Every change is an invitation to greatness

Do you remember April 1, the day CVS registers started the transition to blocking credit card usage for purchases of some prepaid cards? It's also the day I wrote that manufactured spend is here to stay. I took the change in coding at CVS as an invitation to explore other avenues of manufactured spend, and found that my reliance on Vanilla Reload Network reload cards was acting as an unnecessary throttle on my manufactured spend.

For example, rather than just buying OneVanilla cards for just a dollar more each, I had been relentlessly looking for new Vanilla-reloadable prepaid cards, each with pitifully low monthly load limits and a constant threat of shutdown (also, also, also, and also).

It was easy, it was cheap, and it was predictable.

Once the Vanilla Reload Network stopped being the backbone of my manufactured spend (and once I had more time to experiment and explore), I found to my chagrin that I'd been wasting my time: there was a whole big beautiful world of manufactured spend out there!

While I had already known about many of the techniques I use today, I cockily assumed they weren't worth my time, and I was wrong.

Something's going on with Vanilla prepaid debit cards

No one knows for sure who implemented the changes, whether they were intentional or not, or whether they're permanent or temporary. But for the last few days reports have appeared all over FlyerTalk and Twitter about OneVanilla prepaid debit cards, the famously convenient alternative to Vanilla Reload Network cards (since any 4 digits can be used as a card's PIN, without online or phone registration).

For the time being, OneVanilla and most, if not all, prepaid debit cards issued under the Vanilla brand (you'll find a small ice cream cone on all such cards) cannot be used at Walmart store locations for the three most popular kinds of manufactured spend transactions: money order purchases, bill payments, and loading of prepaid card products like Serve and Bluebird.

Non-Vanilla prepaid debit cards still work fine

Besides Vanilla, there are several other brands of prepaid debit cards, most of which are PIN-enabled, and most of which cost a dollar more for the $500 variety. Many of them are sold at frequently-bonused merchants like gas stations and grocery stores.

If you're looking for a substitute for OneVanilla cards, you might consider (slowly!) experimenting with those cards, if you have credit cards that still make it worth paying their higher activation fees.

But always look for alternatives to the prepaid treadmill

When I switched from my dependence on Vanilla Reload Network reload cards to OneVanilla prepaid debit cards, my manufactured spending increased substantially. But my time commitment also expanded, and not all of it was necessarily fun (though the travel it paid for sure was!). So I also started experimenting with techniques that wouldn't necessarily involve constantly visiting the same stores over and over, day after day.

And in fact, the current limitations on the usefulness of OneVanilla cards come just as I had started accelerating my use of other techniques, which don't require PIN-enabled debit cards at all.


Today you might be willing to pay $5.95 instead of $4.95, just like back in April you might have been willing to pay $4.95 instead of $3.95. But the more serious about this game you are, the more aggressively you should be looking for techniques that cost less, not more!

Best of all, there's a whole community out there willing to help you, with one big caveat: you have to first be willing to put the necessary work in to understand this game we love.

In the comments I'd love to hear reports of successes and failures using my readers' own favorite prepaid products.