Vanilla Reloads Going Cash Only Tomorrow. It’s Real, Not Regional

There have been numerous reports over the past day or so that Vanilla Reloads are moving to cash only tomorrow.  I recall seeing things on both View From The Wing and Points, Miles and Martinis.

I can report that it is definitely not confined to Florida and definitely not a rumor.  My wife hasn’t reached the spending requirement for her Citi Executive AA card that earns 100,000 miles yet, so when I heard the rumor I decided we needed to get our butts to a local CVS just in case.

The CVS I just left a few minutes ago is not the normal one I frequent.  They had a ton of Vanilla Reloads on the shelf.  As soon as I brought the cards to the counter the clerk turned to look at a memo that was taped to the side of her register and asked me if I had cash while she was verifying the SKUs on the cards.

I noted that I was pretty sure the new rules didn’t go into place until tomorrow, March 31st 2014.  She said, “Well, yes.  But I’m still not sure if it will work.  I’ll give it a try.”

Her terminal limited her to $3,000 in the first transaction but freely let her ring up more on the second transaction.

ETA: As a funny aside, Citi was fine letting me buy $5,000 in Vanilla Reloads but when I tried to buy 2 packs of Chiclets and a pack of M&Ms, they flagged me for fraud.  Likely the number of consecutive transactions, but still funny.

So, it’s certainly bigger than just Florida CVS stores, as the original memo I saw was for.  I live in Virginia and the memo is very clearly being displayed, discussed and enforced here as well.

ETA: Updates on where folks are seeing Vanilla Reloads:

One reader said they know a CVS manager in Atlanta that hasn’t seen the memo yet.

Reader Nicole is reporting no cards available at all in Fairfield Cty, CT.

Gary of View From The Wing reported his local CVS, presumably somewhere in the DC area, had not received the memo.

A CVS is Florida has seen the memo.

My sister in New Jersey (Toms River area) managed to find a few cards at a store today that let her buy them with credit cards and did not mention the memo. She’s reporting most CVS stores there keep them behind the counter due to some theft issues from local patrons.

JP2 reports availability in Southern metro Atlanta. The CVS said they had not heard of the memo.

Joey says he had no problem buying in NYC and they had not heard of the memo.

Jon reports seeing cards in Groton and Bridgeport, CT.

ncsam is reporting business as usual in central CT and South Florida.

Where do you buy your Vanilla Reloads? What’s the status at your local CVS? I’ll keep posting updates as they come in.

Why is this such a big deal?  Many folks who don’t have enough regular spend to qualify for the minimum spending amounts to earn large credit card bonuses use Vanilla Reloads to satisfy these requirements.  The 100,000 mile Citi Executive offer required $10,000 in spending.  SInce you could buy $5,000 in Vanilla Reload cards each month, it would only cost you $39.50 to generate $5,000 in spending.  Double that, and for roughly $80 (plus $250 in annual fee) you could have 100,000 miles, good enough for a business class ticket to Europe or 4 coach tickets anywhere in the continental US.

This announcement is a major bummer.  But, it’s just the end of a chapter, not the end of the game.  Over the decade plus that I’ve been collecting miles and points plenty of opportunities to leverage these opportunities have disappeared.  A new one always comes along, and I doubt this will be the last we see.

Stay tuned for what’s next….

20 Comments

  1. I just called the manager of the store where I purchase all of my VRs; she said she hadn’t heard anything about a policy change and to the best of her knowledge, credit card purchases will still be allowed. I live in Atlanta, so maybe this is not a national change. I hope not!

  2. For at least the last six weeks my entire area has been out. I’ve been to 12 stores within CT and NY and they’ve been wiped out when they’re usually stacked four rings deep. I found 18 in CT (in the back room) and I asked if I could buy four and have the others for later. Manager said the whse wasn’t sending them anymore but didn’t know why. I used ten today and they didn’t know about the memo. I still need to finish about 4700 on my husbands new AA, But, I only put 1k on it and used four other cards. I was nervous about putting 3-5k on the same card that I just put 2k on Friday at CVS. I just received 110k for my card and should be able to finish off the next 3700 with regular spend/gift cards from the food store. I’m so bummed. I JUST got into BB the last two months and now nada. Humph.

    1. Nicole, thanks for the update on your area of the country. I suspect there will be a lot of unhappy folks over this. But, I’ve been doing this long enough to know there WILL be another opportunity to come down the road.

    1. Fairfield Co…basically, Westport down to Greenwich and several towns within Westchester Co along the same route up to Mt Kisco. They are always stacked three or four tabs and 2 inches thick. Nothing for six weeks. One of my coworkers who lives in Brooklyn checked her two stores and they have restocked either. Where in CT have you found them?

      1. In the Groton area. They had a bunch left. I live in your area, I have seen them in Bridgeport but generally I avoid those areas. Maybe I’ll head up to Danbury and check the Norwalk rt. 7 corridor.

        1. I tried Norwalk/Rt 7 right off the Merritt no cards the last four weeks. Maybe the interior CVS’s or further up the line will have them. I’m never up near Bridgeport…I stay well south, too! Let me know if you find them.

  3. Hit my CVS down the street. They hadn’t heard anything about it. At least the ladies behind the counter. I’m in southern Metro ATL.

  4. The post title says “not regional” but the evidence in the post is mixed … so, … multi-regional, maybe?
    I guess I’m just thinking wishfully that it’s not system wide.

    1. Ed, you’re right. Based on the most recent evidence coming in, it doesn’t appear national (though tomorrow and through the week is a more telling story). Where do you live? Are they still selling VRs?

  5. Ed – I’m in Virginia as well (Herndon). Which CVS had the memo posted at the register? I purchased some today in Sterling, but hadn’t heard about this memo yet so I didn’t ask. I’ll report back if I’m still able to buy them somewhere in Northern VA.

    1. Michael, I live not far from Sterling but I was actually in Richmond yesterday. Let me know if you make it back to a local CVS in the next few days and whether they let you buy with credit cards.

  6. Its already been reported today that it isn’t hard coded at the register in some locations anyway. So if you can get the cashier to try it (e.g. the same story as at any Safeway recently trying to buy the $0 cards, or at Lucky Supermarkets) you’ll be able to buy them. So far. Whether there’s a rolling cash register update is TBD.

    I *was* able to buy a single VR yesterday at CVS. I was able to buy two at Lucky this morning, though $1,000 is the override limit which brought out the manager and she knew better but it was already too late so might have to stick with single VRs in the future.

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