Real or hoax? Your Target Prepaid REDcard Account has Been Closed

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?

On Flyertalk, RFDMinnesota set off a firestorm today by posting an email purportedly from American Express stating that they were closing RFDMinnesota’s REDcard account for using it in ways not intended (found here).  The email describes as “suspicious activity” the behavior of loading the card in $500 and $1000 increments and then immediately unloading it through withdrawals or bill pay.

I find this surprising for a few reasons:

  1. People have been doing the exact same thing with Bluebird and Serve for a couple of years now yet there have been no reports of shut downs.
  2. Usually when something like this happens, there is an immediate flood of people reporting that the same thing happened to them.  At the time I write this, I haven’t seen evidence of that yet.

I’m posting this information not with the intent of scaring anyone, but rather to try to collect information.  Do you load and then immediately unload your account?  Have you received an email like this one?  I manage four accounts, but all are fine so far.  That said, I always keep an odd balance on each card, and I pay bills in odd increments.

Safe Practices

Regardless of whether or not the email is real, I think it is a good idea to do the following:

  1. Always keep a balance on your REDcard. After all, you never know when you’ll need it to buy stuff at Target (and get 5% off).
  2. Use the card regularly at Target and/or Target.com for regular purchases.
  3. Unload via a combination of bill pay, ATM withdrawals, and withdrawals to your bank account.  Make bill pays in realistic amounts.  How many bills really come to exactly $2,500 for example?
  4. Consider using the card for some regular spend outside of Target as well (I can’t bring myself to do this since it means losing out on credit card rewards from other cards, but its probably a good idea)

There is quite a bit of a debate about whether it helps to load the card in odd amounts too.  For example, some people recommend loading something like $468.03 in one transaction and then $531.97 in another. My guess is that the load amounts don’t matter.  I think they would expect people to load even amounts.  It’s the unloading that is not expected to match exactly the load amounts.

Oh, and here is the image of the shutdown email that was posted on Flyertalk:

REDbird_shutdown_email_from_flyertalk

Read more about REDbird:



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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. I’m leaning towards hoax. How effective of a shutdown notice would it be if they specifically told you what was alarming? Wouldn’t that just make it easier for everyone else to game it? Do they usually give such specific details on why they shut down stuff like this? It just seems like an internet troll having fun and it seems just to geared towards the miles/points community IMO.

    • Thanks Eli. Was the email to you the same? Same reasons? Also, can you tell us a bit about how you were using REDbird? Were you completely draining it after each load? Unloading through bill pay or withdraw to bank? etc?

      • Notice how Eli didn’t say shit to your reply. These “Me too” fucks are in every thread and they never reply once questioned. HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

  2. I got a similar email, but it didn’t say anything about my load amounts.

    WTF?

    I don’t want to wait 2 months for my money

  3. I was really nervous about getting the Redbird card because it seemed to go to be true. I’m chugging along with $500 loads on serve a few times a month–I do withdraw money pretty quickly but always in student loan, gas bill, electric bill, small credit card payment, and ATM withdraw.

    I never use my card except for small business saturday.

  4. Interesting…..One if any of these people have other Amex products as well and if so where they shutdown?

  5. It’s not accurate to imply that AmEx took no action against BB and Serve abuses. There were quite a few account freezes and warnings.

  6. I load 5k per month since day 1. To be honest I’m more worried about my credit card shutting down all my accounts for MS than about RedBird, which won’t be around forever since that’s how it is in this game.
    I legitimately pay bills every month with it, so I don’t really “MS” per se, just earn points for paying those bills. I never drain the account right away, and my wife uses her subaccount at Target quite a bit.
    I rarely take money out via ATM. Mostly bill pay. My account is fine so far.

    • That’s what I’m planning on doing. I plan on loading my RedCard (still waiting for it in the mail) and then paying bills with it, but you’re the first that I’ve heard of someone doing that. I didn’t realize people were simply loading and cashing out. It makes sense that those people’s redcard are getting shut down, but I’m wondering whether merely loading with a credit card and NOT withdrawing money would trigger that Fraud Alert people are getting.

