The best card for reloading REDbird

Note: American Express is a Frequent Miler advertiser. Please see our Advertiser Disclosure.

Note: As of October 13, 2015, the Target REDcard (REDbird) can only be loaded with cash in-store at Target. Gift cards and/or debit cards no longer work to load REDcard. For more info, see: Here is the REDbird memo, “Cash is the only tender guests can use”

As of May 6, 2015, Target no longer accepts credit cards for in-store REDbird reloads. For more information, please see “REDbird Post Memo Answers“, and “REDbird grounded. Now what?

Ever since REDbird appeared and proved to be better than expected, I’ve been asked the same question many times: What is the best credit card to use to load REDbird?  Here’s the answer…

REDbird_card_image

Candidates

Many cards are good choices for REDbird.  Let’s look at some of the best options:

BankAmericard Travel Rewards

Under the right circumstances, this card earns up to 2.625% on all purchases when points are redeemed for travel.  Please find details here.

Amex Delta Reserve

Best for those seeking Delta elite status: Spend $30,000 in a calendar year and get 15,000 bonus miles and 15,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs).  Spend $60,000 in a calendar year and get another 15,000 bonus miles and MQMs.

Amex Starwood Preferred Guest

Earn SPG Gold status with $30K annual spend.  Points can be transferred to airline miles at a rate of 1 to 1.25 when transferred 20,000 points at a time.

Amex Hilton Honors Surpass

Earn Diamond status with $40K annual spend.

BarclayCard Arrival Plus

Earn 2 points per dollar for all spend.  Points are worth 1.1 cents each thanks to the card’s 10% rebate on travel rewards.  Total earnings: 2.2% towards travel rewards.

BarclayCard AAdvantage Aviator Silver Card

This will be an upgrade option offered to US Airways cardholders once US Airways and American Airlines loyalty programs merge.  Earn 5,000 EQMs (elite qualifying miles) with $20,000 spend and another 5,000 EQMs with $40,000 spend.

Chase Ink

Chase Ink cards offer 5 points per dollar at office supply stores. On occasions where office supply stores offer discounts or rebates on bank gift cards (Visa, MasterCard, or Amex), it’s possible to essentially buy money at a discount and then liquidate through REDbird.  Without those discounts or rebates, though, the best you can usually do is buy $200 gift cards with $6.95 fees.  5X earnings is more than enough to compensate for that 3.5% fee, but it might not be worth the trouble of unloading through REDbird $200 at a time.

Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards card

Southwest points are worth around 1.6 cents each when used for Wanna Getaway fares.  Even better, points earned from credit card spend count towards the Southwest Companion Pass (which requires 110,000 points earned in a calendar year).  Normally I wouldn’t recommend this card for loading REDbird since you’ll only earn 1 point per dollar; but if you need to earn extra points towards the Companion Pass it can be well worth it.

Chase British Airways Visa Signature card

This card offers a healthy 1.25 points per dollar for all spend.  Plus, when you spend $30,000 in one year you’ll earn a “Travel Together” ticket that can be used to book two award flights for the price of one.  The companion must pay taxes and fees though.  Note that this works only on British Airways own flights and that British Airways charges exorbitant fuel surcharges, so this Travel Together ticket is only a good deal under very specific circumstances.

Chase United MileagePlus Explorer

Spend $25,000 on this card and you’ll earn a 10,000 miles bonus plus you’ll earn a PQD waiver. This means that you can earn United elite status (up to Premier Platinum) through flying without also having to meet United’s spend requirements.

Chase United MileagePlus Club Card

This card earns 1.5 miles per dollar for all spend.  Plus, if you spend $25,000 on this card within a year, you’ll earn a PQD waiver so that you can earn United elite status (up to Premier Platinum) through flying without also having to meet United’s spend requirements.

Chase Ritz-Carlton Rewards

This card offers a 10% annual points premium, so it earns 1.1 points per dollar.  Spend $75,000 in a year and you’ll earn Platinum status with Marriott / Ritz which can also be used to get United Silver status thanks to the United / Marriott partnership.

Chase Fairmont Visa Signature

Earn a free night every year with $12K spend.

Chase Hyatt Visa Signature

Best for those seeking Hyatt Diamond status: Receive 2 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $20,000 in each calendar year.  Receive an additional 3 stay credits and 5 night credits toward Diamond status upon spending $40,000 in each calendar year.

Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite

Earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles with $40,000 spend.

