REDbird Postmortem – Ideas & Strategies Going Forward
Update: I have now seen a memo that was distributed to Target stores explaining their new “cash only” policy for REDcard, Amex for Target & other prepaid cards. REDbird is 100% dead for debit/gift card loads. I hope the information below helps some of you find your next step.
So the news doesn’t look good for REDbird. I shared my thoughts this morning on why I think it is essentially dead, but that doesn’t really help you much. As I mentioned in this morning’s post I thought I would put together a list of resources and ideas for those who have never lived in an MS world sans REDbird.
Before I begin, a few things. I am not trying to say REDbird is or isn’t dead and I highly recommend reading other people’s data points and making your own decision on what you think is going on. My opinion is that it would be prudent to wait a bit more time before making any sudden changes. With that said, I feel this post will be helpful to many of you. Even if REDbird somehow lives, diversifying your strategy may not be a bad long term move.
Now let’s look at some things I know many of you are wondering about.
Liquidating Gift Cards
Some of you no doubt have gift cards that you now need to get rid of. Fortunately I maintain a permanent resource on this website discussing how to liquidate Visa & Mastercard gift cards. Among the ideas I discuss are:
- Merchant gift cards
- Bill Pay Services
- Money Orders
- Emergency methods with a ~3% fee
There are even more ideas than that, so I recommend giving it a read. Hopefully you will quickly see that there are other options beyond Target for liquidating gift cards. My only advice would be to stay within your comfort zone and don’t go too big too quickly. When dealing with large amounts of money, it is often possible to make a huge mistake.
Also, I need to add I am not advocating any method discussed here or on that page. I am simply presenting available options and letting you do more research to determine what works for you.
Switch to Serve/Bluebird
I suspect many of you will want to switch from REDbird to one of the other American Express prepaid products. (Assuming they continue to work.) Thankfully the process of switching is fairly painless. You simply need to close your current account and then apply for a new one. Just make sure you empty out the account balance and verify all payments have been cleared before closing. You might also want to download any statements if that is important to you.
To close your REDbird, login to your account and go to your “Profile”. Once on that page scroll down and look for the “Close Account” button. Click it, follow the prompts and your accounts is closed.
Here are a few tips to make this go smoother:
- You don’t need to wait to open your new account. Once your REDbird is closed, you should be able to open a Serve or Bluebird right away.
- In the past using the same email has been problematic, however Frequent Miler has recently reported that using the same email is actually the preferred method. Update: I can confirm that using the same email works perfectly fine now!
- Some people have issues opening a new account, because their old one isn’t closed out completely for some reason. If that happens simply give Amex a call. They will be able to fix the error.
Now that I have given you the basics, I highly recommend reading the following resources on Frequent Miler which go further in depth on the subject.
Bluebird or Serve – Which One?
Now that you know how to close REDbird, you must make a decision about whether you want to switch to Bluebird or Serve. Thankfully this is an easy question to answer. Unless you physically need to write checks, Bluebird is inferior to the good versions of Serve in just about every way.
Serve allows online credit card loads from Amex cards and also gives you the ability to load at Family Dollar in addition to Walmart. Unfortunately Amex just launched a bunch of different versions of Serve, some of which stink.
Which Version of Serve?
If you have decided that Serve is the right choice, then you must decide which version of the product to open. Unfortunately all versions of Serve are not created equal and there are a couple of bad (in my opinion) flavors out there. Thankfully I created an entire resource on Frequent Miler comparing and contrasting each version. Luckily there is a clear winner.
In my opinion the best version of Serve is the One VIP Serve. It has a waivable monthly fee and free loads at both Walmart and Family Dollar. In other words, it has pretty much all of the features of the old Serve card without any of the fees, etc. that the other new versions carry.
Walmart 101 – Prepare for Fun!
So you never had to subject yourself to Walmart? Well get ready for the beautiful hues of red to be replaced by a dark, sort of sad blue. Ok, I will admit I am a little burned out on Walmart after having done this for several years, however it is a necessary evil for me and one I hope sticks around. The good news about Walmart is that you have more options for loading Bluebird/Serve than you did for loading REDbird at Target. Let’s take a look.
Like at Target, you can go to any Walmart cashier and ask them to load your card if they are willing. Unfortunately in some areas management has restricted loads to the customer service desk or MoneyCenter, however every register has the ability. Hopefully you can find a friendly cashier who knows how to do it.
MoneyCenter or Customer Service
You can also load your card at the MoneyCenter or Customer Service desk. I often find the employees in these areas are rushed and try harder to shut you down, especially if you are using a gift card. With that said, if you can find a friendly cashier, then you will be golden. Most likely you will get to know the MoneyCenter staff pretty well.
The Kiosk (KATE or MoneyCenter Express)
The final option for loading is perhaps the most unique and what I think sets Walmart apart. In most stores Walmart has a kiosk known as the MoneyCenter Express. This kiosk which has been nicknamed KATE by the MS community, allows for something beautiful. Yes, you guessed it, the absence of human interaction.
KATE can be really buggy and is often broken, however some stores have more reliable versions than others. Unfortunately this machine is being replaced by a dumb ATM in many areas of the country, so it remains to be seen how much longer this method will last.
If you are interested in how KATE works or the process of loading, see: How to load Bluebird/Serve at the Walmart MoneyCenter Express kiosk.
Did you know there is another product that can be loaded for free at Walmart? It is called GoBank and people don’t talk about it too much because they shut down a lot of MSers a couple of years ago. Recently they have revamped their product and put limits in place for loads. They also instituted an $8.95 monthly fee, however that is waived with a $500 or more direct deposit monthly.
I am not advocating that people get GoBank, but merely want to point it out as an option for anyone who will be spending time in Walmart anyway. If you do get this card, then take it slow, because like I said they are shutdown happy. You can purchase a starter kit at Walmart or sign-up online.
Walmart Loading Tips & Best Practices
I have been loading Bluebird/Serve at Walmart for several years. During that time I have found that cashiers often make up rules and each store has its own policies. Walmart is cracking down on gift cards in some stores, so be prepared for the occasional rejection. In other words, it isn’t going to be all smooth sailing.
There are also occasional glitches where certain cards won’t work temporarily. If this happens don’t freak out right away. Just simply try a different store or the same store later. Also, Vanilla Visas don’t work at Walmart for loads of $50 or more. If those were your main go-to, I might suggest purchasing cards issued by Metabank or U.S. Bank since they work much better.
For more information on which cards work at Walmart, Family Dollar and elsewhere, see: Beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards on Frequent Miler.
So I think I have presented enough information that you can find a way forward if REDbird is indeed shutdown. Now let’s take a look at a quick recap:
Is REDbird shutdown?
- We don’t know. I recommend waiting to see, but it doesn’t hurt to find out your options.
- If you are stuck with a lot of gift cards, then there are plenty of ways to liquidate.
Switching to another Amex product
- For most Serve will be the best and among the Serve versions the One VIP seems to have the best overall features. Switching is fairly easy.
The Walmart Reality
Walmart has its drawbacks, but you also have the possibility of loading at the kiosk which is an added benefit.
Most of the resources I have linked to have either been written or in some way updated by me either on Miles to Memories or Frequent Miler. I am here to answer any questions, however I request that you ask them in the comment section instead of emailing me. That way others can help provide answers and people who may be wondering the same thing can get the knowledge they seek as well.
If REDbird is indeed dead then it is a sad day, however the sky isn’t falling. You might have to work a little harder, but this stuff generally pays off in the form of amazing travel adventures. For that reason alone I think it all is worth it in the end.