  7. I’ve been loading and unloading fairly aggressively……but it seems a good time to do some shopping at Target………..besides the fact that they are hosting this card seems right I should walk thru the aisles and buy anything that is close to what I get at CVS and others now…………

  8. Why does the copyright section at the bottom of the email read “© 2014 .. ” instead of “© 2015 …” since we are in 2015 already?

    • I saw that too, but if you look at the monthly red card statements in 2015 they come up as 2014 as well. But I am curious as to why there is no Email ID # at the bottom which is standard on all redcard communications.

    • that seems legit even on the regular mail they send when you load or make bill payment…if you go back to your history of target redbitd, you’ll see it there too..

      this seems total legit to me..

    • Well, I checked mine and all had © 2015.. but since others have seen © 2014, seems like my theory is wrong

  9. I’ve now updated my post on this with a second letter forwarded by a reader (that also shows a different amount). I agree with those who have said mentioning specific dollar amounts in the text of the letter is strange, but I’ve seen it on more than one that’s been forwarded to me.

    http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2015/03/04/american-express-shutting-down-target-redbird-accounts/

    Could someone be generating these, opening multiple email accounts and pulling my chain? I frequently see people posting misinformation in order to discourage readers from benefiting from deals and opportunities. So I guess so but still less likely of an explanation than that they’re real.

    • I think if you run older version of ie , it will still show that logo. its based of compatitilbity issue of your browser with its theme

  10. I would guess it’s legit– about 1 week after RB had trouble loading. I’m sure hundreds or thousands of people called in complaining about their credit cards being charged. They looked into it, and sure enough, here we are now.

  11. More reports trickling in. Looks legit. But hardly surprising this is happening as Target/Amex are losing a ton of money with no-fee CC reloads and this was destined to end sooner than later. That it took a few months isn’t surprising either since it was still being rolled out and the losses were manageable and load/unload patterns not clearly apparent.

    That said, Redbird is likely a tiny portion of most people’s MS who play the game with any intensity.

    Be curious if you are shut down and can get Serve/BB again? I doubt it.

  12. We have 2 accounts that are safe at the moment. We never unload right away and my own personal rule is $900/day max load per card. We also use the cards a few times per month for other purchases, including Target. If I were loading $1000 using a credit card and then turning around and paying off the credit card bill with that same amount I would expect to be shut down. Sorry, but I don’t really blame them in that scenario. It’s simply unprofitable for them. Oh, and doing that en mass ruins it for everyone eventually.

  13. I spend about 40% of my loads at Target for reselling purposes, and I’m ok. The rest is BP’d, and there’s always at least a small balance on the card.

  14. That’s why you load and unload in different amounts and at different times. And use the remainder by shopping at Target every time you go in to load.

    Plus don’t forget about setting up your debit card to do small recurring deposits.

    They want to see use the card in store and they want to see us loading it like normal people would.

    Personally, I never load 3 times in a single visit. And when I do load, it’s an amount like the $907.50 that I loaded today. Or the $531 that was described by FM. Better be safe than sorry.

    • Like OP said, I don’t see the point of loading in odd amounts. It’s the unload that’s getting people shut down. I don’t find it suspicious to load in even amounts…even if I loaded in cash, I’d give them $20 bills or $100 bills, not pennies and nickels.

  15. I believe the emails are legit, but there’s a few things that are making my nose wiggle.

    The layout of the email is way different than any other reload email that I’ve received. Note the following:

    1) The footer of this email is rendered in purple. The CSS on the load and bill pay emails are rendered in grey. In regular emails, Gmail will render in purple if the text is a part of a conversation. I’ve tested with various clients and could not replicate a RedCard email footer as purple.
    2) The spacing between paragraphs is all over the place. Previous RedCard emails are consistent with their paragraph styles.
    3) The font size used for the various paragraphs are different. The first two paragraphs are rendered in 11 point font. It switches to 10 point for the bullet list and for all text there after.
    4) There’s a break in the final paragraph of the footer. All RedCard emails that I receive don’t have that break.
    5) There is no email ID at the end of the email.

    As I said, I do think that these shutdowns are real… but these emails just don’t pass my sniff test.

