My Long Term Bluebird/Serve/REDcard Strategy Going Forward

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amex prepaid strategy

REDcard Changes Force A Strategy Shift

Note: As of October 13, 2015 the Target REDcard (REDbird) can only be loaded with cash in-store at Target. This means that neither debit cards nor gift cards can be used to load REDcard any longer. For more info about the changes and where to go from here, see: REDbird Postmortem: An MS Path Forward

By now everyone has heard that the Target REDcard (aka REDbird) has stopped allowing credit card loads. I covered this development pretty extensively last week here on the blog, but now that everything has settled down, it is time to see where we go from here.

Before I start, the reason I used the words “Long Term” in the title was because I already shared my immediate short term strategy last week. There truly is nothing long term in this hobby, so I fully expect that I will have to shift strategies at some point soon.

Where REDcard Stands Right Now

Since the end of credit card loads last week, it has been confirmed that pretty much all prepaid pin-enabled gift cards work to load REDcard. This means that there are definitely many ways still left to take advantage of it, although none quite as easy as before.

See: Where To Buy Pin-Enabled Gift Cards for Manufactured Spend

My Personal Situation

amex prepaid strategy
With a switch back to Serve, I’ll be spending more time here. Photo by Mike Mozart.

Currently I manage four American Express prepaid cards. (Bluebird, Serve & REDcard). I know some of you have many more, but I have been able to make things work with just four. The split is as follows:

  • 1 Serve with Softcard
  • 1 Bluebird
  • 2 REDcards

It has always been my goal to keep at least one of each of these cards to be able to report on them. That is honestly the only reason I keep the Bluebird. With $1k in online loads, I still think Serve is the superior product.

What Will Change for Me

I wrote about my prior REDcard strategy a few weeks ago in the post: How to Earn Up to 7.5x For REDbird Loads. Obviously that strategy isn’t as cut and dry as before, although I will be able to continue to earn pretty decently by purchasing gift cards at a 5x store and then loading them to any of the prepaid Amex cards.

At this point I think I am going to switch one of the REDcards back to Serve. One of the reasons is that I will be able to get $1k in online credit card loads from an Amex card. I will also get the ability to have subaccounts and Amex Offers. With all of the amazing offers lately, I would be dumb not to switch at least one card back.

Besides wanting to keep one of each product, there is a reason I am going to keep a REDcard. That reason is Vanilla. As we have seen over the past couple of weeks, deals on Vanilla Visas come around quite often. Since Vanilla Visas can only be loaded at Walmart in denominations below $50, the REDcard will be my Vanilla backup.

I also have an Old Amex Blue that earns 5x at drug stores. $500 One Vanilla cards are sold at drugstores, which means this could be an easy way to earn 4% cashback after fees. The nice thing about REDcard is that I can still load other pin-enabled cards to it in months where there isn’t a good reason to purchase a lot of Vanilla cards.

Walmart vs. Target

amex prepaid strategy
Not as many visits to Target in my future. Photo by Mike Mozart.

Last week in his post about his REDcard strategy, Greg the Frequent Miler mentioned one thing that stuck out to me: “REDbird was always primarily about my preference for Target over Walmart.” I think that will be the case for some people.

I never really completely broke up with Walmart, although it was nice to visit less often because of the REDcard. I’m not a fan of Walmart, but my flexible schedule means I can visit at less busy times which has been enough to keep me sane. In other words, Amex Offers & online credit card loads for Serve justify the extra Walmart visits for me.

Conclusion

So my strategy change involves moving one of my cards back to Serve. Big deal right? That is sort of my point. I have been around this hobby for a long time, so I saw credit card loads for what they were. A gift. Now that they are gone it is time to go back to the real world of MS. Unfortunately that will take a little more effort for all of us, but I’m alright with that.


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49 COMMENTS

  1. Are you the primary on any of these cards? I’m curious about barriers to having your name on more than one card.

  2. Regarding loading Serve online with an Amex card, I didn’t think you earned rewards for that. It’ll help for minimum spending on a new card, but that is about it, right?

    • Third party Amex cards (cards issued by another bank) earn rewards. One good example is the Fidelity Amex. I also have an old AAdvantage Amex that would work as well.

      • I just want to verify because I just enrolled for Serve but nowhere did I see an option for loading online with a credit card of any kind. When my Serve card arrives and I register where would I look for this option? And also to verify.. if I use my Delta Amex Gold card to load Serve I will or will not get miles for that?

  3. Can you load redbird with Vanilla Visa gift cards? I tried once at target and it failed. Could you please confirm if it worked for you?

  4. How much can you load on red card each month with pin enabled gift cards? I saw $1000 somewhere on my account.

  5. Just tried unloading vanilla Visa cards at target on my Redbird card and was told a new policy went into effect this week. They no longer accept pin enabled gift cards. Debit card or cash only. I live in Oklahoma. Any suggestions for unloading my vanilla visas would be appreciated. I have quite a few.

    • I would try a different store as that policy is most likely different from store to store. I haven’t heard of a nationwide policy against using the pin-enabled gift cards. You could also try buying money orders at grocery store or loading them to Bluebird/Serve in denominations lower than $50 at Walmart.

    • @Andree, As Shawn suggested, try a few different stores…I’ve have no problems loading in OK over the past 2 weeks with VGC. Alternatively, if worst comes to worst, switch to BB and load with $49.99 transactions at Kate.

  6. Shawn, I am a newcomer to this MS game. Can you point me to an article or link that may help educate me, preferably one that does not use acronyms as I have yet to learn the lingo? Many thanks!

    • I have heard one recent report that it isn’t coding as a cash advance. My Softcard Serve is still working with my Arrival card, but if I try the Citi AA Amex I will start very small as a test. I can always pickup a Fidelity Amex or even a Flexperks Amex as well.

    • Reports I have heard lately indicate the loads do count towards minimum spend, but you don’t earn the rewards for the spending. For example, if you needed to spend $3k in 3 months and you did it via Serve, it would trigger the bonus, but not any rewards for the actual $3k in spend.

      Of course this could change at any time.

  7. Hey Shawn thanks for the great article as always. You mention the old Amex Blue. I have this card and as far as I can tell it’s 5% at drugstores only after $6500 in yearly spend. Is that correct? I’ve never found it worth manufacturing $6500 just to start getting 5% after that initial spend. Am I understanding this card correctly?

    • Correct. You do have to spend $6500 per year to get the 5% and 5% is capped at $50k now. (It didn’t used to be.) If you only earn .5% on the first $6,500 and then 5% on the rest, it still amounts to a 4.48% cashback rate which is phenomenal. The key is to make sure to use up the $50k limit or you are right it makes less sense.

  8. How is it you have a Bluebird, Redcard and Serve card? I thought you could only have 1 or the other?

    I have a Redcard and would like to get a Serve…

    • I manage four total including family members. I personally only have one card in my name, but my wife and two other family members have cards that I manage for them.

  9. Shawn –

    What’s the best strategy for acquiring VGC and minimizing the purchase fee? And of course purchasing with a CC is required…but I do not want to eat into my cost of earned points/miles (whatever) while doing it now that RedCard is a “Buy Then Unload” by VGC option.

  10. I’ve been shot down 7 times in the last ten days trying to load gift cards to Redbird; twice in Atlanta and 5 times in Northern California. Each time I’ve been told they are no longer being accepted (many similar reports on Flyer Talk and other blogs). I despise Walmart, but I’ve given up on Redbird and have gone back to Bluebird.

  11. @Shawn –

    So, where are we now with PIN-Enabled VGC’s being used to load RedCard?

    Viable or not? Allowed or not?

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