Best options for Serve online loads

127

UPDATED 11/30/16

Note: On January 8, 2016 American Express sent out a notice to a large number of Bluebird & Serve cardholders informing them that loading capabilities on their accounts had been terminated. For more information, see: Amex kills Bluebird and Serve for manufactured spend

Among the trio of similar Amex prepaid reloadable cards, Serve has an advantage over Bluebird and REDbird in that it can be reloaded online with a credit card, up to $1,000 per month.  Unfortunately, as of April 15 2015, Serve added a new restriction: Only Amex credit cards can now be used to reload Serve online.  And, as before, Amex credit cards do not earn rewards when loading Serve.

Serve online loads

Serve with Softcard (no longer available to new applicants), does not currently appear to have the Amex only restriction (see the comments in this post).  For everyone with regular Serve, though, their remains at least one way to earn rewards through online credit card loads.  The key is to find rewards based American Express cards that are issued by banks other than American Express…

The best Amex card options issued by other banks…

U.S. Bank FlexPerks® Travel Rewards American Express® card:  You’ll only earn 1 point per dollar when using this card to load Serve, but points are worth up to 2 cents each when used to purchase flights (see: Maximizing value from the U.S. Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Card).  Plus, cardholders get 3,500 bonus points when they spend $24,000 in a year on the card.  Serve can be used to get you half way there.  For reference, this card also earns 2 points per dollar for gas, groceries, or airline purchases (whichever is most each billing cycle); 2 points per dollar at restaurants; and 3 points per dollar for charities (I especially like to use this card for Kiva loans).

BBVA NBA TripleDouble Rewards American Express: This card earns 2X at gas stations and supermarkets and 3X for NBA purchases.  So, most of the time, this card will only earn 1% cash back when loading Serve.  However, the card earns 5X on all purchases during the NBA All-Star Weekend and two weeks of the NBA finals.  So, twice a year its possible to earn 5% cash back when loading Serve.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of this option.  I like to setup my Serve accounts to load automatically, so I wouldn’t want to worry about changing the timing of the loads to match up with NBA events.

Fidelity Investment Rewards American Express Card:  The Fidelity Investment Amex card offers 2% cash back and no annual fee.  By loading $1,000 per month to Serve with this card, you can earn $240 cash back per year.  UPDATE: Unfortunately, the Amex version of this card is no longer available, and existing cardholders will be switched to the new Visa card by June 2016.

Other options (as found in this Doctor of Credit post):

  • PenFed Defender American Express Card: Earn 1.5% cash back. Must be in military service, the National Guard, the Reserves, or an honorably discharged Veteran of the United States Military to apply.
  • BOA Accelerated Rewards American Express Card: 1.25%.
  • FNBO TravElite Credit Card: 1.5% ($99 annual fee)

Reasons to consider Amex issued Amex cards

UPDATE 11/30/2016: Serve loads with Amex issued cards no longer count towards minimum spend requirements or big spend bonuses.

If you don’t have any of the above mentioned cards, you might still find a use for loading Serve with Amex issued cards even though they won’t earn points for these loads:

  • Meet minimum spend requirements: When you signup for a new Amex card, there is usually a requirement to spend a certain amount with the card within 3 (sometimes 6) months in order to receive the signup bonus.  According to many reader reports, you can meet that spend requirement with Serve online credit card loads even though you won’t earn points.
  • Meet big spend bonus requirements: A number of Amex credit cards offer bonuses for big spend.  For example, the Delta Platinum card offers 10,000 bonus miles (plus 10,000 medallion qualifying miles) when you reach $25,000 spend within a calendar year.  According to reader reports and my own experience, you can use Serve online credit card loads to help meet that big spend requirement.
  • Waive $1 monthly fee: Serve charges $1 per month (except in New York, Texas, and Vermont), but waives the charge if you load at least $500.  Amex issued credit card loads can be used to waive that fee.

Important: Serve loads do not help to meet billing cycle spend requirement for EveryDay cards: I’m a fan of the Amex EveryDay and EveryDay Preferred cards (see why here).  The EveryDay card offers a 20% bonus on all points earned when you make at least 20 purchases in a billing cycle.  Similarly, the EveryDay Preferred card offers a 50% bonus on all points earned when you make at least 30 purchases in a billing cycle.  Unfortunately, according to multiple reader reports, Serve online loads do not count towards the required 20 or 30 billing cycle purchases.

