A Few Thoughts & Considerations Regarding Today’s Bluebird/Serve “Shutdown”

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bluebird serve shutdown considerations

Thoughts & Considerations Regarding the Shutdown of Bluebird & Serve for Manufactured Spend

In case you have been away from the computer for most of the day, American Express began sending out notices to some Bluebird and Serve cardholders explaining that their accounts were being effectively shutdown. I covered the letter and more in this morning’s post.

It took awhile to digest the news, but now I have a few more random thoughts that I think are worth sharing in a timely manner. For that reason I decided to put them in a separate post. Here is some of what is going through my mind.

Amex Offers

The letter this morning left the Bluebird/Serve accounts open, but limited a cardholder’s ability to fund the account further. This means that the money currently in the account is the only money that will ever be there. I know many people have a main card and four sub cards, each of which are linked to Amex Offers.

Now that loading is killed, you may want to consider leaving some money in there and cash it out as lucrative Amex Offers come out. I am not sure what I am going to do personally, but I think cashing out with spending as opposed to simply paying a bill may not be a bad solution. What do you think?

Subaccount Balances

Remember that subaccounts have their own balances. I personally left some money on each of my subaccounts to use for Amex Offers purchases. The balances of these subaccounts don’t show up in the main balance, so remember to reclaim the money to the main account before closing or as I you may want to consider keeping it there until you can cash it out through spending as mentioned above.

Liquidating Cards You Have

I maintain a resource on the site about liquidating prepaid pin-enabled gift cards. You can find it here. The biggest advice I could give to you is don’t panic. There are a number of ways to liquidate (some cheaper than others) and you should find one you are comfortable with. Some of the easier options cost more, so you’ll have to decide which route is best. Either way, it isn’t the end of the world. A hassle? Yes, but not the end of the world.

Have a Card That Didn’t Receive the Letter?

If you live in a split family like me (i.e. One person got the letter and one didn’t), then the question comes up as to what to do with the card that is still alive? Do you hit it hard and pray for the best? Do you simply just leave it alone and lay low for awhile?

Obviously I don’t know the best answer as to what to do, but I personally think I will lay low awhile. I have other methods of liquidating and am glad I still have my Go Bank card as well. I still value the alive card for Amex Offers, so that is a consideration as well. I think as this progresses and we perhaps find out a pattern for the shutdowns or more information, then the decision here will be a little easier.

Things We Still Don’t Know

  • Will this have any effect on your credit card accounts?
  • Is this a permanent ban on prepaid products or will you be able to re-open one later?
  • Are there any other repercussions to this shutdown?

Did I miss anything?


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34 COMMENTS

  1. With respect to keeping it open and only spending for Amex offers, I’ll probably do that too. But you do need to remember that depending on which version of Serve you have, you might have to pay a monthly fee because you can’t load any money into the account anymore (I can’t remember all the various flavors, but I think all of them have a fee that’s avoided by adding a certain amount per month?).

    Yes, the fee is only like $1-$5 depending on the version and probably won’t tip the scales one way or the other. It’s just something to remember.

    • excellent reminder Fiby. Wife has one of those Serve accounts that required the load to avoid the fee — and now that they’ve banned the loads, then to ….. with Serve.

      ps, Shawn, if Amex in any way puts anything negative on our accounts for engaging in transactions that prior to 3 days ago were no in any way prohibited and obviously tolerated for years…. then yes, we all would have grounds for class action legal stuff.

  2. I used the balance in Hubby’s account (the one that got closed) to pay a bill to zero it out. They want it closed. I would be nervous about leaving money. Doesn’t it say they’ll give balances to the appropriate state if balances aren’t zeroed out?

    I still have two open accounts and thankfully no outstanding GCs – only one $300 coming from Staples next week. Hubby and I just got three new cards, but planned all along to meet the minimum spend by paying for my oral surgery. When you get to our age, big medical bills become the norm. Breaking my leg 5 yrs ago and having thousands of dollars in bills is how I got so deeply into this hobby. I sat on the couch for 5 months with nothing to do but read FlyerTalk and figured I’d get multiple trips out of it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • The terms in 15b stated that ” any remaining funds will be escheated to the applicable state in accordance with Applicable Law.” Basically means if you die and have no family/heirs your property becomes the state’s. From their terms it doesn’t appear they can hold your funds hostage. Although given the precedence PayPal has shown, I’m not entirely sure that won’t change in the future. It’s also why I’m hesitant to keep money in there and try to ride out amex offers. Dust still needs to settle though so I’m going to try not to overthink it for now.

      • No, escheatmenr is unclaimed property. Depending on the state, companies have to submit unclaimed payroll, gift cards, etc after a certain number of years. Payroll is one year in most states. Bank account years Cary. So after let’s say three or five years, a bank would have to escheat an unused bank account to the state. The state holds it for the real holder, and that person can go on to the states unclaimed property website to claim the money.

