PIN-based Visa Prepaid Debit Cards

There are a number of products which can help when meeting high minimum spending requirements or generating spend on cards that earn valuable points.  Today I want to discuss three of them.  These cards have a number of benefits: they can be loaded either directly or indirectly using points-earning credit cards, and they can be unloaded at ATMs, by buying money orders, or used to fund the American Express Bluebird card at any Walmart and used to pay bills, including credit cards.

For the first two options, the Nationwide Visa Buxx and Wells Fargo Prepaid cards, the transaction can be classified differently by different card issuers.  For example, Citibank classifies all such transactions as cash advances, which incur high fees and interest charges, and there are some reports that Bank of America classifies the transactions as purchases, but doesn't award points.  The best bet is to first do a trial load with any card you're considering using, wait for your statement to close, and see if points are rewarded.

Nationwide Visa Buxx

The Nationwide Visa Buxx is an excellent starter card for anyone considering entering the miles and points game.  

  • It can be loaded using any Visa or Mastercard.
  • You can load up to $500 at a time, up to twice per month, at a cost of $2 per load.
  • There's no monthly fee.

If you max out this card, you can manufacture $1000 in spending at a cost of $4 per month, which is worth doing for almost any points currency.

There are two things to be aware of when using this card.  First, ATM withdrawals (limited to $200 per week) at MoneyPass ATMs are not free, they cost $1.  No one has any explanation for this, since they are advertised as free.  There have been reports of success having the charge reversed by calling into Customer Service, although this is a long, annoying process.

Second, there is a daily purchase limit of $800.  This means you can either load $800 onto a Bluebird card, or purchase a money order at Walmart for $799.30.

My approach is to withdraw $200 from a Moneypass ATM and purchase a money order for $798.30 (since my balance is only $799 after paying $1 for the ATM withdrawal).

Wells Fargo Prepaid Visa

This card is good for a more experienced hacker who wants to make some bigger moves.

  • Load using any Visa or Mastercard
  • $4500 rolling monthly load limit.
  • Load up to $2500 per day.
  • $5 fee per load.
  • $3 monthly fee.
  • $600 transaction limit.

Because of the $600 transaction limit it can take a while to unload this card.  Purchasing 8 $599.30 money orders at 70 cents each brings the total cost for $4500 in spending to $18.60, or .4 cents per dollar.

MyVanilla Debit

The MyVanilla Debit card is a more marginal play, but can be useful for meeting minimum spending requirements or reaching bonused spending thresholds.

  • Load using Vanilla Reload Network Prepaid Reload cards.
  • Load up to $2,500 per day.
  • No monthly fee.

You have to buy a MyVanilla Debit card in a store, like CVS, that sells temporary cards.  After buying a temporary card, you can register it online and you'll receive a permanent card in the mail within a few weeks.  You can register up to 3 cards per social security number. Once you have the permanent card, you can then load it by buying Vanilla Reload Network Prepaid Reload cards, which you can load with up to $500 in value for a fee of $3.95.

To unload the MyVanilla Debit, you can purchase money orders, load a Bluebird card, or ask for a cash advance from a bank teller.  All three options currently cost 50 cents, plus any other fees charged by merchants.