 

 

How to use the money that’s been loaded

Once money has been loaded to Serve, it’s very easy (and free) to make good use of it:

  • Pay bills that can’t normally be paid by credit card: Log into your Serve account and pay anyone. If the recipient isn’t found, you can enter their name and address and they’ll be sent a check in the mail.
  • Withdraw from MoneyPass ATMs for free
  • Withdraw to your bank account: You can find the option under: Settings… Withdraw Funds.
  • Use as credit card: Your Serve card can be used as a credit card anywhere that American Express is accepted, but I don’t recommend it.  You will not earn extra rewards this way.  It’s better to use a rewards credit card if at all possible.

Questions?

If you have general questions about Serve (or Bluebird and REDbird), please see: The complete guide to Bluebird, REDcard, and Serve.

Chase's 5/24 Rule: With most Chase credit cards, Chase will not approve your application if you have opened 5 or more cards with any bank in the past 24 months.

To determine your 5/24 status, see: 3 Easy Ways to Count Your 5/24 Status. The easiest option is to track all of your cards for free with Travel Freely.
Chase 5/24 semantics ("Subject to" vs. "Count towards"): Most Chase cards are subject to the 5/24 rule. That means the rule is enforced in making approval decisions. In other words, you probably won't get approved if your credit report shows that you opened 5 or more cards in the past 24 months. Meanwhile, most business cards (such as those from Chase, Amex, Barclaycard, BOA, Citi, US Bank, and Wells Fargo) are not reported on your personal credit report. These cards do not count towards 5/24.

Example: Chase Ink Business Preferred is subject to 5/24, so you likely won't get approved if over 5/24. If you do get approved, it won't count towards 5/24 since it won't appear as an account on your credit report.
Amex 5 credit card limit: If you apply for a new Amex credit card, you may get turned down if you already have 5 or more Amex credit cards. Both personal and business cards are counted towards this limit. Charge cards, though, are not counted. You can apparently get as many charge cards as you’d like, and the number of charge cards you have does not affect your ability to get up to 5 credit cards. Authorized user cards are also not counted towards the 5 credit card limit. See also: Which Amex Cards are Charge Cards vs. Credit Cards?
Applying for Business Credit Cards

Yes, you have a business: In order to sign up for a business credit card, you must have a business. That said, it's common for people to have businesses without realizing it. If you sell items at a yard sale, or on eBay, for example, then you have a business. Similar examples include: consulting, writing (e.g. blog authorship, planning your first novel, etc.), handyman services, owning rental property, renting on airbnb, driving for Uber or Lyft, etc. In any of these cases, your business is considered a Sole Proprietorship unless you form a corporation of some sort.

When you apply for a business credit card as a sole proprietor, you can use your own name as your business name, use your own address and phone as the business' address and phone, and your social security number as the business' Tax ID / EIN. Alternatively, you can get a proper Tax ID / EIN from the IRS for free, in about a minute, through this website.

Is it OK to use business cards for personal expenses? Anecdotally, almost everyone I know uses business cards for personal expenses. That said, the terms in most business card applications state that you should use the card only for business use. Also, some consumer credit card protections do not apply to business cards. My advice: don't use the card for personal expenses if you're not comfortable doing so.
Manufacturing Spend Caution: Many, many things can go wrong when manufacturing spend. If you suddenly increase credit card spend, your accounts may get shut down. If you cycle your balance often (e.g. spend to your limit, pay the bill, repeat) within a billing cycle, your accounts may get shut down. If you repeatedly pay your credit card bill from an anonymous bill payment source, your accounts may get shut down. If you buy lots of gift cards you may lose money due to gift card fraud, theft, loss, or simply mishandling those gift cards (e.g. maybe you thought you already used a gift card and tossed it into your “used” bin). If you rely on only one method to liquidate gift cards, you may be stuck unable to pay your credit card bill when that method gets shut down. In other words, don’t try this at home unless you know what you’re doing, and you understand and accept the risks..
Chase Ultimate Rewards points are super valuable and super flexible. At the most basic level, points can be redeemed for cash or merchandise, but you'll only get one cent per point value that way. A better option is to use points for travel. When points are used to book travel through the Ultimate Rewards portal, points are worth 1.25 cents each with premium cards (Sapphire Preferred or Ink Business Preferred, for example) or 1.5 cents each with the ultra-premium Sapphire Reserve card. Another great option is to transfer points from a premium or ultra-premium card to an airline or hotel program when high value awards are available (see this post for details). If your points are tied to a no-fee "cash back" Ultimate Rewards card, then first move those points to a premium or ultra-premium card before redeeming them in order to get better value.
Amex Membership Rewards points can be incredibly valuable if you know how to use them. In general, if you use Membership Rewards points to pay for merchandise or travel, you won't get good value from your points. One exception is with the Business Platinum card where you'll get a 35% point rebate when using points to book certain flights. This gives you approximately 1.5 cents per point value, which is pretty good. Another exception is with the Business Gold Card where you'll get a 25% point rebate when using points to book certain flights. This gives you approximately 1.33 cents per point value. If you don't have either card, then your best bet is to transfer points to airline miles in order to book high value awards. More details can be found here: Amex Membership Rewards Complete Guide.
Marriott points can be redeemed for free night awards, travel packages, airline miles, or experiences. 5th Night Free Awards: When redeeming points for free nights, the 5th night within a single reservation is free. Airline miles: Points can be converted to airline miles at a rate of 3 points to 1 mile. A bonus is added on when you transfer 60,000 points at a time, such that 60,000 points transfers to 25,000 miles. Also, you'll get a 10% bonus when transferring points to United Airlines.