        • Yep, I think it’s pretty obvious escheatment is re: unclaimed property. Per my discussion with Daniel (if you read below) is regarding how and when this property is taken.

      • That’s not what escheat means. You are thinking bequeath. Source: I’m a tax and estate planning attorney.

        • Not trying to challenge your knowledge but after a few minutes of research I stand by what I wrote. If you could elaborate on this I’d be all ears. I do understand words take on different meanings depending on the context and field so it’s not always black and white.

          When we’re referring to property that’s essentially left in limbo, whether you’re dead w/o heirs or simply do not respond after a defined period of time, escheat applies. The root of the word means “fall-out.”

          Bequeath on the other hand refers to passing down property (typically through a will). Bequest is “to declare or express in words.” May help to know that escheat is a noun where as bequeath is a verb. Bequest implies action where as escheat is a law or “doctrine.”

          When looking up escheat I found a comment under the defintion on the merriam-webster page that I thought is worth posting:

          “clarkkent58
          I work for a bank and we are required by law to turn over (escheat) any unclaimed funds to the state where our customer has their residence. The funds become unclaimed when there is no activity on the account and we are unable to reach the customer at their address and phone number of record. The laws vary by state, but typically the funds must be remitted after 3 to 5 years of no activity or customer contact. (The same laws apply to brokerage firms, finance companies, credit unions, insurance companies, etc.) The unclaimed property laws are designed to prevent such institutions from improperly assuming ownership of assets belonging to their customers. Before the funds or safe deposit box contents are sent to the state, the institution must send a notice to the customer at their last known address with specific instructions for reactivating their account and claiming the funds or property before it is remitted to the state. If the customer does not respond within a certain period of time, the funds/property is transferred (escheated) to the state along with identifying information about the customer (name, last know address and phone, etc.). Once received, the money or other property is held in a custodial account by the state. The state is required to 1) attempt to contact the resident to inform them that unclaimed property is being held in their name and 2) disclose publicly the type and amount of unclaimed property being held and the name of the owner of record. The list of unclaimed property is public information and available to anyone on request. At any time, the owner can claim and retrieve the property by presenting valid proof of identity and ownership. In California where I live and work, there is no time limit or deadline for claiming the funds. Also, the state does NOT deduct a fee or percentage of the property being claimed. A NOTE OF CAUTION: There are companies and individuals similar to bill collectors that specialize in contacting people on the unclaimed property list with offers to help retrieve the property for a fee (often up to 20% of the balance). The more unscrupulous ones will make it sound like they have legal authority over dispostition of the funds and/or that the funds are in danger of being permanently forfeited unless the owner/claimant acts immediately or before a certain deadline. Do not be conned by these operators. If your situation is complex (e.g. disputed ownership of unclaimed property left by a deceased person), you may want to contact a lawyer that is knowledgeable about the unclaimed property laws in the state where the funds are held.”

          See what you made me do? You made me use Google and not rely on my fuzzy recollection of business law classes! lol

          • Was that fun for you? You proved my point with the definition – you don’t have to die for your property to be escheated to be state. It usually happens after a period of inactivity. The relevant question is how long Amex will take before turning over the account balance to the state. They have already put you on notice.

          • And you are correct – bequeath isn’t the correct word for this situation. Property passes to the state if you have no heirs at law via intestate succession. There – now you have something fun to research!

          • I apologize for omitting a portion of the definition. I didn’t know I needed to paste the entire definition, verbatim, to make the point that Dee doesn’t need to worry about losing the funds unless she plans on not using them within the next few years AND ignores communication sent from Amex at the point funds are to be escheated (by law they’re required to). I highly doubt today’s email citing a link to their terms legally “put you on notice” and that no further communication is required.

            Thank you though for pulling your attorney badge out to help clarify. I’d probably take it personal as well if someone corrected me about a topic pertinent to my profession. Then again I wouldn’t call anyone out and list myself as a source (especially if I’m wrong). I would’ve simply stated “you don’t have to die to have property escheated.” Note: I didn’t believe you were intentionally trying to be snarky, as is obviously the case after your subsequent two posts.

            We can disagree on the relevance of inactivity. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and assume that it would take at least a year (it’s typically 3-5, varies by state) without activity before the funds are escheated. If the account was left inactive then you’d have no point in keeping a balance and would withdraw now and get it over with. The reason we’re keeping money is to use it for Amex Offers, which would provide several opportunities this year alone to capitalize on. There are a lot of questions left to be answered, but the duration of inactivity that would legally allow Amex to escheat our funds is definitely not one of them.

            No further research is necessary. It appears we’ve both brushed up on the difference between escheat and bequeath. See, something good did come out of today. Always a silver lining if you look hard enough!

          • I can assure you that snark was not my intention and that my investment in this conversation has run its course. Next time, I probably won’t respond to a post unless my full attention is given so as to avoid this situation. Posting while dealing with kids can inadvertently result in a prolonged, fairly dry conversation. My point simply was that you mentioned death originally. Death as a prerequisite to escheat is just not relevant here. If you are worried about your assets going to the state after death, that is via a will/trust or intestate succession (the state is an ultimate bene if all else fails). Escheat was the relevant word – it was just not defined in a relevant way. That is all. Happy Saturday.

