Maximizing Gobank and Bluebird

Over the weekend I reported on Gobank (part 1, part 2), the new banking product from Greendot.  Today I'll discuss what this means for your miles and points earning strategy.

Points-Earning Debit Loads

Just like the Bluebird, Gobank can be loaded at any Walmart register with a PIN-based debit card.  If you have a debit card that earns airline miles on PIN-based transactions, this is an easy way to generate spending on the card.  

Unfortunately, there aren't very many remaining debit products that earn rewards for PIN-based transactions.  One, the Bank of America Alaska Airlines debit card, earns 1 Alaska Airlines mile per $2 spent on the card.  However, the card is no longer being issued to new customers.  If you already have an Alaska Airlines debit card, this is a great way to earn valuable Alaska miles while paying your bills each month.

A second debit card product, the Suntrust Delta Skymiles debit card, earns 1 Delta Skymile per dollar spent on the card, including on PIN-based transactions.  While Suntrust representatives claim that Bluebird (and, similarly, Gobank) loads at Walmart won't earn Skymiles, there are lots of reports of success receiving miles for these transactions.

Since online Gobank debit loads are treated as signature purchases by the issuing bank, you can earn your usual rewards on signature purchases, for example 1% cash back using the PayPal debit MasterCard, a great way to unload PayPal My Cash cards, similar to the technique I described in this post.

Prepaid Debit Card Loads

A slightly more involved technique is to use reloadable PIN-based debit cards to load your Gobank account.  For example, as I reported on Saturday, I was able to load my Gobank account using a MyVanilla Debit card which I had loaded using Vanilla Reload Network cards I purchased at CVS using a rewards-earning credit card.  Similarly, you can load your Gobank account with a Nationwide Visa Buxx card you've loaded using a rewards-earning credit card.

If you dont have access to Vanilla Reload Network cards, or your local merchants won't allow you to use a credit card to purchase them, beginning this month another opportunity has become available: many, although still not all, prepaid gift cards sold at grocery stores, drug stores, and gas stations have begun to work as true PIN-based debit cards.  Since this is a rapidly developing situation, I strongly recommend you first buy a small-denomination gift card in order to see whether it can be used as a PIN-based debit card.  The fees can be somewhat higher than Vanilla Reload Network fees, but those fees can be offset if you're able to use a credit card that gives bonus points for that type of merchant.

Comparative Advantages of Gobank and Bluebird

If you're like me and have both a points-earning debit card and access to Vanilla Reload Network reload cards, then each month Bluebird posed a dilemma: every dollar of Vanilla Reloads I used to fund Bluebird was a dollar of points-earning debit load I couldn't do.  With the introduction of Gobank, that dilemma disappears: Bluebird can be funded directly with Vanilla Reloads, and Gobank can be funded with my points-earning debit card.

Meanwhile, instead of expensive money orders and cash advances, I can easily and cheaply ($0.50 per load) unload up to $2,500 per day from my MyVanilla Debit cards, which I've likewise loaded with Vanilla Reloads.