American Express Manufactured Spending

Amex is Shutting Down Bluebird and Serve Accounts: What’s Next?

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.

So if you have a working Bluebird or Serve card, 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. 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 legitimate premium fare sales coming along, it might just be better to focus on churning bank rewards 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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  1. If you think you have one or more cards that were NOT shutdown, I’d suggest checking your spam folder. Both gmail and have been putting some of these notices into spam forlders for whatever reason. In my case I thought one of the accounts was still okay because of this. But nope.

  2. So far not a good start to the year! Markets down, Bluebird down, No Hyatt promotions of yet. What gives!?!?

  3. We had 3 BB shut down, but no notice on our Serve One VIP. We might apply for an Serve after 30 days. Money orders at Walmart don’t seem to work in MN, but I know they work in Vegas. I will look into Paypal. Thanks

  4. Not shut down? Great. If you try MS you will be shut down. So what use is the useless card now?

  5. My hubby’s Bluebird was shut down today. I was wondering what would happen if I apply for one now? I had one last year, then traded for Redbird. Then closed the Redbird when it died. So I have been without for awhile.

  6. It’s a bummer that they’re shut down (mine and every friend/family that I know of has been too). The big question is if Amex will take this into consideration the next time you apply for one of their cards — since the implication of shutting down the BB is that you’re a known travel hacker.

    Or, if you are more likely to be subject to their financial review given the spend and deposits resulting from MS.

  7. I think losing Serve/Blluebird is a pretty big deal for many because that 5k per month x however many cards a person had access to was enough for the average person to meet their minimum spend requirements for bonuses on new cards. It was also simple to do with a low learning curve. I’m thinking of the difference of difficulty between teaching my mom how to use Serve vs teaching her how to become a reseller, or do the switchero with gift cards and a bank debit card while trying to buy MO at Walmart, or explaining to her how to get her money released from Paypal after they freeze her account. The next thing that will happen of course is after a large number switch to Paypal MyCash cards because it looks pretty easy,some will find that Paypal is not always your pal. Next, the available MO opportunities will be getting hit harder than in the past which will likely get undesirable management attention and lower the number of stores that are willing to sell MO for gift cards. Finally folks will move into reselling. There is enough risk and work involved that I think reselling opportunities will always exist, but I don’t feel much like walking my mom through any of that. As a result, I’m feeling gloomy.

  8. I just logged in and I was planning on loading my serve on Monday. What is really triggering this? I heard billpay is one way but that’s what I’ve done all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever used the ATM.

  9. I am one of those few (so far) who did not receive THE email from Serve. I opened Serve VIP in November, and so far loaded only around $6000 and paid just 2 CC bills out of it. That’s all. Maybe that is the reason?
    I wonder if I should lie low for now (hoping I would be spared) or just the opposite – use it to the fullest while it lasts?

  10. I also got the unwanted email. I load 5K BB monthly, and use them pay mortgage bills, and other CC bills. However, I do not load and unload right away, and always have 500 to 1500 left in the BB account. I just loaded 2500 a couple of days before getting the email. I will wait until the end of this month to pay mortgages before closing the account. Well, I am grateful for the BB opportunity while it lasts … Thanks.

  11. Hector Torres

    Even though this isn’t MS, Plastiq is another option that lets you pay mortgage, rent and other bills with a credit card. They do charge a 2.5 % fee though. Since mortgage might be the single largest bill for some, here’s a good way to accumulate some points.

    • True, though I really don’t like that 2.5% fee. I would absolutely consider this for meeting spending requirements easily, but you can usually ms for less than 1.5% out of pocket by churning Visa gift cards.

      • Hector Torres

        I’m a newbie here. So, I used to load by BB with VSCs and pay my mortgage with the BB account. Now that BB is gone, how do you recommend paying your mortgage with MS?

  12. AMEX block my BB sending and receiving payments just because I registered for a Serve card while in their FAQ reads that one user can have BB, Serve cards without problems. Now I have to wait 30 days to see if the BB account come back normally like customer service explained to continue using it. I don’t understand why they don’t explain that on their website so a user can determine first before register for multiple cards.

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