Citi Forward

Earn 5X at bookstores. If you can find a bookstore that sells Visa, MasterCard, or Amex gift cards at a reasonable rate then those can be used to reload REDbird.  Unfortunately this card is no longer available to new applicants.

Citi Hilton Honors Reserve

Earn a free weekend night with $10K spend. Earn Diamond status with $40K spend.

Diners Club Card Elite

The Diners Club card offers 3 points per dollars at grocery stores and it so happens that many Target stores are coded as grocery stores.  So, this card offers a means to earn 3 points per dollar fee-free when reloading REDbird.  Points earned with this card are transferable to many airline partners.  On the other hand…  Diners Club has frozen many people’s accounts and is no longer accepting new applications.

EBates Cash Back Visa

This card earns 3% cash back for all purchases made through the EBates portal.  The trick then is to go through the portal to buy American Express gift cards.  You’ll earn 1% cash back from the portal and 3% cash back from the credit card for a total of 4% cash back!  Use the Amex gift cards, then, to reload REDbird.  See also: How to earn 4% cash back on all spend.

US Bank Club Carlson Premier (or Business)

Earn 5X for all spend (10X at Club Carlson properties).  For those who stay often at Club Carlson properties, 5X for reloading REDbird can be a great deal.  Unfortunately, US Bank can be very difficult with respect to reloading REDbird.  See also: Club Carlson rocks our world… Again.

US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa or Amex

Earn 2 points per dollar for gas, grocery, or airline purchases – whichever you spend most on each month.  If used to reload REDbird at a Target that is coded as a grocery store, this is a great way to earn 2 points per dollar.  Plus, points can be worth up to 2 cents each towards airfare (see “Maximizing value from the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Card”).  Unfortunately, US Bank can be very difficult with respect to reloading REDbird.

Wells Fargo Visa Signature Card

Earn 5 points per dollar for the first 6 months of card membership at gas, grocery and drug stores.  The trick, then, is to buy $500 Visa, MasterCard, or Amex gift cards at drug stores or grocery stores and then use those gift cards to reload REDbird. Since many Target stores are coded as grocery stores, you should earn 5X reloading REDbird at those stores. Points are worth at least 1.5 cents each towards airfare.

And the winner is…

The best card to use to reload REDbird is any card for which you are working on meeting the minimum spend requirements in order to get a big signup bonus.

What if you’re not working on meeting minimum spend requirements?  Then it depends on your goals:

For airline elite status…

Delta flyers should consider the Delta Reserve card (or the similar Delta Platinum card).  American Airlines flyers should consider the BarclayCard AAdvantage Aviator Silver Card and/or the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite card.  United flyers should consider one of the Chase United cobranded cards or the Ritz Carlton card (since $75K spend results in Marriott Platinum status which then conveys United Silver status).

For hotel stays…

The Club Carlson card offers tremendous value for those who stay often at Club Carlson hotels.  For luxury stays consider the Chase Fairmont card or the Citi Hilton Reserve.  Note though that cash back is often the best approach for saving on hotel stays (i.e. earn cash back and then use that cash to pay for hotel stays).  See “To earn cash back” below.  See also:

For hotel elite status…

Use the Hyatt card to inch closer to Hyatt status. Use the SPG card to get to SPG Gold status (the card also automatically gives you 2 nights and 5 days credit towards status).  For Hilton status go with either the Amex Hilton Surpass or the Citi Hilton Reserve.  For Marriott status go with the Ritz Carlton card.

To save on paid flights…

The Wells Fargo Visa Signature card offers incredible earnings for 6 months.  Or, if you have the Citi Forward card and a local bookstore that sells gift cards you can do almost as well (this is also a fantastic option for earning airline miles).  Next best is probably the US Bank FlexPerks cards if you don’t mind dealing with their overzealous fraud prevention department.

To earn airline miles for award flights…

If you can get (or already have) the Diners Club card and don’t mind the risk of having your account frozen, it offers excellent value at 3 points per dollar earnings.  If the Diners Club card isn’t an option, you may do well to simply earn 4% or better cash back and then use that cash to buy miles when they are on sale for 2 cents or less each (that way you average 2X miles or better). Next best is to pick a card that averages 1.5 miles per dollar: United Club Card, Delta Reserve (when you spend exactly $30K or $60K per year), Amex EveryDay Preferred (when you make 30 or more transactions each billing period); or 1.25 miles per dollar: SPG.  With these cards you can increase overall earnings by going through a cash back portal to buy Amex gift cards and then use those gift cards to reload REDbird.

To earn cash back…

Assuming it works as expected, one of the best options is the eBates / Amex gift card combination which should result in 4% cash back.  Other very good options include cards that offer 5% cash back at grocery or drug stores (not shown above, but found here): use those cards to reload REDbird at a store coded as a grocery store, or buy Visa, MasterCard, or Amex gift cards for 5% back and then use those gift cards to reload REDbird.

Read more about REDbird:



Also:


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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Comments

  1. Just a heads up. Always check your receipt that the amount was added to your Redcard. I have a dispute going on with Citi right now. I loaded my son’s Redcard with my citi and was told it didnt go through. No problem I pulled out another card and loaded with that one instead. Well, the Citi charge did go through but I got $0 put on my Redcard. They are supposedly still working on it after a month. I dont want anyone else to go through this.

    • Beechy…was this on a single swipe of $1k or did you try to do the multiple swipes of $1k + $1k + $500? There is well documented instances that if you go over your dialy/monthly limit or try multiple swipes, in one transactions, then you’re very likely to have problems with money disappearing.

      • Joe, It was for my first swipe of an odd number. Told didnt go through and proceded to use a different card for same dollar amount and 2 other card swipes totallying $2500. They say they are researching it !!!!!!

  2. Arrival+ is my card of choice for this. There are probably cards out there that can give me more value for my spend between transfer partners, upgrades & spend bonuses, but as an IN-frequent miler myself, the flexibility I get when redeeming barclays “miles” for cash back can’t be beat.

  3. Fwiw, I tested my new US Bank Club Carlson card this weekend with $200. No issues… mixed with some other spend. Will ramp up slowly.

  4. Are you concerned at all about triggering a financial review? Is Amex more apt to do that than Chase, etc? Won’t it seem unusual to have $2500 in Target charges every month? Thanks!

    • I’d recommend the Arrival Plus card over the IHG card for that purpose. There’s an easy trick to buy IHG points for .7 cents each (book cash + points award and then cancel it). Since Arrival points are worth 1.1 cents each, you would do better with that card.

  5. I’ve only seen the big spend bonus on the Hyatt card mentioned a few places, and couldn’t find it in the Chase literature. Do you know if there are some versions of the card which do not have it?

  6. Any hints on bookstores that sell visa, mastercard, or Amex gift cards? I still have a Citi Forward card but haven’t been able to find any major bookstores near me that sell them. I’m familiar with the Campus Edition card, but sadly, I don’t live near one of the college bookstores that use to offer them.

  7. Keep in mind there are credit unions that have 2%-3% cashback on groceries. Some are not open to all but others like penfed are and they happen to give 2.55% cashback on groceries.

  8. I went to my nearby target that carries the prepaid redbird and they had issues ringing it up on the register? Apparently they said they are taking down all the prepaids and are supposed to be receiving new ones to replace them in a couple weeks? Not sure if it’s all targets or just this one

    • Have you (or anyone else reading this) ever had a problem doing that? I’m still waiting for a friend to get me a Redcard, but I called Target and they said they don’t let you load with AMEX gift cards…

      On a related note, I just started trying to buy visa gift cards with my AMEX gift card, which from everything I’ve read seems to be the main staple of MSing (I’m just getting into it)…but I can’t find ANYWHERE that takes credit cards for them. Is this a new development as of the last couple of months, and if so why are all the MS sites still talking this method up??

    • I’m using mostly AMEX GCs as well. Nice part (besides the cash back) is what @Kenny says – no fraud alerts. Sometimes cashiers don’t do multiple loads well. With GCs you can do $1K, $1K, $500 and no fraud alert. Can’t do that with a cc!

  9. Or, if your nearby Target is coded as a grocery store, you can use a bonused grocery spend credit card directly. Typically Amex doesn’t code Targets as groceries, but some Targets are coded as groceries by Visa and Mastercard

  10. How does us bank know its a load especially if mix in regular purchase?Also some stores you can’t load Amex gc anyone else have issues?

  11. Thank you for this post, Greg. I have been asking myself this question for two months. I have been splitting my redbird swipes up among cards to avoid fraud alerts and other potential issues like Amex financial reviews. I would ideally like to concentrate my spend on one card however, because it makes it easier to chase a specific goal like status. My questions are: Is it okay to put $5k a month on one card, especially an Amex one, or would I subject myself to a potential review? What about if I buy 5k worth of Amex gift cards per month using the same cc? I know you spoke at FTU about getting Delta status which interests me, but I am just wondering about always using the same card.