          • I don’t believe your comments about not intentionally being snarky, but regardless, what’s relevant here is that unless Dee leaves funds in the account for a long time (years) and ignores subsequent communication by Amex, she is fine. That was the entire point of my post and it was in response to her question.

            How you can consider death not relevant per the terms of Amex and escheatment is beyond me. It’s half of the equation here. She may not have inferred this meaning in her question but let’s stick to what escheatment is in its entirety here (per your initial response). After all, isn’t that why you pulled out your badge? But I digress; we’re not going to see eye to eye on this one and at this point it’s semantics with no added benefit to the topic.

            I have a 1 year old constantly tugging on my leg and screaming in my ear as well. I “get it.” It’s precisely why I didn’t go digging up a dictionary for the definition of escheatment in its entirety. I didn’t list the full definition and you didn’t know the difference between escheat and bequeath. Life goes on, feathers ruffled or not.

            At any rate, enjoy your Saturday. We can both agree there’s nothing more to add here and it appears weโ€™re in demand elsewhere with little ones which is more important.

  3. I don’t know if it is true or not, but this afternoon I called Bluebird customer service and gave her my account information and she said it was an error and that I could still add to my BB account. Will try tomorrow.

  4. The offshore representative that I talked to said that I could close current card that received the email and apply for a new one online. He said that I would be granted a new card.

    Whether he knew what he was talking about or if this was just a standard line is anybody’s guess.

    • Calwatch, are you loading the $300 meta bank visa gc’s from staples at the register? No money pass machines in my area (within the 5 closest walmarts). Just curious. Thanks.

  5. I just loaded $1200 to my mom’s BB. The goal is to wait a week and then do my normal $1800 in Staples. I’ll continue to have my mom pay me $2500 a month until account to account transfers get shut down. Obviously I’ll be less aggressive at hitting the OSS but I can always unload six $300 debit cards by paying taxes in a pinch.

  6. Got the dreaded letter for my BB, but spouse still has Redbird and no letter for that. Wondering if the redbird can get converted to BB, and be able to MS with that. May have to lay low a little while first

  7. I guess two of the biggest losers due to this are Metabank and Visa.
    I am just amazed how all of this aligned at the same time – Blackhawk changes, Fidelity changes, Buxx changes and now this.
    Conspiracy theory anyone ๐Ÿ˜‰ ? “Empire strikes back against MS”

    • I have said this on other websites and also earlier post here. I truly believe that in the background the federal givernment is putting pressure on the companies to reduce money transfers. Look at the immediate shutdown just a couple days ago of using Serve Cards out of country at ATMs. That was shut down with NO warning and immediate.

      NW Buxx barely gave much time and if you loaded 500 per card on 1/1 like so many do, no more big loads are possible if you were doing the twice a month thing.

      Uncle Sam wants Money transfers stopped absolutely as much as possible and think we are all getting caught in the whirlwind.

      The people that will end up with Serve cards that work are broke people that do nothing but little paychecks and pay small bills, etc. It will end up like green dot cards.

  8. Another consideration: for those that loaded with cc’s (as was specifically allowed!) and actually paid legitimate bills, is there any hope of reversing the ban? If they just stopped allowing credit card loads, that would be one thing, but they effectively said that those that followed the rules have done something wrong!

  9. For one card, I did not receive the email. BUT using that card, I was unable to load at Kate or cashier. PIN was approved, but transaction would not go through. So it still appears to be over, despite not receiving the closure email.

  10. Just loaded fine this morning. But it’s on a card that has never billpaid nor transferred to another serve. I’m guessing that when billpaying/withdrawing amounts > usage amounts, that’s what triggered the shutdowns. I’ll keep loading while I can afford to and then in a month just cash out in one big chunk. At least I might be able to make a little $ with it one final time.

    • Thanks for the datapoint.

      I also have one such card, so I am going to try and do a BB load at WM in the next few days, and see how that goes.

      I’ve “closed’ my other BB’s, and will try to re-apply and see what happens.

  11. I got email from serve couple days ago too. I even don’t want to do manufacturing spending , I ‘d like add money on so I can use for pay my property tax , Sad!

  12. Has anyone had any luck reapplying for an AmEx prepaid, post Serve/BB shutdown? I’ve tried for a Target RC but was not approved ie. “Sorry – Cannot open account at this time”… or similar

    • You CANNOT apply for another card now, if you have cancelled your BB, with THE SAME SOCIAL SEC. #.

      You will have to use a new/different SSN/Name combo, to get the BB approved by Amex.

      • Thanks for your response, but what is this based on? The previously mentioned “30-day stand-down period”? Or something else?

        Note: I previously converted from RC to BB, within 24 hrs of cancelling the RC account. So what you state is obviously not universal for all AmEx prepaid products.

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