I woke up today, well past noon, from a Nyquil induced sleep to some terrible news: Both the American Express Bluebird and Serve prepaid cards are dead as far as manufactured spending goes. Several readers got email notices that their accounts were shut down for “unusual usage patterns” – reports have been flooding in on FlyerTalk from members who’ve had their Bluebird or Serve accounts shut down for using it primarily as a manufactured spending tool. I’m currently in between accounts, after closing down my Target Prepaid REDcard (Redbird) accounts following the Redbird shutdown of 2015. I’m glad I’ve been having all these issues with obtaining a new Serve card – after all, chances are those accounts would be shut down by now anyway.
That being said, I think it’s a little premature to have a funeral for Bluebird and Serve. Not everyone has been affected. Caroline reports that of her three cards, one is still open.
— Caroline Lupini (@carolinelupini) January 8, 2016
So if you have a working Bluebird or Serve card, chances are you can still salvage them by using any remaining balance for regular spending. Send your landscape guy a check, reload your Starbucks card, pay a utility bill, or charge your grocery store expenses to your Bluebird or Serve card. It may be too little too late, or it could save your card from seeing the same fate as everyone else.
I’m also wondering whether it’s possible to re-apply for a prepaid card once your Bluebird or Serve account has been shut down. Time will tell (or maybe people who have success with this methods will keep it quiet to preserve it).
In any case, I’m surprised Bluebird and Serve have been around as long as they have. Those who got great use out of it for so long can consider themselves lucky. That being said, it was *just* $5,000 per month – yes, that number multiplied with the number of cards you managed to get a hold of, but let’s keep a little perspective here. It wasn’t an earth shattering number of manufactured spending we just lost. There’s still PayPal My Cash Reload cards and money orders. Plus, this reselling business is picking up to the point where dedicated conferences are being held on the topic.
With airline reward programs devaluing and so many great legitimate premium fare sales coming along, it might just be better to focus on churning bank rewards credit cards and use those currencies to pay for travel. In the future, that may be a more efficient way to travel better while earning miles, than to run from one Walmart store to another, liquidating money orders.
In any case, if you still have a working Amex Serve or Bluebird card, then I’d suggest you max it out while you still can and try to preserve it by some normal spending on it. If your card has been shut down, then I hope you get your funds back quickly. Move on to another method of earning miles (credit card churning, buying money orders, or reselling for miles) and hope that continues for a few more years.
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