    • There are no hard and fast rules about what is safe and what is not. All I can tell you is that over several years I’ve established a pattern with Amex of spending very high amounts each month on each card (much more than $5K typically) and haven’t had a financial review. That being said, if you reported your income as very low when you applied for your card it could look bad if you’re suddenly spending $5K per month. If you’re worried, I’d recommend ramping up to $5K over a period of 3 months or so.

      • Thanks for your response. I reported my income accurately to Amex and make a decent salary, so I should be okay I think. I will ramp up my spending slowly as you suggested. Of note, Amex also just increased my credit limit on one of my cards due to my good history with them.

        • I have never had problems buying AMEX GCs with my AMEX cards. I am working towards a SPG redemption for London later this year so concentrating MS on my Personal and Business SPG Amex cards. Buying GCs is easy and you get cash back. Even if you buy just one a month and do the rest direct it might reduce the questions about $5K/mo at Target.

  12. Any thoughts on Sapphire Preferred? Just wondering if there’s a specific reason it wasn’t mentioned. Thanks for your hard work!

    • The only problem with Sapphire Preferred is that there is no way to earn more than 1 point per dollar. Many other cards offer ways to earn more than that or at least earn big spend bonuses as well.

  13. I’m so sad……my Xxxxx’x has my Target coded as grocery store so I only get 3X per load…….yee ha Bronco Billy…………….

    • Which card are you using which give 3x at grocery stores? My Target is also coded as grocery (with Chase; Amex lists it as “wholesale store”), i’m trying to figure out which is the best for me. I’ve been using Chase United to get the 10k bonus. I have 3 redbird cards that I manage so i’ll be done with this in Feb. Thanks

  14. Does the Redbird have the billpay function where they are able to cut a check to someone? Similar to how serve works for paying rent to a landlord or writing to a friend from your account?

  15. Target’s website states the RedCard can be loaded at any Target, but I’ve had a different experience. Anyone running into this too?

  16. I was just thinking about it. You should mention in your post that Amex Hilton Surpass earns 6 points per dollar at grocery stores. Definitely makes sense if you max out the $10K on the Citi Hilton Reserve.

      • Correct me if I’m wrong, but assuming we’re not buying Amex gc to double dip and it’s not for minimum spend, you’re not going to do better than 2% cb that’s NOT to be used for travel.

        • The Target near me is coded as 5411 MCC (grocery store) using Visa’s lookup page.

          I’ve tried searching for the 3% cb uncapped cc’s for grocery store purchases but can’t find anything. Can you shed some light here? TIA

        • Thanks! I actually live in a county that has two Golden1 branches and is completely free (Solano county in CA). I’ll be looking into this and trying it out with RB.

    • Will you be attempting to use your RB at this Target again? Surrounding Targets? It’s definitely disappointing but you could’ve run into a misinformed person. Obviously this could be new policy, but I need to now find out more before I ditch my Serve card for RB, which I was about to do in a week.

      • I may try another Target in the area. My husband tried 2 different tellers and the service desk. All said that it was a mistake to accept CC in the first place due to CC fraud and such. He did not ask if this was a corporate policy or just that store. We will try another.

        • Thanks for the information. Looking forward to your results in the near future and my fingers are crossed that you ran into an unlucky situation with a store/manager having power issues. Keep us posted please!

        • Our second attempt at a different store worked today! Hopefully, it’s just the one store that stopped accepting CC’s for now but I suspect the rules may start changing.

  17. I just got my RedCard and loving it! I would like to use my Starwood Amex to load it, at least up to the $30k to meet gold spending. Will it raise any flags spending $5k a month at Target, or would it be best to split the $5k amongst multiple cards? Also waiting for my wife’s card to arrive. She is an auth user on my Starwood Amex. Would having her load her RedCard with the auth user Amex be pushing my luck? I don’t want to do something to risk them closing my RedCard account.

    • I can’t say whether it would raise any flags, but I don’t think so — unless you signed up for the card with a relatively low salary in which case it might seem strange to be spending $5K per month. I use auth user cards without problem for this purpose.

      • I have a good salary and have had the card for a long time (with a high credit limit). I thought it may look funny charging thousands of dollars at Target every month. I’d like to use the auth card to put another $5k on my wife’s Redcard, but I’m a little leery of doing that. Maybe just a couple thousand, and the rest on another card would be safer.

        Thanks for all the great info about the Redcard!

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