Everything you need to know about Marriott's rewards program, Bonvoy, can be found here: Marriott Bonvoy Complete Guide
Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by the same guy who showed you how to fly round trip to Africa (DC to Senegal) for 50,000 points, how to book business class to Europe for 80,000 miles roundtrip, and more. You can find John’s website and award booking service here: theflyingmustache.com/awardbooking.
-Greg The Frequent Miler

Amex Application Tips



  • Safe to Apply: Amex is the safest bank for trying your luck at a new welcome bonus. They don’t usually issue a hard pull when denying your application. Plus, they’ll now warn you during the application process if you’re not eligible for the bonus.

  • Lifetime Rule: If you've ever had the same card before, you are most likely prohibited from getting a welcome bonus for the card if you apply now. Fortunately you'll be warned during the application process if this is the case. Amex is known to "forget" that you've had a card after about 7 years.

  • 5/90 Rule: In general, you can get at most one credit card within 5 days and 2 within 90 days. The 5 day limit is not enforced when your applications are automatically approved. Neither rule is enforced for charge cards.

  • 5 credit card max:Amex usually won't approve applications for new credit cards if you already have 4 or more Amex credit cards or 10 or more charge cards.

  • Better Offers: You may be able to get a better offer than the best available public offer. Details here.

  • Hard inquiries combine into 1 when approved same day


Check application status here.
If denied, call reconsideration: 877-399-3083 (new accountholders); 866-314-0237 (current accountholders)


Chase Application Tips

  • Shut-Down Caution: Signing up for new Chase cards can lead to Chase reviewing your accounts. This may lead to Chase shutting down all of your accounts if you appear to be a credit risk. See this post for details and recommendations: Why Chase shutdowns have increased and how to avoid them.
  • 5/24 Rule: With most Chase cards, you won't get approved if your credit report shows 5 or more cards opened in the past 24 months. Details here.
  • 24/48 Month Rule: With most Chase cards, you can get the same card and bonus again 24 months after having received the bonus as long as you no longer have the card open. With Sapphire cards, you must wait 48 months. No wait is required for Chase Ink cards.
  • 30 Day Rule: It is tough to get approved for more than 2 Chase cards within 30 days
  • Get Same Card Again: You can get the same exact card and again if you first cancel the older card and follow the 24/48 month rule. Ink cards are OK to get again without cancelling previous card if you apply with a new business.
  • Better Offers: You may be able to get a better offer than the best available public offer. Details here.
  • Hard inquiries combine into 1 when approved same day (not always true when mixing business and personal)

Call (888) 338-2586 to check your application status
If denied, call reconsideration here:1-888-270-2127 for both personal and business cards

Citi Application Tips

  • 24 Month Rule (ThankYou Cards): To get bonus on any ThankYou card, you must wait 24 months after receiving a new cardmember bonus or closing any ThankYou card account. Applies to Preferred, Premier, Prestige, and Rewards+.
  • 24 Month Rule (Expedia Cards): To get bonus on any Expedia card, you must wait 24 months after opening or closing any Expedia card account.
  • 48 Month Rule (AA Cards): With Citi AA cards, you have to wait 48 months after receiving a bonus for the same exact card.
  • Velocity Rules: Max 1 personal card per 8 days. Max 2 personal cards per 65 days. Max 1 business card per 95 days.
  • Get Same Card Again: Citi allows getting same card again (even if card is still open) as long as you follow the 24 or 48 month rules and velocity rules (above).
  • Hard inquiries DO NOT combine into 1 when approved same day

Check application status here.
If denied, call reconsideration here:800-695-5171 (personal); 800-763-9795 (business)
If reconsideration # doesn’t work, try the Citi Credit Card Executive Office: 423-477-6858

Bank of America Application Tips


  • 3/12 or 7/12 Rule: You won't be approved if you have opened 3 or more accounts, with any bank, in the past 12 months. For those with Bank of America deposit accounts, the rule changes to 7+ accounts.
  • 2/3/4 Rule: Max 2 consumer cards per rolling 2 months, 3 per rolling 12 months, and 4 per rolling 24 months.
  • 5 card limit: You will not get approved for a new consumer card if you already have 5 consumer BOA cards open
  • Get Same Card Again: With some BOA cards, must wait 24 months after either opening or cancelling, depending upon the card.
  • Hard inquiries are usually combined into 1 when initiated within 30 days but there have been reports of TransUnion not combining.

