Today I finally got around to running an experiment I'd been thinking about for a few months. When you log into your HR Block Emerald card's online account, you'll see on the right-hand side of the screen the following reminder:
I don't know about you, but when I see the words "swipe" and "reload" right next to each other like that, the gears start turning.
Emerald cards can't be loaded with PIN-based debit cards at (my) 7-Elevens
Unfortunately, although I was able to find a cashier willing to try, I found that the registers at my local 7-Eleven store locations do not allow PIN-based debit cards to be used to pay for swipe reload transactions.
Let me stress that this doesn't mean they aren't allowed at any store locations. One of my compulsive habits is attempting to buy PayPal My Cash cards at 7-Elevens when I'm traveling, and I succeed about 25% of the time, although they've been hard-coded for cash only in my town for many months now.
So this may be another "Your Miles May Vary" situation.
Emerald cards can be loaded at Walmart
Walmart administers a reload network they call "Rapid Reload." A single swipe reload costs $3.74, and can be performed at any Walmart register.
This has never been a good value, and still isn't while money orders for up to $1,000 can be purchased for $0.70 and bill payments in any amount up to $9,999 cost $1.88 or less (although additional reporting requirements are triggered by transactions exceeding $2,500 – or even less at some store locations).
So no, you shouldn't wake up tomorrow morning, change your whole miles-and-points strategy, and start paying 4 times more for the same amount of manufactured spend.
But allow me to point out that there are readily available techniques that are still lucrative after adding $3.74 per load of up to $999.99.
And if your store or district manager decides to play Carl Hanratty, you might decide it's worth keeping your head down and paying a little more to avoid the eagle-eyed agents at the Customer Service or Money Centers.
Everything is still running smoothly in my sleepy New England town.
But when I think about the end of our current "golden age" of manufactured spend, this is the future I see: one where we'll have to work a little bit harder and pay a little bit more in order to earn the same amount.
And those who handle the transition best are going to be those who are already aware of all the options available now, before that day finally comes.