Why I Believe My 2+ Year Old Bluebird Survived Last Week’s Shutdowns: It Isn’t What You Think!

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bluebird shutdown savings catcher

Bluebird Lives

Since American Express dropped the ax on many Bluebird/Serve cardholders (including myself) last week, the big question everyone has been asking is, why? What triggered some accounts to get shutdown and why were others spared? In my family, only my card was shutdown. It was a beautiful SoftServe from another era with grandfathered in Visa/MC credit card loads. May she rest in peace.

The two other main cards I manage were both spared. One was a One VIP Serve card that was opened back in November. This card had never done online loads or transfer to a bank account. It had only been used to pay bills. I believe many of those things are factors in why that card survived. I actually think the age of the card is especially important.

Tracking Data Points

Currently there is a Google Spreadsheet with about 200 data points from people who were shutdown. (HT: Danny the Deal Guru) In that spreadsheet people can share the age of their accounts and how they used it. Based on the data, it does seem that newer accounts were much more likely to survive. The majority of accounts older than 3 months were shut down.

My Bluebird Is Alive

There is a Bluebird card in my household that is over two years old and has been used fairly heavily during that time. It has probably been maxed out with loads 90% of the time since the card was new. No checks were ever written, but bill pays have been common. In other words, I couldn’t figure out why it was spared. It fits the patterns for the shutdowns, except for one thing.

Savings Catcher

bluebird shutdown savings catcher

Over a year ago Walmart ran a promotion with their Savings Catcher price matching program offering double the difference back when the savings were loaded to Bluebird. I covered the deal and Savings Catcher extensively at the time and used it on occasion when I would pick up a few items as part of my frequent trips to the Big Box Retailer.

In fact, I still use Savings Catcher to this day for my very infrequent grocery purchases at Walmart. After making a purchase I scan the receipt into the Savings Catcher app and they do the rest. It doesn’t take long and ensures I get the best or close to the best price on the items I am purchasing. Whenever the Savings Catcher balance is a few dollars, I then use the Bluebird card at Walmart to make small purchases.

My Theory

I am theorizing that the use of Savings Catcher saved this Bluebird card. First, by actually using the program and having funds loaded to Bluebird, I am using the card as intended. This is good. Second, by redeeming the money and swiping the card at Walmart, I am doing what the card was meant for. This pattern of activity certainly could have helped the card survive.

Am I suggesting that using Savings Catcher will save your Bluebird? Absolutely not, but it couldn’t hurt. If you shop at Walmart anyway, then you should be using Savings Catcher. Once the app is installed and loaded, it takes less than 30 seconds to scan the receipt. I do it as I leave the checker and have it done by the time I am at the door. Here is my full review about how to use it.

Conclusion

While everyone has theories about what caused the shutdowns, there is no doubt in my mind that people with active cards should use them regularly as intended. In my case, I will lay low with my open cards when it comes to loading, but I’ll continue to use them for Amex Offers and use the Bluebird for Savings Catcher. This is how the cards are supposed to be used and perhaps it will save them from the chopping block.

What are your thoughts? What do you think about the data in the spreadsheet linked to above? Let me know in the comments!


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33 COMMENTS

  1. Meh.

    I had a $15k tax refund deposited directly into serve last year and was still shut down.

    And I got an email yesterday asking if i wanted to do it again …?

      • What’s even more inane is that today I received an e-mail telling me that my Amex Prepaid card for Target is being discontinued…. but they invited me to sign up for a… you guessed it – a Serve card. To add insult to injury, they even added a $25 credit on $25 spend to the offer.

        So does that mean I’m not banned from AmEx prepaid products?

    • I had similar activity. Used once or twice at Walmart with Savings Catcher and loaded maybe $3,000-$5,000 in 6 months. Shut down.

    • Me too – use Savings Catcher frequently and load to Bluebird. The WM ‘bucks’ can only be used for WM purchases and so my BB was used for WM purchases when there were WM ‘bucks’ available. First got the card during last year’s Sav.C. promotion… used for g.c. loads every once in awhile… no online loads, no transfers to banks… only used B.P. to drain. Still shut down. 🙁

  2. Interesting.
    If I’m gonna take the time to buy VGC’s, visit another gross, out-of-the-way crowded Wally World, it will be solely to load and unload BB/Serve as fast as possible. Yes, I’m being a snob. Sorry.
    Seems that luck might be best reason that your card was spared.
    I’m envious, but will try to get another BB/Serve with a new email.
    If they track by social, I’m screwed.

    • They do track by social. I agree and am not a fan of Walmart. The only time I ever buy something there is when I have to go for loads. If I need a few items and am already there I will purchase them, but if not I stay away.

  3. I also used the savings catcher feature on Bluebird and was shut down. I have not closed the account yes as I still have some money on there (in savings catcher).I will buy something to see if it works and not shut it down if I can still use for savings catcher.

  4. Yeah well for me it was the opposite. Heavy use SoftServe survived and newish One VIP only used for online loading bit it.

