Visa Buxx: A refresher course

There's a fairly straightforward technique for manufacturing $3,000 in monthly spend on Visa or MasterCard credit cards: a line of products called Visa Buxx. I discussed this technique in Chapter 8 of my ebook, The Free-quent Flyer's Manifesto, and in several posts here on the blog (for example here and here).

Despite its simplicity, this technique may have resulted in more comments and questions than any other until my 5-part series on paying credit cards bills at Walmart. Apparently some people still can't believe there's such a thing as a (nearly) free ride!

That's why I want to give a brief refresher on how these cards work, to crystalize just how simple this technique is.

Kinds of Visa Buxx

While a number of banks and credit unions issue cards under the Visa Buxx brand, the two we're interested in are US Bank Visa Buxx  and Nationwide Visa Buxx.

There are a number of important differences between the two cards, but they fundamentally function the same way: they can be loaded using any Visa or MasterCard debit or credit card, and they function as "true" PIN-based debit cards, which means they can be used to:

  1. purchase money orders or pay credit card bills at Walmart Money Centers or Customer Service desks;
  2. and load Bluebird or Gobank accounts at any Walmart register.

Here are the key differences between the cards: 

Three notes to this chart. First, one correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous has informed me that the $800 PIN transaction limit on the Nationwide card may be combined between both ATM withdrawals and PIN debit transactions.

Second, I don't have a personal experience with the $1,000 PIN transaction limit with the US Bank card, but another trusted correspondent reported that as his experience. I usually unload my US Bank card as soon as I've loaded it with $1,000, so that's the maximum balance my card has ever had.

Finally, the US Bank card has free ATM withdrawals at US Bank ATMs, while the Nationwide card charge $1 for withdrawals at Allpoint ATMs (these withdrawals are supposed to be free, but I have invariably been charged $1). At non-Allpoint ATMs you'll pay $1, plus the ATM owner's surcharge.

As you can see, the US Bank card is slightly superior to the Nationwide card with respect to volume and ease of liquidation, although also slightly more expensive. Still, the ability to manufacture spend at 0.5 cents per dollar is an outstanding value, and can play a part in every hacker's toolbox. 

Applying for Visa Buxx

You can apply for the two cards on the sites I linked to above. The most important difference between the two cards is that while you can enter the same information (for example, yours) for the "parent" and "teen" when opening a Nationwide account, the US Bank application requires that you enter at least a different Social Security number for the "teen." If you have a partner who supports your hobby, you can even open one account with yourself as the "parent" and your partner as the "teen," and a second account with the roles reversed.

Loading Visa Buxx

In the comments to this post, I laid out as clearly as possible the rules – as far as I understand them – for what cards earn rewards for Visa Buxx loads. Simply put, you'll earn miles and points for loads as long as you make sure all three of the following conditions are met. Your card must:

1) be a Visa or MasterCard;
2) not be issued by Citibank;
3) and not be issued by the same bank as the Visa Buxx card.

As long as those three conditions are all met, you should earn your credit card rewards. The third condition is the trickiest since, for example, your US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards card WILL earn Flexpoints for loads to the Nationwide Visa Buxx, but WILL NOT earn them for loads to a US Bank Visa Buxx.

Unloading Visa Buxx

I have personally used my Visa Buxx cards to:

  • Load my Bluebird and Gobank accounts;
  • Make Walmart bill payments;
  • Make free ATM withdrawals at US Bank ATMs and $1 withdrawals at Allpoint ATMs.

While I used to be able to buy Walmart money orders as well, I ran into a problem a few months ago using my Nationwide Visa Buxx card there and have stuck to loading my prepaid accounts and making bill payments since then.