Real talk about MyVanilla Debit cards

In the travel hacking blogosphere, I try to strike what I think is the right balance between risk and reward for myself and for my readers. That's why I'm always asking my readers to take each technique slowly and start with small amounts that you can afford to be without for a little while or – heaven forbid! – even lose. 

Every technique that we use requires you to find your own comfort level. Loading Vanilla Reload Network reload cards to Bluebird, for example, is a technique that many travel hackers use and have become comfortable with because there have been virtually no reports of adverse action against people using Bluebird in that manner.

Other techniques have more complicated track records. For example, here on the blog I broke the story of Gobank, which is an incredibly lucrative opportunity to liquidate PIN-enabled gift cards and reloadable prepaid cards.  However, the behavior that travel hackers consider most lucrative (rapidly loading and unloading) has invariably led to shutdowns and the loss of the opportunity.

What I want to talk about today are MyVanilla Debit cards. These PIN-enabled debit cards are reloadable using Vanilla Reload Network reload cards. They have incredibly high limits (but don't even think about loading your balance above $10,000). You can unload them using PIN-based methods (like Walmart money orders and bill pay ). Moreover, you can withdraw money using "cash advances" at (virtually?) every bank in the United States.

Some time ago, a series of shutdown reports started to pour into Flyertalk  from users who said their accounts had been closed after various forms of the above activities. Like a lot of users, I pulled back on my usage, and avoided shutdown on my three MyVanilla Debit accounts.

Since then the shutdown reports slowed down, and other opportunities opened up, so I decided to start using my MyVanilla Debit cards more aggressively. 

And my accounts are still alive and well. 

For each of my 3 active MyVanilla Debit card accounts, I've adopted the following pattern: 4 $500 Vanilla Reloads per week; 1 $1,000 bank cash advance; 1 $1,000 Walmart bill pay.

This allows me to manufacture about $24,000 per month using Vanilla Reloads loaded to MyVanilla Debit cards at a cost of roughly 1 cent per dollar of manufactured spend. Since between my Fidelity 2% cash back card, Barclaycard 2.22% Arrival World MasterCard, and 5% Citi ThankYou Preferred card I'm averaging 3.07 cents per dollar of manufactured spend, this is a no brainer for me.

What I'm not saying is that every one of my readers should start emulating my (very aggressive) usage of these cards. To be even more emphatic, if you start doing $9,500 cash advances every week you will certainly be shut down.

What I am saying is that these cards have a reputation that, unlike Gobank, they don't fully deserve. MyVanilla Debit cards are still a very viable option for manufacturing relatively large amounts of spend each month. And if you've been shying away from them because of the shutdown reports, it might be time to start – carefully! – dipping your toes back in the water.