  16. Many more people coming out on FT about being shut down; I don’t think it’s a hoax. Regardless, doesn’t hurt to be careful.

    I was a little worried I’d be shut down because I’ve been maxing out my loads since January, but I also started shopping at Target (I figure I’m already there, I might as well buy some groceries and other things, and that 5% is hard to resist! I used to never shop at Target…) and I don’t bill pay any credit cards. I only bill pay mortgage, HOA fee, PG&E, and send money to my Bluebird account to write physical checks for things like my 2015 HSA contribution. So I always have a very high balance in my Redbird account…but I AM a little worried they’ll flag my transfers to Bluebird or between my 2 Redbird accounts as suspicious.

    • @TT: if you have the option, make those HSA contributions via payroll deduction and you’ll avoid the FICA taxes – definitely a better return than points or cash back.

      • Global warming is a hoax. They made up the data. And there’s a reason they have stopped referring to it as global warming. They now referred to it as climate change for reason. It’s because they realize the date it’s not support that was actually global warming. Just because someone has a PHD behind their name does not mean they are believable.

        • If it is not a Hoax then you have nothing to lose by going full speed ahead. Get as many cards as you can and put the peddle to the metal. Loading with credit card is probably only going to last a couple more months anyway. Hammer down!

        • So the data that they made up doesn’t support the thesis of the hoax they’re pushing? Sure, that makes sense.

  17. I also received an identical email at around the same time. I wonder if they sent out in a batch and the rest are safe for now?

  18. Can someone with an account that has been shutdown show what their login page shows when you try to log in?

    If it still allows you to login, it should mention that your account has been closed.

    Can anyone show these as proof?

    TIA

  19. The point of uneven amounts its not for REDcard, its for your credit card. The loads show as Target purchases on your credit card; how many real Target purchases of $1K/month does one do? The thought is that if a bank programs its comp to flag repetitive even amounts, in general or at X store, you might be a candidate for a human reviewing your acct.

    As far as the REDcard side of things, I’d suggest stay away/minimal from things that might look like cash advances to yourself or money laundering. This includes repetitive and big ATM withdrawal amounts.

    P.S. On places like this blog where anyone can post with any handle, I would take reports of shutdowns with a grain of salt. I’m sure we’ll hear it real fast is this happens for real as there’s thousands of people MS-ing with REDcard (I alone have sold it to hundreds) many of whom like to push the limits.

  20. In their T&C they state they won’t close an account with a balance on it unless the card owner specifically authorizes them to do so. Basically if they did close your account for suspicious spending you could still get your money out in a timely manner they just wouldn’t allow you to load or spend with it. I believe for that reason this is a hoax. At 60-90 days it seems like something a CC company would do while at the same time scaring people into believing they would have to cover a potentially $5000 credit card bill for 90 days.

  21. I’ve now seen 3 different screenshots posted between this blog and View From the Wing. Not a single one includes a piece of the browser or URL in the screenshot, and only one includes the e-mail provider logo. Yet all 3 look identical otherwise, plus minus a To address and a greeting.

    But let’s say all 3 use Gmail. Plausible. Except that there is no way this e-mail could have been generated. Why? This is clearly Print-friendly view. But it is not the Print-friendly view you get today; while similar, there are notable differences. The printout of a different browser? Prove it.

  22. Target cashier asked me about loads: showed me 25 $100 Visa gift cards that someone used this morning to load $2,500.
    I know why it was done, but by what math can it be profitable with all those fees?
    It makes me think either the person doesn’t understand the cost – or is doing fraud.
    What do you think?

    • There are often deals on smaller denomination gift cards at OfficeMax, Office Depot, or Staples. I publish these often through my Quick Deals page. It doesn’t surprise me at all that someone had so many gift cards to unload.

  23. I went to a listed RedCard seller in North Carolina on Wednesday (3/4) to finally get a card and was told that RedCard had been an experiment and that the experiment had not worked out thus they no longer carried the cards.

  24. If you google “redcard resales” they are now offering the target prepaid redcard online. Is this an authorized reseller? Looks like a very legitimate website. May be a way for Target or American Express to unofficially offer the card to people outside of test markets.

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