REDbird grounded. Now what?

Note: As of 10/13/15 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”

We didn’t know when it would happen, but we all knew it was coming.  The fact that Target allowed customers to use credit cards to reload the Target Prepaid REDcard (AKA REDbird) was almost too good to be true.  Those of us who hopped on the bandwagon early have enjoyed this perfect perpetual point machine for the past 7 months.  It went like this:

  1. Load REDbird with credit card at Target.  Earn credit card rewards from the “purchase”.
  2. Log into REDbird account, pay credit card bill
  3. Repeat

To increase rewards further, some of us added a step:

  1. Go through a cash back portal to buy Amex gift cards.  Earn both credit card rewards and cash back.
  2. Load REDbird with Amex gift cards at Target.
  3. Log into REDbird account, pay credit card bill
  4. Repeat

Either way, it was awesome… for us.  Target, though, ended up paying the credit card transaction fees for loading REDbird, but gained little in return (for the record: I did do a tremendous amount of shopping at Target during this period, but probably not nearly enough for Target to come out ahead with my business).

REDbird_steps_on_Bluebird

REDbird over Bluebird… I used to feature an image like this in presentations, but now that the two cards are roughly equal, I’ll have to change my PowerPoint slides.

 

It’s easy to be right when you make enough predictions

Target stopped allowing credit card reloads on May 6th 2015 (For Person of Interest fans please note that this was the same date as “The Correction.”  Coincidence?  I think not).  This came almost exactly 7 months after REDbird was first introduced.  The Target Prepaid REDcard was first seen in stores on October 5th 2014 (See: Amex introduces new Bluebird-like Target REDcard!).

A reader recently noted that I originally predicted that credit card loads would last 6 months.  That guess was almost spot on.  However, I also publicly predicted 9 months (and I made a bet with a friend to that effect so I now owe him a category 4 SPG night).  And, more recently, I started predicting that credit card loads would last a full year.  In other words, if you want to be right (or close to it), follow my lead and predict everything… something will stick.

Return to Bluebird or Serve?

A number of people have asked me if I now plan to go back to Bluebird or Serve in place of REDbird.  After all, you can only have one (see: The Complete Guide to Bluebird, REDcard, and Serve).  The the other cards do have a few advantages over REDbird such as the ability to signup for Amex Offers and Small Business Saturday.

In the short term, the answer is no.  I’ll stick with REDbird.  For me, REDbird was always primarily about my preference for Target over Walmart.  That hasn’t changed.  Plus, unlike Walmart, Target continues to treat Vanilla Visa gift cards as the debit cards they are.  Since Vanilla Visa gift cards are easily purchased at many drug stores, Office Depot (max $200 denominations by credit card), and even at Target itself, this is a huge benefit.

Longer term, I might convert one or two of the cards I manage from REDbird to Serve (I currently manage 5 cards for myself, my wife, my sister, my niece, and a friend).  Doing so, though, will mean a commitment to visiting Walmart a couple times per month.  I’m not really sure that I’m willing to do that to myself.

Dealing with Amex gift cards

While writing this, the UPS guy showed up at my door with a big pile of Amex gift cards that I had ordered on Tuesday when TopCashBack offered 2.25% cash back.  The original plan was to use these to load REDbird at Target.  That plan is now out the window.  Fortunately, I have an easy alternative.  I’m aware of a few stores in my area that will let me buy $500 Visa gift cards and pay with Amex gift cards.  Sure, I’ll incur a fee for each gift card of around 1%, but its well worth it – it simply eats into my 2.25% portal earnings.  It’s a bit more work, but I’ll still be well ahead.

Note that this solution is extremely location sensitive.  There are stores in my town within the same chain that do not allow Amex gift cards as payment.  And, I’ve heard from some readers that wherever they live they’ve been unable to find stores that accept credit card payments at all for gift cards, let alone Amex gift card payments.

