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So, you’ve been using Bluebird for a while and you have maxed out your monthly limit of $5,000 worth of Vanilla Reloads. What now? Are you going to wait the rest of the month and not do any manufactured spending? Of course not! There are many other ways to MS. In fact, there are hundreds of different prepaid cards that work similar to Bluebird.
Visa and MasterCard Gift Cards
Bluebird is definitely the greatest MS machine, however, gift cards are the next best thing. The process is relatively simple. First, you need to find a store selling Visa or MasterCard gift cards that you can buy with a credit card. This is much easier to find than a store selling Vanilla Reload cards that can be bought with a credit card. Also, note that the above picture of a Visa gift card, is actually a Vanilla Visa gift card, because it is sold by the Vanilla Reload Network. This is why it is very easy to mistake the different types of Vanillas when you are first starting out. Gift cards have a higher fee than VRCs. It is usually somewhere between $4.95-$6.95 per card. Some gift cards can be loaded with $20-$500, however, some are a flat amount such as $50, $100, $200.
After you have some gift cards in your possession, you will want to get a PIN on each gift card so you can liquidate them. How you put a PIN on the card will depend on the gift card. Some you have to call a number and set up a pin, some let you type in any PIN when you use it to buy something, some use the last four digits of the card number for the PIN, some will print a PIN out on your receipt and some need you to set the PIN up on their website. This will vary by gift card, so make sure to read the pamphlet that comes with the card.
Once you have a PIN on your card, it is time to liquidate them. My personal preference is to buy money orders with the gift cards and cash out the money order. To do this you go to Meijer, Walmart, or any other supermarket or gas station that offers money orders. The cost and limits differ per store, but I found Walmart to be the cheapest option. They charge $0.70 per $1,000, whereas Meijer charges $0.65 per $500. Most stores will take debit cards as a form of payment for a money order and since your gift cards have a PIN, they are basically debit cards. Just make sure to let the cashier know, if you will be paying a certain amount on multiple cards. During Office Max’s great promotion last week, I was able to buy 6 – $200 MasterCard gift cards for $1161.70. With those gift cards I went to Meijer, since it is much closer to me than Walmart, and asked for two money orders in the amount of $499.35 and one money order in the amount of $199.35, to counteract the $0.65 fees. I simply swiped all six gift cards for $200 and was good to go.
Once you have the money orders you can deposit them into your bank. If you are like me, you probably have never had a money order and you don’t know how to use it. It is basically a check that you can make out to yourself and then deposit it into your bank account, like you would a normal check. Here is a good article on filling out a money order if you have any issues. As a side note, money orders are commonly used for money laundering, which is illegal, however you ARE NOT doing anything illegal by buying money orders with gift cards. That does not mean the bank will know this. If they see you depositing $3,000+ a day the bank will fill out a SAR (Suspicious Activity Report) that will inform the IRS that you are depositing large amounts of money orders. Again, what you are doing IS COMPLETELY LEGAL, so you technically have nothing to worry about if they fill out an SAR, however I wouldn’t want the IRS looking into my finances. What I do to avoid this is only deposit $1,000-$2,000 a week, in three different checking accounts. That way I have a smaller chance of something like this happening.
Amazon Payments is the cheapest MS method, however, it has a much smaller monthly limit than the other options. With Amazon Payments you are able to send or receive $1,000 per month via a credit card. They don’t even charge you a percentage for using a credit card! You do need a legitimate reason for sending money via Amazon Payments to avoid the risk of being shut down, but it could be any reason, such as to lend someone money, pay a friend back, or something similar. You will also need a friend for this method, but it is the easiest way to get $1,000 worth of MS. You cannot send a friend $1,000 and then have them send it right back, or you will likely have your account shut down. You also cannot sign up for multiple accounts and send yourself money or you will likely have your account closed. You can sign up for Amazon Payments here.
Other Prepaid Cards
There are hundreds of different prepaid cards that work similar to Bluebird. A few examples are My Vanilla Debit, Momentum, PayPal Prepaid, Moneto, GoBank, and Serve. I will be posting in-depth reviews on a few of these prepaid cards and how they compare to Bluebird, however, if you are itching to learn more about these prepaid cards, check out Flyertalk. They have a lot of first person experiences that are very informative.