Bluebird Serve Birdpocalypse: How to liquidate remaining gift cards

This morning Amex delivered bad news to huge numbers of Bluebird and Serve account holders.  They shut down accounts due to “unusual usage patterns on your American Express Serve Account.”  I reported the news here:  Amex kills Bluebird and Serve for manufactured spend.

Liquidate Visa and MasterCard gift cards

Since Bluebird and Serve used to provide a great way to liquidate gift cards, many people are asking “what now?”  In a sense, I answered that already in my post “Manufacturing Spend in 2016 and Beyond.”  The only long-term sustainable forms of manufactured spend involve fees or risk.

While people work on sorting out their long term objectives, many have an immediate problem: pockets full of Visa/MasterCard gift cards.  What to do?

Liquidate Visa and MasterCard gift cards:

1) Use for everyday spend instead of cash or credit card

This one should be obvious, but it had to be said.  If you want to use the cards online, you may have to register your name and address with the gift card first.

2) Pay bills

Many service providers accept credit or debit cards for payment.  If so, it’s likely that they’ll accept Visa and MasterCard gift cards as well.  You may have to first register your name and address with your gift card, though, before making an online bill payment.  For monthly charges, it is often possible to pay more than your current month’s bill and the overage will be deducted from the next month’s bill.  Check with your utility, cable, phone companies to see if they accept credit or debit payments.

3) Pay mortgage, rent, or other bills that can’t normally be paid with a credit card

Services like Plastiq and ChargeSmart allow you to pay bills, including mortgage and other loan payments, by credit or debit card.  Plastiq has a fixed 2.5% fee.  ChargeSmart’s rates vary by the size of your payment, but tend to range from 2% to 3%.  Some bills that ChargeSmart doesn’t allow to be paid by credit card can be paid by debit card, so gift card payments should be possible.

For rent payments, try out RadPad.  See: Doctor of Credit: Complete List Of Options For Paying Your Rent With A Debit Or Credit Card.

4) Pay Federal Taxes

Estimated taxes are due January 15th.  You can also prepay your end of year taxes.  If you overpay, you’ll eventually get a check back for the difference.  You can find payment processors that allow credit and debit payments, on this IRS page: Pay your Taxes by Debit or Credit Card.

Debit card fees are quite low, but you can only make 2 payments per service for each type of tax payment.  Since there are three services, you can make a total of 6 Q4 estimated tax payments, and another 6 end of year payments.  Here are the current debit card rates:Serve Reload Rite Aid

  • OfficialPayments.com/fed: $2.50 flat debit card fee for payments of $1000 or less
  • Pay1040.com: $2.59 flat debit card fee
  • PayUSAtax.com: $2.69 flat debit card fee

5) Buy money orders

Some stores will let you buy money orders and pay with a debit card.  The particular stores that allow this vary by location.

Warning: banks have been known to shut down customers who regularly deposit money orders in large quantities.

6) Try other prepaid cards

With the end of Bluebird and Serve, and the effective end of Buxx cards, there aren’t many good options left.  Plus, I’m pretty sure that the clock is ticking on any remaining options.  Still, if you know of a card that can be loaded with a debit card and easily liquidated, then go for it.

7) Make loans via Kiva

You won’t get your money back for quite a while, but if you filter to “safe” loans you have a good chance of getting most or all of your money back eventually.  See: Kiva: loans, points, and miles.

Last updated on March 31st, 2019

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.

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JL
Guest
JL

Thanks for the list. I’m going to try the MO route. For places that require my name on the debit card, my plan is to show the CSR my named debit card but to hide the gift card behind the named debit card when I do the card swipe. Gonna take some practice to make that seemless but no one is going to confirm that a different card was used as long as the payment goes through.

In the end, if this works, it may be easier than driving to WM and unloading the gift cards.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Do you think holding two cards on top of each other will fit through the card terminal? I don’t think it will slide through, but I’ve never tried it.

JL
Guest
JL

Two cards will definitely not fit. My idea simply exposes the magnetic strip of the bottom card (gift card) while the top card stays in place. The top card is never put through the card reader but it would appear as if the top card were actually scanned through the card reader. Imagine if you held both cards in your right hand and simply pushed the bottom card to the left with your middle finger just enough to expose the magnetic stripe. In the end, this all depends on the visibility of the POS terminal to the cashier. For example, most Kroger stores have a high counter near the customer service desk but Walmarts leave the POS terminal in the open.

Max
Guest
Max

Most cashiers have enough street smarts to see through this dance. Avoid open deception, as it will irritate the cashier and make you look shady.

Ekent
Guest
Ekent

Agreed. I saw a guy pulling this kind of stuff at one store. That location ended up going cash only thanks to one idiot ms’r who didn’t use wisdom. He also was buying too many MOs because he thought they were comfortable with him.

David R
Guest
David R

I’ve never had a clerk tell me that my name needed to be on the VGC. All they told me was that I couldn’t buy a MO with a credit card, but I could use a debit card. Neither of the two places where I buy my MO’s have ever asked to see the card. As long as the payment method works, they don’t seem to care. And you probably know this already, but, it’s never wise to ask them if you can pay with a gift card. Some may automatically say no, if they’re not familiar with how gift cards work..

Dustin
Guest
Dustin

Follow

FreeAtLast
Guest
FreeAtLast

Thanks saved me from having to explain to relatives.

John
Guest
John

Have heard a couple horror stories with Plastiq but it was fine for me. Had my own terrible experience at Chargesmart and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But I’ve done well with Kiva and very very well with money orders from Walmart.

Jennifer Stiko
Guest
Jennifer Stiko

Does this depend on location? At my Walmart, they allowed me to use it and swipe it, but the system said “tender not allowed.”

Dave
Guest
Dave

Greg you should probably explicitly warn people that if they load to kiva and try and drain without loaning kiva will refund back to the credit card or gc instead of cutting a check or sending to paypal

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

Janet Yellan is responsible for all this. The Fed wants to wring out all the fluff from market and since Obama is about exit stage right he doesn’t care and the Republicans are saying Amen so you better grab your wallet and pray you have sufficient liquidity. And then again we could just blame the North Koreans and the Chinese economy. Stop laughing it’s more true than you want to think…….

Joe
Guest
Joe

Oh yes. The classic Obama-Yellen-Democrats-NorthKorea-China-Unicorns-ToothFairy blame game. How about blaming yourself for once?

Tom
Guest
Tom

Haha. That’s it! Obama is infringing on our constitutional right to manufacture spend!!!

Everybody knows that we are money losing customers to all of these banks and stores. They are just trying to cut their losses and I am more surprised that the BB/Serve thing went on for so long.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Be careful about depositing money orders into your primary bank. Some banks like Chase are known to shutdown accounts. They also shut down all your credit cards too. Safer to open an account at a new ban exclusively for the MO deposits.

John
Guest
John

True. Business bank account is most MO friendly.

SDO
Guest
SDO

Yes it’s Yellans fault! She’s destroying the stock market too.

Carl
Guest
Carl

@Greg, here is one that I suggested to a couple of the speakers at TravelCon II…. I have used construction and home repair guys, as well as mechanics that would rather take cash for work. Well, I have asked a few of them if they would accept VISA gift cards instead. So far I have about 4-5 guys that are more than willing as they hand them off to the wife and she can go do shopping and not flash cash.

Use these things in ways that benefit more than one person and you can still manufacture SOME spend with them.

Patty
Guest
Patty

Question about money orders–everyone keeps mentioning getting them at Wal Mart so would it be possible to purchase one $3600 money order but pay for it with 18x $200 visa gift cards? I’m asking because I have that many gift cards left and am freaking out about how to liquidate them. This seems quickest and easiest but I don’t know if it’s possible because I’ve never purchased one. Is there a concern about depositing a money order of this amount once into your account?

douglas
Guest
douglas

4 swipe limit.

JD
Guest
JD

…and $1,000 per money order limit and total of $2,000 (at WM)

Eric
Guest
Eric

Have you actually thought what you wrote in your last post? Yeah I am sure WM wouldn’t get suspicious if you were to swipe 18 x $200 cards to get a $3.6K MO. Thank goodness for the 4 card swipe limit or else there would be situations like this about reckless folks who think the WM employee would not be suspicious of this activity.

robert
Guest
robert

They are required to report money orders taken out in excess of 3,000 — so would not recommend exceeding that limit.

HockeyCoachBen
Guest
HockeyCoachBen

As long as the reloadable or gift card has labeled as a debit card, you’re likely as be able to unload it using the Revolut app (www.revolut.com). I have done it several times recently and each worked successfully with no fees. You can then withdraw the money for free at an ATM to deposit in your bank account or whatever. Quick, simple and free!

Don’t know why more people don’t use this option!

(PS – if anyone wants to try Revolut, I would appreciate you using my referral code… enter promo code benf9z when you log into the app for the first time. We both get $5, £5 or 5€ after your initial deposit in that currency!)

Emmanuel Ruiz
Guest
Emmanuel Ruiz

So you can use a gift card to load Revolut? Really?

HockeyCoachBen
Guest
HockeyCoachBen

Yes, as long as the gift card is labeled as debit (in this instance I am referring to the non-reloadable versions of Visa or MasterCard cards which are called gift cards). I just did it 3 times over the last 10 days or so with cards I received from family members as holiday gifts. No issues whatsoever.

I also used a sub-$10 balance on a Walmart Money Card (reloadable) to add to my Revolut balance as well. Worked just fine.

Jennifer Stiko
Guest
Jennifer Stiko

I just tried it and it didn’t work for me. I used a U.S. Bank issued Visa debit gift card. It does say “debit” on the front of it.

HockeyCoachBen
Guest
HockeyCoachBen

Also, to clarify – make sure to load your account in US$ to avoid incurring any foreign transaction or currency exchange fees. (Revolut lets you move money between USD, GBP and EUR at current prevailing interbank rates with ZERO fees).

YMMV as to which brands of reloadable and non-reloadable-gift cards will work with Revolut. So far the only ‘debit’ card I found not to work is PayPal and the Revolut app will actually tell you before you even get to entering an transaction amount.

JL
Guest
JL

Thx for the tip about Revolut. Does Revolut provide any ACH access or is it strictly ATM withdrawals?

JL
Guest
JL

I can’t reply to myself but I just signed up and it does appear that one can do ACH transfers. If so, this is WAY better than Serve.

will s
Guest
will s

thanks Ben for reminding us of revolut…. see Frequent Miler’s cautionary post below. (from last November) Are you based in the US? Comments on his warnings — esp. about the seemingly random FTF’s from intermediary transfer banks?

Mike
Guest
Mike

From personal experience, I would advise against #5, MO. Heed FM warning. They get scrutinized and lead to having your checking account closed. 1 or 2 is probably okay once in while. Consistent or repeated deposits especially using an ATM to do deposits is suspicious. It’s too much of a pain to deal with getting your money back If you do get your account shutdown.

agtravel
Guest
agtravel

@hockeycoachben, registered at Revolut with your ref but not able to load 100$ visa gc. It’s a fixed amount gc with debit written on it. Got it from office max – issuer is MetaBank. Any suggestions ?

JL
Guest
JL

For grins, I tried a Vanilla GC that I bought from Walgreen’s. It did not work but I didn’t think it would as it is not a Pin-enabled GC. I’ll go buy one at Kroger today and report back.

ATM
Guest
ATM

Why do you say Vanilla GC is not PIN-enabled? In my experience using them at Family Dollar, it is. Default PIN is the last 4 numbers, I believe.

JL
Guest
JL

I should have clarified — yes, the PIN is the last four but you can’t withdraw money from the Vanilla branded gift cards compared to the US Bank GC’s I buy at Kroger. After reading FM’s October post about Revolut, I’m not sure the US Bank GC’s (that I could unload to Serve) will work but I’ll buy one today and give it a shot. No risk to me if it doesn’t.

JL
Guest
JL

Bad news: Just tried to load a US Bank VGC from Kroger and it was declined. There is a “2.0” release coming in a few days and I will try again.

Eric
Guest
Eric

For you people that buy money orders and deposit them in your bank account what is the reason you don’t just use those money orders to pay off your credit cards or other bills that don’t take credit card?

david
Guest
david

Eric,
1. Hassle to pay off credit card with a money order.
2. Don’t have enough other bills to make worthwhile.
3. Much easier to plop in a bank. Last I checked there are plenty of banks out there, at least where I live.

Eric
Guest
Eric

I just figured that people that are worried about getting in trouble with their bank (or worse) would find it less worrisome to pay the credit cards directly. How much in money orders do you deposit in your bank per month? Do you normally deposit them in the ATM or through the teller?

Dr. Bob
Guest
Dr. Bob

Glad I looked through the comments first as I was just going to ask the same question. I obtained 4x$300 gift cards from the recent Staples offer ($20 off each $600) so basically free (purpose – earned ~6,000 UR points). Converted the gift cards to 2 money orders for $599.31 each ($0.69 MO service charge) at Kroger. Am now in the process of mailing those checks to the credit card company to pay part of my bill. Anyone see a problem with that? Shouldn’t the credit card company apply the payments just like any other check?

Jack
Guest
Jack

As long as they don’t get lost in the mail. Probably be better if you could walk into the your credit card’s bank and pay your account at the counter. I think you can do this at most banks. I wouldn’t feel safe putting MO in the mail.

Dr. Bob
Guest
Dr. Bob

Thanks, that was my only concern also. Unfortunately no Chase Banks in my state, closest 246 miles away. The MO stub has info what to do if it is lost or stolen and as long as you follow those instructions (fill out the front and photocopy & keep stub – which I did) then you can stop payment and get your money back. Anyone ever have this experience?

Eric
Guest
Eric

Doesn’t a MO work like a check though in the sense that only the recipient is allowed to cash it?

Dr. Bob
Guest
Dr. Bob

Just a quick follow-up, the credit card company processed the money orders just like any other check that they would receive, so no issues.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Did you make out the MO to the bank or yourself?

JustSaying
Guest
JustSaying

http://laptoptravel.blogspot.com/2016/01/american-express-decides-to-dismantle.html

Excellent recap of what is going on……….the Fed is cracking down and the shit is rolling downhill…..

Dale
Guest
Dale

Has anyone tried IRS estimated payments and had to registered the gift card(metabank)?

Rdewal
Guest
Rdewal

Just tried to load a $50 MasterCard gift card using hockey Ben’s promo code to sign up. Revolut would not take it to load. Now what?

Eric
Guest
Eric

FM wrote it in his original post that gc didn’t get accepted in the system. I doubt it changed that fast.

TethAdam
Guest
TethAdam

smh….

JL
Guest
JL

Hehe. This is what will separate the men from the boys. I’ve been mulling a bunch of scenarios today and I’ve got some good ideas that need more exploring and research. MS is still alive and kicking if you do the legwork.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

I keep reading that the Kate kiosks in Walmart sell money orders but can’t figure out how to do it. Has anyone had success with this? What option do you choose from the main screen?

HockeyCoachBen
Guest
HockeyCoachBen

Ok I wanted to follow-up after posting last night. I just spoke to a “senior” rep from Revolut. They said they have a strict policy that requires the name on your account to match the name on the debit (or gift) card that you use to load your Revolut account. That makes a lot of sense why some off the shelf cards work and some don’t.

Also, he said, in version 2.0 they “hope and expect” to have a true ACH transfer system which would be fee free for US bank account holders.

Also, from a friend of mine who works for Capital One, two “enhancements” for their accounts & reloadable cards…
(1) CapitalOne 360 accounts will soon have a fee free option to load cash at major retailers. They will also accept some of the major reloading options such as GreenDot moneypak.
(2) CapitalOne Prepaid cards also charge zero foreign transaction fees and are already reloadable at the register at major retailers like Staples, Target, CVS, etc.

So this may be two more options for MS, thus allowing free “dumps” to Revolut.

JL
Guest
JL

Thx for the info. Interestingly, the US Bank gift card can be changed to your name, address, phone number and that still failed today. The CapOne card sounds interesting and I’ll look into that.

HockeyCoachBen
Guest
HockeyCoachBen

Darn. Sorry that didn’t work. Unfortunately, since I’m just a casual observer (don’t really do MS) but love to help where I can, I only go on information that I’m told. Maybe…just guessing here…the physical reload card must be imprinted with your name not just having your name registered to the card via the card issuers website? Just an idea. Like I said, I’m 100% sure the custom
Printed Walmart Money Card does work with Recolut and can be reloaded via MS options like GreenDot.

Sorry this didn’t work out better from r folks. I thought I was onto a real winner!

HockeyCoachBen
Guest
HockeyCoachBen

Sorry for all of the typos in my posts. Usually read and post from an iPhone…and it is making me look bad!

Jennifer Stiko
Guest
Jennifer Stiko

Wait, so you can reload Walmart money cards with Greendot? I assume you buy Greendot somewhere with your CC? Then, use the walmart card to upload to revolut? THANKS!!

Kile
Guest
Kile

Thanks for the circles and arrows post. Can’t wait until these routes are dead slaughtered, too.

JL
Guest
JL

One door closes (Serve) and one door opens (Venmo). Thank you AMEX for turning me on to Venmo.

Gerald
Guest
Gerald

Just googled Venmo. It’s part of Paypal, which is far from MS friendly. I suspect Venmo isn’t going to work for liquidating VGCs.

Greg
Guest
Greg

Can’t use Vanilla Visa cards with Venmo. MetaBank cards from Staples work, but a 3% fee applies. Not really a cost-effective option.

JL
Guest
JL

At the time I wrote that (January 2016), I was able to unload US Bank VGC’s fee free (about $1,000 worth). Unfortunately, I quickly found out that there was a limit to the number of cards one could add per year so I dumped that option and moved on. I did research all of the online person-to-person payment options and none of them really worked very well for MS.

Overall, I’ve been in this game less than a year and I’m on my fourth iteration of unloading VGC’s. One has to stay agile in order to keep playing the game. Also, I’ve found various forums that do a great job of keeping me up to speed on the latest news. My comments from two months ago are basically a lifetime in the MS world.

trackback

[…] If you’re in to manufactured spend and got stuck with a bunch of gift cards when Bluebird got shut down, Frequent Miler has suggestions for liquidating. […]

kot
Guest
kot

The only common pattern that I see is that somehow all the bloggers where safe from the account shutdown ……

Nico
Guest
Nico

I never got big into the MS game — but, of course, I bought $1200 in GCs a few days before this shutdown. I actually didn’t even have a Serve acct yet (haven’t closed my never-used Redbird yet).

I have a dumb question though. For the past couple of years, I’ve liquidated rebate GCs via Square reader. I’m talking $300 here, $400 there four or five times a year. I also have a PayPal reader and have used that on occasion….Square is just quicker (next day deposit). Yes, there is a 3% fee. Is there any other problem using Square to liquidate? In other words, do they ban people for this?

Chris
Guest
Chris

I didn’t receive that email. I bought 2 VGCs to try to load to my BB last night. I don’t have a close WM KATE so I used POS. After I confirmed the amount to load, cashier told me this card can’t be loaded. I haven’t tried to load with other “real” debit cards or cash. But that’s end of my BB game…. too bad.

Unload these 1000 VGCs? I am thinking to wait until Costco accept them this APR.

trackback

[…] listed additional options for liquidating gift cards here: Bluebird Serve Birdpocalypse: How to liquidate remaining gift cards.  While many people gravitate towards buying money orders due to their very low fees, I don’t […]

mike
Guest
mike

So what do I do with my us bank issued visa and master cards I am sitting on from kroger. If yall are saying Walmart will allow us to buy money orders why can’t yall just open a business bank account and minimize the risks of the bank shutting it down due to money order deposits. And is bluebird and serve the same. This probably a dumb question but I have bluebird. Will I be able to swipe my gift cards to reload my bluebird?

mike
Guest
mike

Also I have recently had to send in documents to paypal for swiping some of my cards that,way. They say that they where labeled “a gift for you” I have a business paypal and had to wait 2 days for them to lift my hold. But I have a serious question. If I register my gift cards will it still be labeled “a gift for you”? If it han f ed that label afyer registering maybe I can continue to swipe into my paypal and they see its a person’s card and not a gift card.

trackback

[…] Bluebird Serve Birdpocalypse: How to liquidate remaining gift cards […]

Payal
Guest
Payal

How do i use my unused visa Giftcards to buy MO? Where do i buy them? Best place? And any fee associated to buy the MO?

And can MO be deposited to my bank account?

trackback

[…] Bluebird Serve Birdpocalypse: How to liquidate remaining gift cards […]

trackback

[…] Opportunities come and go all the time.  If you’ve found one way to liquidate gift cards that’s good, but it’s not enough.  I recommend finding at least 2 distinct options before investing heavily in gift cards.  If you get stuck with a bunch of gift cards anyway, please check out this post for ideas: Bluebird Serve Birdpocalypse: How to liquidate remaining gift cards. […]

Dan
Guest
Dan

Hi Greg,

Have you found out any way to liquidate MC gift cards? They don’t work at WM.

Thanks!

Payal
Guest
Payal

My Local Grocery store has $500 MC’s issued by U.S. Bank. They accept apple pay. Once i buy them, where can these Mastercard GC’s issued by US Bank be liquidated? Any Idea? I am trying to utilize CF Q1 5% CB Bonus.

trackback

[…] starters, when I read Frequent Miler’s post on how to liquidate some Visa or MasterCard gift cards you may have been stuck with when your Bluebird died, I couldn’t help but think that many of […]