Is Redbird Really Dead? What to Do with Excess Gift Cards

Update: Redbird is officially dead. Both NoonRadar and reader Gregory (who is a part time Target employee) have confirmed the existence of a memo stating that going forward, Redbird loads would be restricted to cash only.

About two weeks ago I reported my experience at Roseville area Target stores, where my attempts at loading the Target Prepaid REDcard (aka Redbird) with Visa gift cards were met with rejection. It wasn’t just cashiers checking ID’s, but an error message would appear on the screen any time I tried to use either a Vanilla Visa or GiftCardMall/ Metabank Visa gift card. At the time I suspected it was a regional change that would be rolled out to other areas. When I tried loading Redbird at a Rocklin store the next day, it worked without issues. However, now it appears Target really has hard-coded their registers to not only reject gift cards for Redbird loads but all debit cards. 

The end of Target Prepaid-REDcard

There were some reports about this on Dan’s Deals as well as Reddit and Flyertalk, where a member reported speaking to a customer service rep who confirmed debit loads had been discontinued. Tahsir had the same experience with a customer service rep. 

After seeing a ton of tweets about this on my feed yesterday, I tested a few stores on my way home from San Francisco. At a Target store in Pinole, the cashier wasn’t sure how to load Redbird, so his co-worker instructed him on which code to enter. When I swiped a Vanilla Mastercard, the cashier said he received an error message, so I tried a Vanilla Visa instead. The same thing happened. He turned the screen over so I could see it and it read, “Can only apply $0 to this payment type.” At that moment, the co-worker jumped in and asked what was going on. Upon seeing the message, he asked what type of card I was paying with and confirmed gift cards weren’t allowed. This isn’t surprising to hear, since plenty of cashiers have been giving me the same line for months.

Next, I went to the Target store in Vallejo, where I had no problems unloading $5,000 worth of Visa gift cards last week. The same error message popped up. I double checked to make sure the two gift cards I was using even had funds on them. I even cleared the PIN and tried again but got the same message.

Last I heard, Target stores in Florida were still game, but that could change if in fact a new policy is being rolled out nationwide. Time will tell if this is a temporary glitch or not, but if this is in fact the end of Redbird, there are a few things you can do to unload any excess gift cards you may have on hand:

1. Buy Money Orders. Use your gift cards to purchase money orders at places that accept PIN-enabled gift cards. This is a cheap method, though it does in all likelihood involve a trip to Walmart.

2. Switch Back to Bluebird. Perhaps it’s because Walmart is operated like a government agency, but somehow Bluebird prepaid cards have outlasted Redbird. Most Redbird cardholders will probably switch back to Bluebird and load their excess Visa and Mastercard gift cards this way. Of course, this mass exodus could mean Bluebird will see a quicker death than anticipated, but for now it’s still a viable option.

3. Convert Vanilla Visa Gift Cards to MetaBank or Paypal My Cash Cards. I’ve already explained how manufactured spending with Paypal is a risky undertaking. You will get shut down at some point and chances are you’ll have to wait a long time before your funds are released. Paypal My Cash Cards can be purchased at drugstores for $3.95 per $500, then loaded onto your Paypal account. Then use the Paypal Business Debit card to purchase money orders and deposit those into your bank account or take them to a local bank branch to pay a credit card bill. This method is preferable if you have a Visa gift card that can’t be used to purchase money orders, or your local Walmart checks ID’s.

Another option is to convert your Vanilla Visa or MasterCard gift cards to Metabank Visas, which can be purchased at grocery stores. These cards cost more than the Paypal My Cash Cards ($5.95 per $500), but there are fewer steps involved in liquidation since you can use them to buy money orders directly.

There are also some less-than-ethical options for unloading excess gift cards if Redbird is really dead. You can learn about them by browsing through the Flyertalk threads or talking to fellow ms’ers. I’m not going to write about them here because they’re kind of shady and I don’t want to endorse anything that could get people in trouble (for things other than money laundering). 

