On my mind

Evening posts

This week I’m trying something new.  I usually publish a new post early every morning, but this week I’m trying out evening posts instead.  It seems as if evening posts generate more social network discussions, especially on Twitter.  I plan to continue this experiment through Friday and then I’ll decide whether to go back to morning posts or keep to an evening schedule.  What do you think or prefer?  Comment below or send me a Tweet @FrequentMiler.


In yesterday’s post, “The next mad challenge,” I described a new contest that I’ll be judging in which people will use manufactured spend techniques in hopefully efficient, ethical, and creative ways.  The reaction to the announcement has been interesting.  Many readers are excited.  Many others are enraged.  The latter group believes that this contest will shine a spotlight on techniques that should be kept quiet.  And, they believe that once that happens, the opportunities that currently exist will dry up.  Our intent is not to do that.  We don’t plan to give out instruction manuals.  Think of this more like the show Top Chef.  The competition itself is interesting even when the contestant’s recipes are not given in detail.  As I said in yesterday’s post, I will use my judgment to decide what things to post explicitly, what should be veiled, and what shouldn’t be mentioned at all (see “Blogging the line“).

Questions?  Check out the evolving #milemadness FAQ, here.

Serve vs Bluebird

I’m thinking of switching from Bluebird to Serve.  American Express is currently running two nice promotions for Serve cardholders: 1) Sign up for direct deposit and make two deposits of $250 or more and get a $50 credit; and 2) Send your federal tax refund to your Serve account and get a $20 credit.


By itself, $70 of free money is appealing, but maybe not enough to make me want to switch from Bluebird.  However, these are just two examples of many other ways in which Serve seems to edge out Bluebird these days.  For example, Serve cards are eligible for Amex Sync promotions, but Bluebird cards are not.  And, Serve can be reloaded at CVS and 7-11, but Bluebird cannot.  Serve doesn’t offer paper checks that you can write yourself, but otherwise has almost identical features and limits as Bluebird.  Serve does charge a $1 fee on any month in which you didn’t load at least $500 to the account, but that is unlikely to be a problem for me.

Unfortunately, each person is only allowed to have one: either Bluebird or Serve.  Has anyone tried converting to Serve?  What was the process like?

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. Pretty easy switch. You cancel your BB, wait 10 days to call Serve (technically it should be 30 days, but I call in 10 days and have the Serve account set up). Serve is defintely better for me as it allows 1K additional CC and DC load online. CC free loads at CVS so no VRs are needed.

  2. Looks like Serve has the edge now. Does the DD bonus require a monthly setup from an employer, or would a few manual DD do the trick?

    Also, I don’t understand the appeal of BB checks. If you load a BB via a credit card (either directly or indirectly), you get you points then. You can liquidate the new BB funds either by paying the credit card off, withdraw, or checks. If you liquidate via check, you still have the CC to pay off. It is SO much easier to liquidate via BP. The checks are a PIA compared to BP. Okay, enough of my rant. . .

      • BB checks have come in handy for paying contractors and people that don’t have paypal or AP…it is old school, but they can deal with checks, and I still earn points for my payments to them.

        • Points are only earned once: at the point of sale. Points are not earned for liquidating BB. If you used BB to billpay your credit card and paid your contractor with a regular bank check – you would end up with the same amount of points.

  3. The day after in got rid of my BB I applied for serve online (the app didn’t work for me) with a temp card I picked up at CVS fee free. I got an error message every time in logged in, I called CS 10 minutes later I was good to go.
    The call was surreal, cs transfered me to the right department, that csr then called me back (I think to confirm my phone # ) and that was it.

  4. I switched because there are no walmarts near me and the 1k (via cc online) guaranteed load is worth more to me than the 2 or 3 times i wad able to load GCs @ walmart

  5. I hated Serve and they closed down my wife’s account for trying to load a GC with a different last name (i.e. her husband)…….that kind of petty bullshit makes me NEVER want to do business with Serve………We now have 2 Bluebirds in the family local drug stores with an ample supply of VR and a process I find relatively painless……..I’m a Bluebird disciple until someone shoots the goose………

  6. I personally prefer waking up to an exciting FM post. Now my mornings seem out of sync. As for Bluebird and Serve, I think we will see a merger this year, probably Bluebird buying out Serve, but who knows.

    • They’re both Amex and both on the same technical platform. Amex has recently stepped up the advertising for Serve, so if they were to dump either, I think it would be Bluebird. That said, I don’t expect them to dump Bluebird either. Not unless Walmart gives up on the product.

  7. Regarding the posts on the evening, I think it is a bad idea. AFAIK, most milers take a glance of many blogs in the morning and then proceed with our work. In the evening we are busy with other stuffs or with MS.

    Regarding serve or BB, I have one of each in my house and it sounds good to me. The $50 promo credit is going on for long time, so nothing new about that!

  8. I might be oblivious to things, but this is the first time I heard of Serve. Sounds like a good deal being able to just load cash from a CC! I’m assuming it has similar limits of $1k/day and $5k/month?

  9. I usually use credit cards to load BB (via VR), and then directly pay off my credit cards. It is impossible for AMEX to detect my funding source as I purchase VRs at CVS, who is not part of AMEX.

    If my switched to Serve, reloaded Serve with credit card directly at CVS, and then pay off my credit cards, is it easier for AMEX to find out that I was simply Manufacturing Spending? I think that was my only concern.

  10. Yeah, I prefer the morning posts too. FOr us on the west coast, they’re more like a night time post since if I get back from work late or cant sleep, they come up around 3 am/6am est? maybe have the posts published at 10 EST or even 1 ES. I think lucky posted his stats and said he gets the most blog views at that time.

  11. Also, as for serve, you can switch the next day if you buy the temp pack and try to activate it, don’t have to wait ten days. this has been confirmed a few times on flyertalk. I’m gonna convert mine next month after getting the 5k load.

  12. Could you switch back and forth each month and then get double the amount each month? Probably wouldn’t last long if you could.

  13. Morning posts! This is the first blog I click on each day. We’re creatures of habit. I had a Serve, then changed to Bluebird, though I may switch back. Free money is hard to pass up.

  14. My plan: switch to serve after i load 5k on bb next month . This will be done by mar 5th. At that point do i open serve account online or from the temp card? I understand that i will have to call in, but can someone clarify if i do this online only or with temp card purchased from cvs? Once i get the serve account next month will serve know that i already loaded 5k on bluebird earlier in the month? So there is a 7k monthly load limit? 5k in store. 1k credit online and 1k debit online?

  15. Can someone confirm the following:
    1) GC is reloadable on the Serve (visa, mastercard, etc)
    2) Debit card reload is 1k/day 5k/month (in the store)


    • 1) Only if CVS cashier allows those forms of payment
      2) Swipe reload is limited by Amex to $1K per day. CVS may further limit you per transaction (my local stores limit me to $500 per transaction). Yes, $5K per month limit same as with Vanilla Reloads (and part of the same limit). For example, you could use $3K of Vanilla Reloads and $2K of in-store reloads to max out your $5K monthly limit

    • My local CVS stores limit you to $500 per transaction. It is completely up to the cashier whether they will allow you to load multiple times and with multiple cards. Just note that you’ll have to pay for each transaction before you can move on to the next one.

  16. I had same experience as @Just Saying where they “permanently suspended” SOs account because she inadvertently signed up with a CC that I was primary card holder (she used an AU card). Jerkoff smartass supervisor said it was against T&Cs (although could not point to any such clause). And to be total pricks, refused to close the account (never got to even use it) and that means cannot get BB either.

    I am not switching from BB as check writing ability came in handy when paying large tax payment.

    Question: Does CVS ask for ID when loading $1K? I was thinking of getting parents Serve card and loading, but of course wouldn’t work if they check ID…

  17. Morning posts, please! First thing I do at work every morning is check this blog.

    I cancelled my BB on Tuesday last week. Applied for Serve a few hrs later. Got “under review” message and had to call in, but got it approved right away. Waiting for it to come in the mail so I can see how the CVS thing works. Walmart was a far drive so that was my motivation for switching.

  18. Another for morning posts.

    As for Serve v. BB, Serve is a no brainer:
    1)No fee loads at CVS using CC or GC (including pinless AMEX)
    2)No worrying about finding difficult-to-find VRs
    3)Online loading

    I switched last month. After zeroing out my BB, I called and cancelled BB. The next day, I opened a Serve account online, and received my permanent card a few days later.

  19. I also prefer morning posts.

    Regarding Serve and the DD $50 bonus, someone asked if this has to be true employer DD payments or if it can be DD from other sources (ex. PP), but there was no answer.

    Also, I recently purchased a Serve card from CVS for free for my wife and we recently got the permanent card. There are no funds in the card at the moment. Does the $50 DD credit only apply to new applications or should she be able to get the credit as well?