  5. I used Savings Catcher as well, transferring to BB instead of eGC. I actually bought things at WM, and wrote checks to pay babysitter, preschool, etc. Didn’t matter, still shutdown.

    Did you load something on that BB yesterday? Some people just didn’t get the email, and assume it’s alive, until they attempt to add funds and get denied.

  6. I applied for my Serve One VIP in late October and I received it in early November. From November to January 2, 2016, I loaded $9700 into the account. It’s a relatively new account, and I occasionally used it to make snack purchases at work ($3, $4.50, $5, $6.50 amounts) once in a while (one to two times per week). I think my account was shutdown because I would withdraw the remaining large amounts at the end of the amount in one transaction into my bank. I never did this with Redbird, but did it with the One VIP since I opened 3 cards in October that had balances that needed to be paid in December and January. I don’t usually open 3 cards at a time, and I deviated from my usual pattern.

  7. I had one survive and one that didn’t. Both were used in a similar manner (load at store, pay mortgage). The shutdown one had recently been linked to Fidelity Amex (so that could be it). But my guess is that they didn’t want to shut-down all of the accounts at once for several reasons, 1) to reduce impact to customer service, 2) to see what impact is before doing more, e.g. how many false positives have to be dealt with, what the web response is, is there negative press, etc. Once they know how this first wave goes, I believe they will shutdown more accounts… UNLESS, the the feed-back loop from the first wave indicates that it is too painful, e.g. too much negative press, too many false positives, etc.

  8. Based on what I have read so far, it could be that the shutdowns were based on AMEX looking at the account activity within defined period of time. In other words, they decided to look into each account’s activity between a certain time in the past and not aggregate activity over the lifetime of the account being open. I have a BB and another one under the wife’s name and they both survived. Both were heavily used to load to the MAX each time I went to WM. I would show up at 11:00pm and load $2500 onto each and then wait till midnight and do another $2500 to hit the limit for the month on a friday. I also used savings catcher and used the checks to pay my kids daycare and the rest was a check to myself. I stopped doing this once I found it easier to just do GC arbitrage around mid last year. So perhaps they looked at activity late last year to see if certain kinds of activity were going on.

  9. my account was just 1 month old which was converted from redbird . redbird itself was just 15 days old( debit load was stopped 15 days after i bought the card from noonradar).

    So i loaded just 8000 $ (5000 in serve and 3000 in redbird ) still got the shut down email.

  10. I used SavingsCatcher all the time on my BlueBird (early on, during the double benefit, and recently) and was still shut down. I also generally kept a hefty balance in my account and used it mostly for billpay (NEVER for credit cards, only for normal expenses such as mortgage, electric bill, tuition, etc), for purchases every now and then, for amex offers sometimes, and very rarely to withdraw cash (maybe only once or twice a year), and also very rarely transferred funds to my bank account (also once or twice a year max). And it was shutdown. Seems to me that the only common issue with those that were shutdown is the use of debit gift cards to load the account (and not all accounts that did this were shutdown, seems somewhat random).

  11. Hey shawn i had very similar usage to you on loads and savings catcher – I was shutdown. Have my wife’s on order and plan to try 10 days straight of loads come the end of jan/early feb. need it for my 6/6 app binge that i am now receiving the cards on.

  12. Well, I was able to load a few bucks in CASH onto my surviving BB today.

    Now will try with a VGC tomorrow, as I have seen data points that people are unable to load VGC’s onto their surviving BB’s.

    IF I can load VGC’s, its going to be interesting to see how fast they shut that one down (if they do).

    Anyone with a surviving BB able to load VGC’s at WM, since the shutdown?????

  13. Called serve Customer service. soon as I mentioned I received an email about not being able to load funds the CS rep stated “Oh uou got a notification? Don’t worry a lot of customers received that, it’s concerning fraud.” I asked if the adding funds feature would be reactivated and she stated it would after everything gets cleared up.

  14. In my case, was not shut down but since end of October had only loaded via online debit and once ($100 vgc) in store. Did use it for a bunch of Amex offers. So perhaps speaks to the theory that only data from a limited time period was used? Previously loaded max or close, unloaded primarily via bill pay.

  15. Data point…

    I had one BB “survive”, which was “virgin” BB (no MS ever on it, only small/load spend, since it was my “spare”).

    Tested it earlier this week, and was able to load cash. So confirmed it was “alive”.

    Went back to WM this morning, and did a small ($20) debit load from a VGC. It went thru fine….

    The WM cashier did ask what I was using, and I said “debit”, and she was fine with that. So it looks like they have been trained/warned about VGC’s.

    Its NOT just at the Amex end. Its something that WM has brought to its employees attention to look out for/mention (I think).

  16. My brain seems hardwired not to use debit cards but the best card for the situation and its never been bb. My card’s alive but it’s just a matter of time, unless I learn to give a little…I don’t know why it’s so hard for me to do.

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