I’m sure many of you are heading out today to see if anything has changed on the Redbird front. If you do, be sure to share any success or failures in the comment section. 

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Ariana Arghandewal


  1. Indeed it seems to be dead as far as loading it with gift/prepaid cards. I listed all the reasons why I think it is dead here: http://goo.gl/ZpvzQn.

    Sure hope I’m wrong though. It has been doubly good to me, no doubt, for MS and as far as the online sale of the temporary activated Redbirds.

    Either way, I say let’s be grateful it lasted this long. For people that have been following Redbird news on blogs during the past year, not many (if any) predicted it would last a full year. Basically, it lasted for about 6 months with direct credit card loads and another 6 months with pin-based gift cards.

    P.S. Now taking bets on predictions that Amex–or another bank–will come up with another prepaid card 😛

      • Thanks.

        Green sounds good, its the dollar color, so the cashiers would think they are safe to load.

        (for anyone who didn’t realize that I was kidding, don’t bother wasting your time trying to load Redbird with green gift cards 🙂 )

  2. I’m from Cincinnati, Ohio

    I was able to load redbird without any problems last Saturday. I wasn’t asked to see for I.D. or the see the Card.

    It will be a matter of time until this hits my area.

  3. Tried to load a visa sunnie and master usbank in Blaine, MN yesterday and the payment was not excepted. I noticed right away that the card reader was not asking for Debit or Credit, it just skipped that question. I tried both cards twice. I will try again at 8am to be sure since I have 5 cards to unload.
    I think we might switch to a Serve VIP and a BB if this doesn’t work today. I believe it takes 30 days between cards, so canceling RB sooner than later is best.

  4. It’s true! I went to target last night. I’ve tried with 3 different VGCs and none were being accepted!

  5. I was able to load a $500 Vanilla Visa at my Target in West Palm Beach yesterday at 4:24 pm. Got called out for it on FT and demanded to see my receipt. Like I have any reason to make this up….

    • There were a couple of successful loads reports yesterday on FT, but so was the case on May 6th when Target killed credit cards, likely due to some stores/registers having failed to have received the update/patch that hard codes the resisters to reject a particular type of payment (in this case debit).

      • It’s a tough crowd over there Noonradar which is why I’m a long time lurker only. Thanks for taking the time to respond to me. :]

      • Ariana, you’ve posted since then that you were able to get some gift cards to work at Targets Your post yesterday stated that you’ve done $10K worth of Target loads in the last few days. And there have been sporadic issues loading Vanilla and GCM GCs ever since Target’s new chip and pin software/readers were rolled out.

        I considered your original report two weeks ago to be overly dramatic because you didn’t attempt any workarounds for difficult GCs (reverse swipe, plastic bag, etc). You aren’t the first person who’s reported problems loading GCs, but like other sporadic reports, your reports were not confirmed by a lot of other MSers. And you were also unable to use one of the gift cards at a Neighborhood Walmart – but no one’s declared Walmart dead for MS. Yesterday’s RB rejection reports have been confirmed by many different posters in different parts of the country. There’s not enough reports to absolutely confirm Redbird’s death, but it’s not looking good because there have been far fewer reports of successful loads (and I chalk up any successful loads yesterday to registers not having new software on them yet).

        It’s entirely possible that Target chose to beta test the software at the Roseville Targets you visited a couple of weeks ago. But we can’t be sure of that because you didn’t try the reverse swipe, plastic bag trick, or try a Simon Mall gift card there. You didn’t do enough troubleshooting to make a declarative statement on the death of Redbird at that time. On the other hand, with the volume of reports yesterday, it appears that Redbird is dead. I’ll be moving on unless there are multiple successful reports in the next couple of days but I’m not counting on it. It was good while it lasted.