It used to be possible to buy Visa gift cards online at GiftCardMall and pay with Amex gift cards, but that option has long since dried up.  For a few ideas of what is still possible, please see: How to spend down Amex gift cards.

The path forward.  Is Necker Island at risk?

Some of you may remember my ridiculous decision to earn and burn 1.2 million Virgin Atlantic miles for a week at Richard Branson’s Necker Island (see: 420,000 miles closer to Necker Island).  The strategy is basically to sign up for a huge number of Virgin Atlantic credit cards.  Each signup requires $12,000 spend.  REDbird would have made that spend easy.  Actually, it still does.  Going forward, rather than buying Amex gift cards, I’ll buy $500 Visa gift cards.  Unlike Amex gift cards, Visa gift cards can be used as debit cards to load REDbird.  Done.

Of course the math changes significantly.  Before, I was earning a cash profit in addition to miles (thanks to the Amex gift card portal cash back).  Now, I’ll lose money on the deal (due to Visa gift card purchase fees) while still earning miles.  If I wanted to, I could still profit by continuing to buy Amex gift cards and then using them to buy Visa gift cards, but the extra work isn’t worth it to me.  I prefer to keep it simple: buy gift cards, load REDbird, repeat.

See also:  Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards.

Last updated on October 14th, 2015

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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Carl
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Carl

I prefer Bluebird, but that is because I have a perfectly functioning kiosk only a few minutes from my home. Also, Target does not sell Redbird here and I can’t justify traveling all the way to the mainland to get a Redbird, assuming the clerks here would even know how to load it. I only MS for minimum spend anyway, so Bluebird is a good solution for me.

Danielle
Guest
Danielle

According to a meeting held at my local WM, Kate will soon lose her ability to load VGC. That is why I bailed on bb and serve. At least I can still use them at target.

Me Too
Guest
Me Too

I wonder if thus is why I had trouble loading buxx cards yesterday. Though I couldn’t eve load $1 using my bank DC.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Kate?

Danielle
Guest
Danielle

Kate is the atm machine you can use to load at WM. They money center now asks to see the debit card and will only use ones with bank name and costumer name printed on the card, and that the atm will soon be coded not to be able to load bb and serve with a debit card.

Allen
Guest
Allen

Regarding visa gc, what’s the best way to take advantage of chase ink 5% at office supply stores? OD do not allow credit card for variable vgc hence no $500 option, and the $200 cards 3.5% activation fee makes it hardly worth it. Am I missing something?

PhatMiles
Guest
PhatMiles

You are not missing the outlined facts. Ability to buy $500 cards at Office stores would be super nice but that is not an option. Buying $200 cards with a $6.95 fee makes sense only if you know what you are going to use those UR for. My calculation is like this:
Buy $200 VGC @ Staples using Ink
Cost : $206.95
UR Earned: 1035 (rounding)
CPM : 0.7 cents
If you are using ink plus, there is a 1% cashback at staples for purchases above $200 I guess
If you are going to redeem the UR for 1c cash or 1.25c UR travel portal then you are coming out profitable but not by a whole lot, since you have to factor in the liquidating efforts as well.
If you are going to transfer to airlines/hotels for better redemption then this makes more sense. How much more? Only you can tell.
I travel to India once a year where the avg Economy tickets cost $1400 round trip. My idea is, with the same $1400 I would like to travel in Biz class.
UA charges 160K miles rt to India. At my above calc, 160K will cost me $1075 and a lot of liquidating efforts as well. The left over money would cover the lost opportunity cost(points+miles when paid the economy ticket with cash, taxes and fees etc). With me and wife needing 320K, we have decided to do 1-way economy and 1-way biz which gets us to 240K for 2 rts to India. I am telling all this, for you to assess your needs and come to reality redemption values. Any questions, post here and I will try to answer them for you. Good Luck!

Gerald
Guest
Gerald

What 1% cash back at Staples? If you’re referring to Visa SavingsEdge, that ended a while ago (and it applied to Ink Cash as well as Ink Plus).

Robin
Guest
Robin

Tried 2 OD’S last night. No longer allowing VGC purchase with CC. I’m talking about the fixed amount VGC. spend $600 get $40 off instantly is a no go.

THEsocalledfan
Guest
THEsocalledfan

If you could get past your hatred of Walmart, you can return to profitability. Continue to buy Amex GC, and do what I do, buy Sunnie Visa’s at Walmart. Walk out of store, remove from packaging, and walk back in with your Bluebird or Serve and load. Or do Walmart bill pay…….

Robin
Guest
Robin

not familar with Sunnie at Walmart, what is that?

THEsocalledfan
Guest
THEsocalledfan

@Robin Head to Walmart; I bet you will figure it out if you look around a bit.

Curious George
Guest
Curious George

What code do you enter for a pin with your AGC to buy Sunnies? The three digit code on the back of the card?

Barb
Guest
Barb

when I use AGCs to pay for Sunnies at WM, they run as credit and if I’m asked a code, I input the 4 digits on the right side of the card, above the account number. If not, I try the 3 digit CCV at the back and that works.

KP
Guest
KP

3 digits on the back of card works smoothly every time.

James
Guest
James

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think W*M will let you buy sunnies with credit

Barb
Guest
Barb

YMMV. My supercenters and neighborhood market accepts CCs (including AGCs) as payment for Sunnies and other GCs.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Well you can either eat the activation fees as part of the “cost” of MS, or you can pay it down using UR points and still have it be “free” but with you just earning fewer points overall. If you max out the monthly load on a REDbird, that would cost you $173.75 in activation fees on the $200 GCs at Staples or OD. You earn 25,070 in UR with an Ink card, so if you took care of the activation fees by paying with points, you’d spend 17,375 and net 7,695 UR points/month (per REDbird/BlueBird). That’s still over 90k UR points/year per card “earned.” All it costs you is your time.

Dan B
Guest
Dan B

Is the debit card monthly limit $5000? I thought it was the same as CC, $2500?

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

Hmm… my math was off a bit. You actually earn 25,175 points for every 5k you max out on prepaid loads each month. Adjust the rest and it gives you 7,800 UR points net.

M
Guest
M

Do the Amex GC come with your name printed on them?

Barb
Guest
Barb

if you order personalized cards, YES.

Stannis
Guest
Stannis

It’s really the extra step that we mourn with this loss, the part where we have to go to the office store to buy VGCs, and then go to Target. That’s why I liked VRs, Evolve, Serve Online, Redbird, you had to make only one stop and the rest was done in the comfort of your own home/office/starbucks.

Mark
Guest
Mark

Considering switching to Serve, but no WM around. Is loading Serve at Family Dollar hassle-free and does it carry the same 2.5k daily limit?

anon
Guest
anon

FD is a hassle, but you can use Vanilla to reload Serve there. Cashiers are not well-versed in how to do the reloads. I understand there is a daily limit of 500 or you run into problems, but I haven’t tried more than 500. Also if you try to use 100 off a 200 card (that is, 200 + 200 + 100), the second time you try to use the last 100 on that card (that is, to reload a second Serve), it gets declined. Vanilla says it’s not them, it’s FD.

Askevi
Guest
Askevi

Is CVS one of those places with local store policy, or can you reliably use a cc to buy the vanilla cards there. Or did they go cash only after the whole bluebird issue.

anon
Guest
anon

CVS allows purchase of $2000/day of GCs with cc, they ask for your drivers license for $500+.

Josh
Guest
Josh

I’m awaiting my permanent red card in the mail. I have a couple of questions however:

1. If I have multiple $200 Vanilla Visa cards that I want to use to load the red card, how do I do it? It seems very sketchy to say, “I want to load 1K on my Red Bird account using 5 different debit cards.” Is that what you say?

