Free online debit loads to Bluebird

A few days ago there was an uptick in interest in Bluebird, when cardholders received an e-mail telling us that from now on online debit card loads would be free.

For a little background, debit card loads in-store at Walmart have always been free, and capped at $1,000 per day and $5,000 per month, a limit that's shared with Vanilla Reload Network loads. The low cap is unfortunate, but this does give the flexibility to use the $5,000 cap to drain gift cards or Visa Buxx cards, if that's a more lucrative option for you than buying Vanilla Reload Network cards, as it is for some people.

I had a bit of trouble setting up my Bluebird account for online debit loads, so I want to share my experience and let you know what to expect if you decide to take advantage of this new free option.

The Card

I decided to add my business PayPal debit card, which earns 1% cash back on signature and online transactions, and is loadable using PayPal My Cash cards. The principle here is that I can load my PayPal account with $1,000 at a cost of $7.90, then drain the account at 1% cash back, earning $10. In this way I'll manufacture $1,008 in lucrative gas station spend, and a small profit of $2.10.

The Problem

The card was successfully added to my account, but I wasn't able to add funds. Instead, I received this curious error message: 

This request cannot be completed at this time. Your Permanent Bluebird card must be activated before adding money using your bank account. If you’ve received your Permanent Bluebird card and already activated it, please call Account Protection Services at 1.800.660.2454. Our hours of operation are 9am - 8pm EST, Monday - Friday. If not, your Permanent Bluebird card will be delivered within 7-10 business days of your completed registration.

A quick trip to Flyertalk revealed that I wasn't the only one experiencing this problem. However, I was able to continue loading my account normally using Vanilla Reload Network cards, and bill pay out the funds, so the whole situation was extremely murky.

The Solution

A few days later, I received a call from Bluebird's "Account Protection Services," who asked me to verify that I had an account, and that I was trying to add debit cards to it. I confirmed that, and she then asked me to fax in a copy of my driver's license and the front of the debit cards I was trying to add. 

After a quick trip to the office, I called back to make sure they'd received my fax.  It took the representative 3 tries to find it, but when she did, she was immediately able to verify my name and the card numbers of my debit cards, and lifted the hold on my account.

I then logged back into Bluebird and was able to successfully load $100 from my PayPal debit card. 


Here are my thoughts on online debit loads so far:

  • Don't be worried if you aren't immediately able to use a new debit card – you may have to go through the same slightly inconvenient process;
  • Be sure to only add debit cards that have your name on the front. Anonymous gift cards could cause real problems with your account; 
  • The $1,000 monthly limit on debit card loads is in addition to your $5,000 monthly in-store and Vanilla Reload limit; 
  • You can set up 10 recurring $100 loads each month, so you don't have to log in to Bluebird each day;
  • But if you do, be sure you have enough money in your debit card account to cover the scheduled transactions!

What are your experiences with online debit loads?