Click here to check your application status
If denied, call reconsideration here: 800-354-0401 (8am-7pm ET Mon-Fri); 866-695-6598 (business cards);

Barclays Application Tips


  • Get Same Card Again: Must wait at least 6 months after cancelling previous card (with some accounts Barclays requires waiting 24 months).

  • Hard inquiries are combined into 1 when approved same day. Most inquiries issued through TransUnion.


Consumer: Click here to check your application status
Business cards: Click here
If denied, call reconsideration here: 866-408-4064

Capital One Application Tips


  • 6 month rule: Must wait 6 months after applying for a Capital One card before applying for another one.

  • 2 card limit: Conventional wisdom and user experience has been that you can have at most 2 Capital One consumer cards, but according to application terms it may be possible to have up to 5. You may be limited to 2 of their rewards cards. Note that this limit does not apply to Capital One co-branded cards like the Kohl's charge card.

  • Get Same Card Again: There is no known rule against getting the same card and bonus again even if you still have the card open.

  • Hard inquiries usually get issued through all 3 credit bureaus


To check application status, call (800) 903-9177 or (877) 277-5901
If denied, call reconsideration here: (800) 625-7866

Discover Application Tips


  • 2 card limit: You can have a maximum of 2 Discover cards.

  • 12 month rule: Must wait just over 12 months after previous card was opened before applying for another Discover card.

  • Get Same Card Again: No known rules against getting same card & bonus again.


Click here to check your application status
If denied, call reconsideration here: 888-676-3695

TD Bank Application Tips


Call (888) 561-8861 to check your application status

US Bank Application Tips


  • Get Same Card Again: No known rules against getting same card & bonus again.

  • Hard inquiries may be combined into 1 when approved same day.


Call (800) 947-1444 to check your application status.
If denied, call reconsideration here: 800-947-1444 or 800-685-7680

Wells Fargo Application Tips


  • Bank first: Wells Fargo usually requires having a bank account open before you can apply for a credit card.

  • 16 month rule: Limit of one signup bonus per 16 months

  • Get Same Card Again: No known rules against getting same card & bonus again.

  • Hard inquiries are combined into 1 when approved same day.


Check application status here.
If denied, call reconsideration here: 1-866-412-5956

Under certain circumstances consumer Visa cards don't work with Plastiq. The following payments are fine:

  • Rent (residential rent, HOA fees, and commercial rent)
  • Taxes & government fees
  • Utilities (electricity, cable, internet, and telecom)
  • Tuition (including daycare and camp)
Payments outside of the above list are subject to the following limitations:

  1. Payments using personal Visa cards issued by Chase are subject to a limit of 20% of your credit limit.
  2. Payments using personal Visa cards from other issuers (other than Capital One or Wells Fargo) will code as a cash advance. That means you’d incur cash advance fees and wouldn’t earn any credit card rewards.
  3. The following types of Visa cards are not affected by these changes: Capital One personal Visa cards, Wells Fargo personal Visa cards, Visa business credit cards, Visa corporate, debit and prepaid gift cards.
In order to meet minimum spend requirements, people often look for options to increase spend in ways that result in getting their money back. These techniques are referred to as "manufacturing spend". American Express has terms in their welcome offers that exclude some manufactured spend techniques from counting towards the minimum spend requirements for the welcome bonus. For example, most new cardmember bonuses have terms like this:
Eligible purchases to meet the Threshold Amount of this offer do NOT include fees or interest charges, balance transfers, cash advances, purchase of travelers checks, purchase or reloading of prepaid cards, purchases of gift cards, person-to-person payments, or other cash equivalents.
That said, many techniques for meeting minimum spend are perfectly fine. Here are some techniques that are safe for meeting Amex minimum spend requirements (click each link for more information):
Marriott Bonvoy credit cards are issued by both Chase and American Express.  If you're interested in signing up for more than one Chase and/or Amex Marriott card, it's important to consider the complex rules they have put in place:

We have added this to our running list of Black Friday deals, which will be constantly updated through Cyber Monday with a mix of gift card deals, merchandise deals, and travel deals. Check back often.
Email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

127 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments