Earn miles automatically, with Serve

UPDATE 3/18/2015: As of April 16 2015, American Express will no longer allow online loads with any credit cards other than American Express credit cards.  While Amex’ own cards do not earn rewards when loading Serve online, you may be able to earn rewards by using an Amex card issued by another bank (e.g. Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex)

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


 

I often write about complicated techniques for earning points and miles.  This one is easy.  With Amex Serve you can earn miles easily and automatically. I’m on track to earn 72,000 miles per year this way.  Here’s how…

Unlike the very similar product named Bluebird, Serve allows cardholders to reload their card with a credit card online, for free.  Each cardholder is limited to $200 in credit card loads per day up to a maximum of $1000 per month.  Those with SoftCard (previously named Isis) can do even better and load up to $1500 per month.  For the sake of this post, though, let’s assume you have the regular Serve product without SoftCard.

At a high level, the approach is dead simple:

  1. Setup Serve to be auto-loaded each month with a rewards-earning credit card.
  2. Use the Serve balance, as needed, to pay bills (including credit card bills), to withdraw cash for free at MoneyPass ATMs, or to transfer directly to a bank account.

Serve

Getting Serve

If you don’t already have a Serve card, you can order one for free here, unless you have a Bluebird card.  You can only have one: Bluebird or Serve.  If you want to switch from Bluebird to Serve you’ll have to empty the funds from Bluebird, call to cancel your account, and then wait about a month to order Serve.  Alternatively, you can speed things along as follows: 1) Cancel your Bluebird card; 2) Get a temporary Serve card (at CVS, for example), 3) Try to register for a permanent card (it will fail), and 4) Call support.  If you go this route, be prepared to be on the phone for a long time.

Choose a credit card

To load Serve online, you can use any credit card registered to the same name and address as your Serve card.  Even though the Serve website warns of the possibility of being charged a cash advance fee, that has never happened to me.  I believe that even Citibank cards (which often charge cash advance fees for other financial-like expenditures) are fine to use.  The only cards you shouldn’t use are those from American Express as they will not earn rewards.

Starting in mid-October 2014, Serve changed the coding of credit card loads such that many credit cards now do charge cash advance fees.  You should avoid these at all costs.  For an up to date list of which cards are safe and which are not, please see:

Some online Serve credit loads now posting as cash advances.

Setting up auto-loads

Thanks to the $200 daily limit, reloading Serve is not as simple as logging in once a month to add the money manually.  You could log in 5 times a month and load $200 each time instead, but there are better, automatic, solutions.

One extremely simple solution (suggested to me by a friend) is to setup your Serve account to load $200 per week from your credit card.  This way, in some months you’ll load $800 and in other months you’ll load $1000.  Done!

The only problem with the once-per-week approach is that you will miss the opportunity to load the maximum allowed $1000 on some months.  If you don’t mind doing a bit more setup work, you can load the full $1000 automatically.  The trick is to setup five separate automatic loads (Serve calls them “Scheduled Adds”).  Setup the first one to load $200 monthly on the first of each month.  Setup the second one to load $200 monthly on the second of each month.  And, so on.

One caution: Rapid Travel Chai tells me that some banks block these automated charges because they appear to be fraudulent (since they happen repeatedly in the middle of the night).  This has happened to him more than once with US Bank credit cards.  I’ve had no such problem with my Barclaycard Arrival Plus card, but it is something to watch out for.

Earning more miles

With the approach described here, you can use a credit card that earns 2X everywhere (such as the Arrival Plus card) and earn 24,000 miles per year free and easy.  If you have friends or family members willing to let you manage Serve cards in their names, you can do even better.  For each Serve card you manage that is not in your name, order an Arrival Plus authorized user card with the same name and address that is tied to the Serve card.  Then, use that authorized user Arrival Plus card to automatically reload the matching Serve card.  I currently have three Serve cards setup this way (my card, plus two others), for a total of 72,000 miles per year.  And, of course, with more Serve cards, one can do even better.

Warning: some people have had their accounts frozen when trying to use authorized user credit cards with Serve.  I have not had this problem with the Arrival Plus card, but it may be an issue with other cards or other accounts.

You can do even better by doing online debit card loads in addition to online credit card loads.  The trick is to have debit cards that earn rewards, or debit cards that are reloadable with credit cards.  That’s a story for another time.

How to setup automatic loads

Here’s a quick tutorial.  After logging into Serve, do the following:

1) Select “Add Money”

Serve_Add_Money

2) Scroll past the “Add Money” section, to the “Other Ways to Add Money” and click on “Setup Scheduled Add”

Serve_Add_Money_Frequent_Miler

3) Configure the Scheduled Add with the appropriate credit card, start date, and frequency

Scheduled_Add

5) To setup additional “Scheduled Adds”, simply repeat the whole process from step 1: Add Money

Last updated on January 29th, 2016

Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

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Gabriel
Guest
Gabriel

So you value Serve more than Bluebird? If you have a nearby Walmart, isn’t loading GCs on to BB more lucrative?

Ny
Guest
Ny

You can also unload GCs at Walmart to a Serve card. I’ve done it at the register, money center and the automated kiosk. Just use the load money card option at the kiosk.

Gabriel
Guest
Gabriel

Ah! Didn’t realize that, thanks!. Any benefit to having BB over Serve?

Chip
Guest
Chip

How do you get multiple cards?

Points With a Crew
Guest

Chip – I think that he’s saying that he manages multiple cards for other people. So maybe a sister or a parent or a trusted friend.

I don’t think you can get multiple cards for the same person

Ny
Guest
Ny

That’s right, you only get one either serve or BB. But I manage my serve and 3 family memvers BBs to unload more GCs.

Matthew
Guest
Matthew

Loading this way and unloading via atm with no swipes…. will that get you shut down?

Maury
Guest
Maury

What is the max load per day or per month via Walmart for Serve vs BB?

Philip
Guest
Philip

Sorry, I’m new here so this is probably a dumb question: is this saying you can load a serve card (and is it better to get that softcard or is that some option for the serve card?) from a rewards credit card and then take that money and deposit it into a bank account (so like a big rewards earning circle) or do you have to actually use the serve card for atm withdrawals or purchases? Thank you!

Ace
Guest
Ace

if I set up accounts for my brothers for me to manage, would I use their address or mine? for the Serve account? for the authorized user account?

iahphx
Guest
iahphx

Like many, I got my bluebird card in the “old days” when you could waltz into a CVS, buy a bunch of Vanilla Reload cards with your credit card, and load them onto BB from the comfort of my home. I now generally endure the annoyance of loading my BB at Walmart, although I have sometimes loaded $1000/month (in $200 increments) with a Delta Suntrust debit card (no longer available).

Unless I’m missing something, I don’t quite see why it’s worth the hassle to switch to Serve. Oh, sure, if I could load thousands a month via credit credit, I would, but the $1000 limit seems like small potatoes (and I can currently load BB with my Suntrust card for $1000 if I want to). I already have tons of access to AMEX’s online offers through my many regular AMEX cards (with additional users) and my local Rite Aid insists on cash for buying greendot cards. So am I missing anything?

"Confirm Amount"
Guest
"Confirm Amount"

Also notable if you’re converting from BB to Serve — if you can make the change within one calendar month, you can double up on the load-limit. Load $5,000 on your BB early in the month, make the switch, and then load an additional $5,000 onto your Serve near the end of the month.

amexman
Guest
amexman

I think ill switch back to the bluebird…i had issues with my serve doing this whole load thing plus it was a hassle. AMEX ended up closing my account, now ill have to wait to get my bluebird back…

Tim
Guest

Greg,

I had recently begun employing the exact strategy you describe here, but wasn’t sure I was proceeding correctly. This post is very timely confirmation that I’m on the right track, so thanks!

Given the wide array of cards & rewards, one could use in this strategy, do you see an advantage to using a 2% cash back card vs 2x miles vs 2x Hilton HHonors, or are they in effect all the same?

PointMaster
Guest
PointMaster

I had my Serve funds frozen as well for doing this – I hate Serve … stick with the bluebird

Chris
Guest
Chris

Loading with a reloadable debit card is not allowed. You have to use a debit card linked to a bank account.

josefismael
Guest
josefismael

Great post as usual 🙂

Regarding the unload of your Serve balance you mentioned that you can transfer directly to a bank account. This seems like asking for an investigation/shutdown, on either your bank or serve account. Have other people had good luck with this?

Will
Guest
Will

I don’t know if this a noob question, but which card issuers process a CC load to serve as a cash advance?

Tarheel traveler
Guest
Tarheel traveler

2 questions: 1) have you been able to load to Serve with an authorized user card? I tried in the past and those wouldn’t work for me. Maybe something has changed? 2) I’ve been using UFB direct debit loads to earn American miles, but the last few months the swipes haven’t posted any miles. Anyone else seeing the same thing? Thanks!

Mile Hustler
Guest
Mile Hustler

Officially, UFB has 60 days to post points from the end of the month earned. Unofficially, if you don’t see the points posted in 2 months (which is usually how long it takes), you can call to initiate a research request (@ which point they’ll post the missing points within 30 days)

Steveria
Guest
Steveria

I tried loading serve with an authorized user card and my account has been frozen for the last 2 weeks!! don’t do it

JB
Guest
JB

Cancelled BB, signed up for Serve same day, no problem.

AME
Guest
AME

US Bank seems to be very sensitive to fraud when using your card with Serve. I’ve been using my Club Carlson Visa and have had 3 of my Serve CC loads flagged. Most of the transactions go through OK but I wouldn’t recommend automatic loads with a US Bank card. 2 of the flagged loads were done manually between Midnight and 7:00am, so they may not like late night transactions.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

I cried like a baby when I had to close my Bluebird to get a new Serve but slowly I am coming around so I am doing the same for a family account. Now I am finding that the temporary adddiction to Moneypak is just fine. Am I correct in that the daily/monthly limit on Moneypak is 500/5k in addition to the 1k credit card add?

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

Oh and when was the last spotting by anyone of a Vanilla Reload card with a credit card transaction? Who/what/when and where?

Rich
Guest
Rich

Where do you buy greendot with a credit card? I have tried everywhere with no luck, they all tell me cash only.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

Is Serve’s ‘billpay’ feature the same as Bluebird’s? I enter my CC’s 16 digit number, and send the payment through, and 2 days later it posts to my CC?? I’m reading from somewhere that Serve actually sends a physical check to the CC to pay it off. Can someone confirm?? Is it ok to load Serve with a CC and then use the billpay function to immediately pay off the same CC?? Or should I wait a week or two to let the money ‘sit in the account’ for some time?

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

I have 4 Bluebirds and I love the billpay feature because I can pay off any CC on any of the Bluebirds, even if the name on the CC doesn’t match the Bluebird account. Will I have a problem with this with Serve??

purcitron
Guest
purcitron

@frequentmiler
just got an enhanced SIM for my phone so i can use softcard..$1.5/month.
any idea how to actually load 1.5k please?
via mobile app only? serve app or isis app?
thanks!

Kent C
Guest
Kent C

FYI, I learned this the hard way. $1,500 limit does NOT apply if you already have the Serve card then get the app. You cannot have a Serve card already. You must apply for the Serve card somehow through Isis/Softcard to get the higher limit. Otherwise $1,000 is your limit. I asked the rep if they can raise the limit independently for an individual. She said no. So I have Isis now with Serve but will never be allowed more than $1k in CC loads.

Know this doesn’t answer your question. Hopefully you didn’t already have a Serve account before getting Isis. Workaround is to close your Serve account (zero out first) then reapply for a Serve under Isis (assuming through mobile device)

purcitron
Guest
purcitron

thanks for the clarity! finally someone actually knows whats up. not one blogger could actually explain how to attain the elusive $1.5k/mo via isis/serve. not one!
but in short.. i did already have serve lol. so more hoops through which to jump! not sure if ill do it.. maybe.
-did you close & reopen serve through isis/softcard?
thanks

Dan
Guest
Dan

Thanks for the interesting blog post. So can you please explain the strategy based on this premise:
1. Open up Serve accounts in my parents’ name
2. Add them as authorized users on my Barclay Arrival
3. Load $1k to each of their own individual Serve accounts
4. Transfer $ to my own account?

I’d like to use the $ to pay mortgage / rent for a few properties. Is it possible to transfer the $ from their Serve accounts to my own? Will that get us flagged? I don’t want to try and have the payments come from multiple accounts. I’m assuming it’s not possible to just load my own account w/ their cards, correct?

Thanks for any additional guidance.

Unclesam
Guest
Unclesam

I realize that Amex cards don’t earn reward points but what about cobranded Citi AAdvantage Amex cards?

George
Guest
George

You can’t sign up with an APO address but can you change your address to an APO after the fact?

Raghu Narayanan
Guest
Raghu Narayanan

hi FM
Again thank you for your continued guidance on this topic. Couple of questions. I have the Serve card, can I switch to the Soft card version and if so how , so that I can bump up auto load to $1500 per month.

Second question. I have 1K auto load through Credit Card. Can I also do another 1K through a Visa Gift Card (with PIN) for a total of 2K per month

Thanks in advance
Raghu

Craig
Guest
Craig

I’ve been having good luck buying Staples GC’s online in $200 increments with my Chase Ink Plus card for 5x points, and loading them onto my BB card at WM. Question – should I be enrolled in Visa SavingsEdge (1% cash back) and buying the GC’s through the Ultimate Rewards portal (2x points)? I have heard that GC’s are not eligible for these additional bonuses. Thanks, Craig

Paul
Guest
Paul

Can you explain the in-store loads?
Can you do those with a cc as well to get 5k points every month?

Bill
Guest
Bill

1. Does SPG Credit Card earn SPG points by loading through Serve?
2. Is it worth it to purchase Visa gift cards using SPG cards 5K/month –> 60K points a year and load them to Serve given the SPG points transfer options to airlines at 20K increments to get 5K bonus each time for a total of 75K miles 1:1 ratio?

nick
Guest
nick

Hey FM, I dont have alot of bills, whats the best way to liquidate SERVE? That is if im loading 1500 a month.

josefismael
Guest
josefismael

Hey Nick – I have plenty of bills, so you can just send that money to me 🙂

Seriously tho – I believe you can use the “pay a person” option to send money to someone you trust. On the page:

“Use Bill Pay to send a check to any person. If your payee has a Serve® Account, you can quickly send them money directly.”

My instinct tells me that if you’re liquidating large amounts and not paying any bills, you’re kind of asking for an investigation. I tried it with a small amount earlier this week, so we’ll see how that goes.

Rick
Guest
Rick

Does the Softcard version of Serve require that you purchase the special ISIS case?

David
Guest
David

Just a heads up; AMEX Serve will block your credit card upload at some point, and you have to call AMEX. They’ll send an email, you make a copy of your CC & a form of ID, do a secure upload of that PDF/JPG, call them again, and they’ll allow you to continue to make uploads.

Angie
Guest
Angie

I used BOA Alaska Signature card to load funds online, and just found out I was charged $10 transaction fee for each $200 load. Anyone else had same experience? What did I do wrong?

Miguel
Guest
Miguel

Am I ok to sign my wife up for the Serve card using our home address if I already have my own card at this same address?

David
Guest
David

Hello, so does the CC billing address need to match the Serve address? Thanks!

I was curious why certain Auth Users are ok, and some have issues. Does it require a new account number?

Trang
Guest
Trang

Hi
I already signed up for the Serve but have not activate the card and just now getting the Softcard app on my phone. Can I still get the Softserve by using the app to active the card?

Can I use my phone to register for my husband’s softserve and manage it if in case I’m not allow to use Softserve due to the issue above?

David
Guest
David

Just switched from BB to serve. Trying to link the Chase issued IHG mastercard. Getting this error message – CARD ISSUER DECLINE TRANSACTION CODE. Is this Chase specific? What do I do? Help appreciated.

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

As of 3 Nov both Freedom and Sapphire Preferred work and earn miles without CB fees……

Dinktravel
Guest

I wonder if you could use this to pay property taxes. Seems like a great way to get around the usual 2-3% fee to pay those.

Dinktravel
Guest

The $999 limit on payments would not work in high property value areas. 🙁 Otherwise evolve looks promising.

Tae
Guest
Tae

How do you reload $1500 (instead of only $1000) through your credit card. When I tried through the SoftCard app, it wouldn’t let me. It told me I reached my max. Help.
SoftCard sends me to my Serve account to add money.

Simon
Guest
Simon

FM,

How do you get the Arrival authorized user card registered at the user’s address? It didn’t give me that option (online.) Just call customer service?

Simon
Guest
Simon

…..Or do you just register all the serve accounts at the same address?

John
Guest
John

Can anybody confirm that UFBDirect Debit Card loads to Serve will earn miles?

Thanks!

John
Guest
John

No one can confirm it?

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

@John,

Yes, UFBDirect Debit Card loads to Serve and earns miles, I have my UFB card linked to my Serve and do the $1,000/month to earn 500 miles.

John
Guest
John

How often do they post the miles? I loaded some money on 11/24/2014 to serve using UFB debit card. I have not seen any mile posted to my account.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

Hi John,

It actually takes a while, looks like 2 months~ is the time frame. I checked my UFB activity and I had spent $410 in debit charges on my card in October ($400 was from Serve and $10 was something else) and I was awarded 205 AA miles on December 22, 2014.

So since you loaded money on yours in the month of November, I’d say you’ll be receiving miles sometime towards the end of January (Jan 22? just a random guess!), so it should be soon 🙂

I am still waiting for the 500 AA miles they owe me for the $1,000 in activity for November and December. Those will probably post for me around Jan 22nd, and February 22nd – respectively.

John
Guest
John

Brandon, thanks for the information. I guess I should wait until the end of January.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

Anytime!

I have learned from experience to be patient with UFB, they tend to be a bit on the slow side.

On a side note, if you have $50,000 laying around you should get a BankDirect account. You’d earn 5,000 AA miles a month just for having the money in the account, although you do pay $12/month to have the account but I think it’s worth it.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

Hi John,

Did your UFB miles post yet? Mine posted today for the activity from November.

John
Guest
John

I just checked. It was posted yesterday too!!!

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

Great!!

JAXBA
Guest
JAXBA

Hi, thanks for all the useful info. Just got my Serve card and I’m starting slowly with the $1K CC load a month to my BA Chase Visa. So far, I’ve set up a weekly charge of $200 but when it comes to the last part of your post:

5) To setup additional “Scheduled Adds”, simply repeat the whole process from step 1: Add Money

I’m not finding the option to add an extra “Scheduled Add” – it just shows me the details of the existing “Add” – has the site maybe changed since you posted this or am I missing something?

David
Guest
David

I’m having the same experience (see my post below).
I think I’m just going to do manual adds every other day.

David
Guest
David

It seems like you can only do one scheduled add now. I was changing cards for an automatic upload, and there isn’t a way to do a second scheduled add any more.

I have to decide whether to do a weekly add, and do a manual add on some months, or do all manual adds. I don’t want to do daily adds, as I’m concerned that will trigger a fraud alert.

Kathryn Grace
Guest
Kathryn Grace

I noticed you said you can direct deposit into your bank account from serve but, I can’t find that option. Can you please explain how that is possible? I realize I can just go to an ATM but, I am moving to Brazil and need ways to manufature spend etc. all online. Let’s say I was really sad when Amazon Payments stopped allowing us to send money back and forth through emails. That was how I started getting into earning miles and then they changed policies. Thank you for your great website and help! It’s wonderful paying $5.60 for direct flights using miles considering I spend my time in Brazil helping the children in the slums. It allows me to put my money where it’s needed and not in an over $2,000 ticket. You’re Awesome!

PK
Guest
PK

I have a Barclaycard Arrival Plus card. Just wanted to check:

1) Does this still work for you using your Arrival Plus

2) Does Barclaycard allow you to then turn around and pay your bill with the Serve card?

Thanks!

Phil
Guest

New to MS here. I’ve been reading a lot last few days. I used to buy GC from a casino $499 every 24 hours where you can cash it right away. By far the easiest and simplest way to rack up some serious mileage. I no longer live in that area. I was looking for a way to pay my mortgages via CC. They all add up a little over $5k. Looks like the BB will be better for me in case I could write a check to pay for the mortgage. Thanks.
Phil

Phil
Guest

a