a high denomination gift card.
These Visa gift cards sold at Staples are the easiest gift cards to load in Bluebird
Where do you buy gift cards?
Anywhere that allows you find Visa (but not OneVanilla) or MasterCard gift cards and that allows you to pay by credit card. Some places to try include office supply stores (such as Staples), grocery stores, gas stations, Simon malls etc. The options available to you vary depending where you live. Look for Visa gifts cards issued by Metabank and Sunrise.
I usually buy gift cards at Staples because they periodically offer in store rebates that earn you a gift card worth more than the fees you will pay. Also I have been able to successfully load Bluebird at Walmart with the gift cards that Staples sells so I know they work. Staples sells both Visa and MasterCard gift cards in denominations as high as $200. You can also order Visa gift cards online from staples.com.
Another great option is to order Visa gift cards online from giftcards.com because you can personalize the gift cards with your name which comes in handy if someone asks to looks at your “debit card.” If you access giftcards,com from the iConsumer shopping portal (this is my referral link) you can 1.5% cash back on your order which helps deflect gift card fees.
Gift cards have fees so the key to making this more profitable is to minimize the fees and maximize the points you earn. So if you buy gift cards at office supply stores you earn even more points if you use a card that offers you more points such as the Chase Ink. I will occasionally use a different credit card when I need to meet my minimum spend requirements.
Set a PIN Number for Your Gift Card
The key to using your gift card with Bluebird is to set a PIN number in order to use the gift card as a debit card.
Some cards use the last 4 digits as a PIN, some you can pick any 4 digits first time you use the card, or you can call the number in the back of the card to set a pin number. I like to call the number and choose my own pin.
Loading Your Bluebird at a Walmart Store
Once you have your gift card, it is time to go to Walmart to load your Bluebird using the gift card as a debit card. I like to go to Walmart ASAP and not hold on to gift cards as this method could end.
You have two options: go to the kiosk machine or go to a cashier.
I prefer to use the kiosk although sometimes they could be out of order. The machine gives pretty detailed instructions on how to do load your Bluebird. The key is to choose debit as your funding method.
If the machine is out of order you will need to go to a cashier and have a Walmart employee load your Bluebird. Since technically you are pretending your gift card is a debit card and you are not allowed to load gift cards, try not to let the employee see your gift card. I usually keep my gift card kinda hidden so they do not see the word gift card in the front. I have read some reports of cashiers not letting people load gift cards, but they have never checked to see what I am paying with. If they check, some people will show their real debit card but then swipe the gift card.
When you go to the cashier you swipe your Bluebird, tell them the amount you want to load with your “debit card”, then you swipe your gift card and enter your PIN.
Sometimes the gift card initially registers as a credit card so you have to hit the change payment button immediately when you see it and then hit debit. This usually happens to me when I swipe the MasterCard gift cards I buy at Staples (which is why I prefer the Visa gift cards).
Using Bluebird to Liquidate Gift Cards
Once you load your gift cards at Walmart you will see that the balance on your Bluebird has increased by the amount of your load. So how do you get this money out?
There are a few options:
- Use Bluebird to pay your bills. This is what I usually do. Bluebird has tons of payees available. I usually pay off credit card bills. Sometimes I’ll pay the credit card I bought my gift card with but if you do that make sure you charge other stuff on your credit card and don’t keep just buying gift cards.
- Send a check to someone. It could be someone that you owe money to or a friend or family member that will pay you back.
- You can also withdraw cash at ATMs.
- Make regular purchases with your card. (While you are foregoing points it may make it less likely to have your account shut down by Amex).
Ready to Start?
If you are interested in trying to load Bluebird with gift cards at Walmart, start small. Do not buy a large number of gift cards to start with or buy a lot of gift cards at the same time. Buy one gift card and go to Walmart and see if it works. There is no guarantee that this method will work in the future so my advice is not to purchase more gift cards than you can otherwise spend.
Update: You will probably only be able to use Bluebird for manufactured spending for only a 1-3 months before Amex notices and ends your ability to load money. On January 8, 2016, March 4, 2016 and April 12, 2016, Amex sent emails to a large number of Bluebird accounts ending the ability to load new money due to manufactured spending. (See Are Bluebird and Serve Dead for Manufactured Spending? and More Bluebird and Serve Accounts Shutdown Today). My advice for anyone just starting with Bluebird is don’t buy too many gift cards at once and load them as soon as possible (preferably the same day you purchase them). You can also use your pin enabled gift cards to purchase money orders at Walmart at a cost of $0.70 per money order. Another easy method to manufacture spending is Plastiq (see Using Plastiq’s Referral Program to Earn Fee-Free Credit Card Spending).