A couple of months ago American Express came up with their new BlueBird card, which is a card that you can load money into, and then use their free bill pay service to pay many expenses that you can’t normally pay with a credit card, such as your mortgage, student loans, utilities, car payments, etc.
First, you need to order a BlueBird card online at www.bluebird.com. You can also pick up a starter kit with a temporary card at Walmart and load it right at the register. You will still need to go to www.bluebird.com to register it, so it is a little faster to just order your permanent card online. You only need to do this once to set up the account.
After you receive your permanent card in the mail, the next step is loading it with funds. You will need a Vanilla Reload card, which is sold at places like Office Depot, CVS and Walgreens. This is where you earn your miles, by using a credit card to purchase the reload cards. Some are reporting that Office Depot and Walgreens have restricted the purchase of the cards, but CVS is no problem so far. This Flyertalk thread has plenty of additional information on the topic. There is a $3.95 purchase fee and in order to minimize the cost, the best way to go is by purchasing the maximum denomination, which is $500, and purchase it with a credit card that will earn you multiple points per dollar, such as the Chase Ink Bold Credit card (5x per dollar at Office Depot) or the Amex Hilton Honors card (6x per dollar at drugstores). This is what you need to purchase:
This card has a scratch-off 10-digit PIN in the back. After you buy it, head to www.vanillareload.com, and where it says “Load your Card”, enter your BlueBird Amex 15-digit card number, and the 10-digit scratch-off PIN from your Vanilla Reload card. That will load the Vanilla Reload money into your Amex BlueBird card.
Now your BlueBird Amex card is loaded with $500. You can repeat the process as many times as you need to load more money, up to a maximum of $5,000. This is the result after your BlueBird Amex is loaded:
Now you’re ready to pay bills with this card for free just like you would do using your bank’s bill-pay service. To pay bills, simply click the “Pay Bills” button, search for your merchant, and follow the prompts to easily schedule your bill. If you’re paying your mortgage or student loans and you have them currently on auto-pay, don’t forget to cancel those with the bank or you could pay them twice. If your merchant doesn’t show up, you can still enter their information and Amex will send them a check. You can also pay anyone else you’d like as long as you have a name and a mailing address.
Finally, you can actually send money through BlueBird for free to someone else if they have a BlueBird account open, so if you have people who you need to pay to for services such as your gardener, babysitter, etc, you can ask them to create an account for free and you can pay them this way and earn miles for those payments.
Note that you will always pay $3.95 for every $500 in Vanilla Reload cards you purchase. While some people will not want to pay that fee just so they can earn miles, this is a great tool when you are trying to meet minimum spending requirements to hit a large sign-up bonus. I would gladly pay $3.95 if I was missing $500 in spending on a credit card that will get me a 50,000 mile sign-up bonus. So in the end you must decide whether this service is for you and how much you want to take advantage of it. Keeping in mind that overdoing it may flag your accounts.