  20. OK, OK, I’ll go back to morning posts! (starting next week). Thanks for all of the input!
    Unlike BB, Serve allows $1K of online credit card loads per month. Does anyone know if that $1K limit is in addition to $1K of online debit loads or if you have a $1K limit across both types?

  21. I guess I have overlooked serve for some strange reason…You can just walk up to CVS counter and say, I’d like to load $1000 on hand them a card? I guess if VRs around, BB is better because you can knock out 5k in 1 day and with serve it would have to be multiple trips. Is that correct?

  22. And the bill pay function is the same?? Sorry for so many questions..I just don’t understand why I have been going nuts trying to find VRs when this option was available???

  23. The trade off is “free” loads vs having to absorb cost/time to make 5 visits vs convenience of 1 trip to buy $5K VRs but at cost of $7.90 x 5. So is it worth your time to make 4 additional trips to save $40?

    I visit often enough that Serve might make sense. It also has the advantage of not having to float the cost of VRs that sit on my desk for a week or more (although I’m almost always using free float courtesy of the CC companies).

    But anytime we see “free”, it doesn’t last long. Can see Serve put a load fee sooner than later.

    • You said nearly the same thing as myself at the same time, except I think it’s not 4 more trips but 9, b/c the CC load limit is $500, not $1000. I don’t know why you say it’s “free,” in quotes. Isn’t it actually free?

      For me, it would probably not be “so many more” trips because I’m too embarrassed to purchase $5000 in one day.

      My concern is that on Serve, it would be easier for Amex to see what I’m doing. With BB, there’s at least a middle step where I’m going through VRs.

      • Never mind the first part of my response… I see it’s meant to be two separate $500 transactions, so both could be the same day. But the rest of what I said stands.

  24. So, if I’m understanding this correctly, it sounds like if you are willing to go to CVS (or 7-11) ten times a month to load $500 each time with a CC for free, Serve will save you $80 over loading BB with $5000 worth of VRs. That’s an interesting trade-off.

  25. I see a lot of blog posts from when Serve was first introduced. Given that Serve had changed dramatically from when it first came out, I can’t find a clear comparison anywhere of Serve vs BB. Do you know of any good current blog posts for this? If not, perhaps that would be a good one to post?

  26. The online debit and credit monthly load limits are separate from each other (and separate from the “cash” monthly limit – CVS/7-11 and VR). So the total monthly limit from these sources is $7k.

  27. I like the evening posts because I don’t always remember to check/read my email in the morning when I get your updates. I could be on a packed bus/subway/standing room only and I’ll forget to read your post by the time I get to work. Or if I do read it, I’ll most likely just skim and try to remember to bookmark it to read later. I think the switch up may be good. Perhaps a morning and evening post. I know I have more time when I get home from work so I can actually sit down and read everything instead of sneaking it in on my way to work or at lunch.

  28. You should consider that asking your current (morning) audience if they want a change won’t necessarily give you a broad view.

    For example, at an afternoon PTO meeting at my daughter’s school, as part of an effort to widen attendance parents were asked, Would a morning meeting work better for you? I pointed out that asking the people that were THERE didn’t make much sense – of course the afternoon worked for them, they were there! The people we wanted to ask were the people that WEREN’T there.

    If you’re looking to broaden readership and interest beyond your current pool, asking current readers (who read in the morning) if they want to change things up is mostly going to give you a narrow and typical response: I read things in the morning and I don’t want to change it. To get a broader response, you need to reach out to the greater community, beyond your current pool of readers.

    Personally, I don’t care one way or the other.

    • That’s all true, but my goal wasn’t really to broaden my audience but to see if evening posts generated more social media conversations (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). It doesn’t seem to have had that effect.

  29. Anyone confirm that the $200/day (max $1k) posts as a purchase or cash advance? I assume the cashier swipes to Serve at CVS post as a sales transaction, correc? Thanks in advance.t

  30. Wait — is the swipe at CVS/7-11 only debit, or can you swipe credit cards directly to load? If the latter, does it code as a drug store purchase to the credit card?

    And, if I’m reading correctly, serve has the advantage that it’s $6k or $7k per month, yes?

      • I was thinking CVS would verify the name on the Serve card, missed your earlier comment, I would like to hear some NYC experiences. It is hard to even find places on than that post office that will take a debit card for a money order. Might as well test it myself for one of the cards I manage, can always cancel and go back to BB if I no-go.

  31. So does this mean your serve account has an account number and routing number like a regular bank account or would you bill pay in a different way? I’m trying to figure out how I might pay rent with it.

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