        • I actually did some trouble shooting. I used both Metabank and Vanilla gift cards with different Redbirds and even cleared the PIN on the ones that failed. I wasn’t aware of the reverse swipe method but when I was ready to use it, I didn’t need to because I was able to load without it. My initial post wasn’t “the sky is falling and redbird is dead” – I simply relayed my experience in the Roseville area and asked other people to chime in to determine whether it was an isolated incident or not. Several locals messaged me to say they had the same experience, so it seems the policy change was rolled out there first. Unfortunately, my prediction that Redbird would die eventually came true, since we now know a memo confirming this was sent to Target store managers.

  6. Tried again this morning to load and it didn’t work again. I think Serve VIP is better than BB since you can load $2500 per day. What cards will everyone be getting?

    • BB allows up to 2500 a day , 5000 a month limit , it has long changed its policy awhile ago. Serve cash back is actually a better option if you’re in states that’s free of maintenance charge.

  7. We still need more data points, definitely today and tomorrow (today it’s only day 2).

    When trying to load look at the cashier’s computer screen (or ask them to show it to you, it can be somewhat tilted even behind the service desk counter) so you can confirm that if it denies, it is the same error message (see the pic I took yesterday http://goo.gl/ZpvzQn).

    If you have them, try to load with an emv chip bank issued debit card, a non-emv bank issued debit card and with different types of pin-based prepaid/gift cards and with cash (you can do small amounts). Also, ask local management to see if they have heard anything, hopefully today (if not by tomorrow) some of them bothered to call corporate and got some insight/info which they are willing to share.

    I did all these last night at the stores I tried to load (after I found out about it being dead):

    1) Cash loaded fine (it was my first cash load), the receipt and email looked the same as with loading with gift/credit cards before.

    2) Both debit cards and the pin gift cards (Vanilla and Meta) gave the same error message.

    3) Local Target management had no clue, all they had to offer was educated guesses and basic troubleshooting steps (i.e. it is maybe a network/debit card issue, etc).

    On one of the tries last night I even had the Target manager select debit on her screen during loading, just to rule things out. All that changed was that it didn’t prompt me to select debit/credit, but gave the same denial error message.

    What other things do you suggest we/people for troubleshooting and data points purposes?

    P.S. If you already read this comment on other blogs, sorry for the repeat, just trying to generate as much data points as possible so the dust settles, along with people’s anxiety about this.

  8. This update has been rolling out in the Chicago area over the past week. Tried to load with MCGC Friday and received the same error message NOON noted. Luckily, the cashier was confused and tried a different register (apparently not yet patched) and it worked. I was told by 3 different cashiers that gift cards no longer work but they allowed me to try after I insisted that it was a normal debit card.

  9. tried to load today with Paypal debit card (Has my name on it). Got the same error message today at Target in west LA.

  10. Hi all, now the Redbird is gone, can someone let me know how I can load PIN enabled gift cards on Serve VIP? Is Serve VIP the best option for manufactured spend? Someone please help!

  11. Hi Ariana, thanks for the great posts. I have question about Google Wallet. I’m trying to liquidate the remainder of my cards via google wallet and I wasn’t able to add the Visa GC to my google wallet. The card is added but I can’t get the balance out to transfer to checking. Has google wallet shut it down? Thanks!

  12. what’s better now – BlueBird or Serve VIP?

    and also – can you buy a money order with a Vanilla gift card? your post seem to imply that you need to convert it to Metabank first…(“Another option is to convert your Vanilla Visa or MasterCard gift cards to Metabank Visas, which can be purchased at grocery stores. These cards cost more than the Paypal My Cash Cards ($5.95 per $500), but there are fewer steps involved in liquidation since you can use them to buy money orders directly”)

    • At Walmart you can’t use a Vanilla Visa to buy a money order. I don’t know about other places that sell them. As for Redbird vs. Serve, they’re pretty much the same but Serve can be loaded at Family Dollar along with Walmart. At Family Dollar, they also accept Vanilla Visas for Serve loads.

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