2. Is there a place that I can use the Vanilla Visa prepaid cards to purchase money orders? I tried two places this morning (Wal-Mart and Kroeger) and was turned down. I just don’t want to end up with tons of Vanilla Prepaids, but with the Office Depot sale, I want to buy as many as I can!
Thanks.

Josh

Alex
Guest
Alex

I would rather deal with Target employees than WM any day!

Clark Eggen
Guest
Clark Eggen

Thank you, this article was great! I wondered why I couldn’t use my credit card at target any more when I went yesterday. This is too bad as I was making money off the credit card companies. Love to be added to an email list or something of yours if any deals like this pop up in the future this deal was too good to be true!

josefismael
Guest
josefismael

Will be trying with simonmall GC’s today. From what I’ve read those will still work, and as far as I know still come with just a $3 fee (when purchased at B+M). So meeting a 3k minimum spend for a new card will cost me $18. I’m fine with that.

And hey….you still get 5% off all Target purchases 🙂

Sam
Guest
Sam

What store is B+M? Thanks for the help

KP
Guest
KP

Brick and Mortar…!
Physical Store in other words, I guess

Alex
Guest
Alex

Where is a good place to buy $500 Visa gift cards with a CC? I just found out about Redbird a couple weeks ago, got one, and signed myself and my wife up for three new credit cards so now I need to spend 10K in 3 months! I know it will cost me like $100 in GC fees but worth it for 100k UR and 50k Avios!

Second questions: How do you easily unload GC onto Redbird. Do you have to register and set a PIN for each one before going to Target? I was thinking of taking advantage of the Office Max deal but all stores around here no longer have $200 Visa cards, just $100. That would be a LOT of loading at Target and time consuming!

MilesCollector
Guest
MilesCollector

Alex, You can buy $500 GCs at any supermarkets and grocery stores with a flat $5.95 fee. I have bought several of these at Kroger and these are pin enabled and works both at WM as well as Target. Kroger often runs a promotion where if you buy 2 GCs worth $50 or more, then you get $5 off. This helps you offset the fees. Hope this helps.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Thanks for the feedback! I should have thought of grocery stores! The Fry’s (Kroger) in my area is currently offering 4x gas points on CG purchases so that should help offset the fees. How does it work loading at Target with a PIN? Do you need to set that in advance or just enter any four #s you want?

MilesCollector
Guest
MilesCollector

Alex. Just use whatever 4 digits you want. I always use last 4 digits of my phone #….:) You can use 9999 or 8888 and it will work.

KP
Guest
KP

Kroger does not pay any gas point on $500 GCs. So don’t think that it will offset your cost.

Treesha
Guest
Treesha

I bought 2 $500 VGC at Kroger’s last month. Went to load them on my Redbird on May 5th. One loaded fine. The other only had $33 on it; I had opened the package there in the Target store, so somehow the rest was stolen by hackers. I’m in the middle of disputing the charges now. Proceed with caution. And use the gift cards right away. The fraudulent charges on mine happened on May 4; I bought them on April 15.

KP
Guest
KP

I ran into same kind of trouble, but US bank was good to cancel those fraudulent purchases and sent me new $500 GC to my home address with my name printed on it..!
Of course, they will want to verify your purchase with a receipt. But be assured as long as you have a receipt, you are safe.

Treesha
Guest
Treesha

Thanks for sharing your experience. I hope mine goes as smoothly as yours.

Chris J
Guest
Chris J

What’s the max you can add with Serve at Walmart with debit cards (or Vanilla Visas) per day? I’m seeing $200, with a $1000 max for the month.

MilesCollector
Guest
MilesCollector

You can do $1000 per transaction and max of $2,500 per day. I have done this many times at WM when I had serve.

Tom
Guest
Tom

FM, do you still remember the infamous “Glimcher Visa Debit gift Card”? Have you tried it to load REDbird?

DTB
Guest
DTB

Greg-
I know you said doing the Amex gift cards(AGC) is an extra step.. but is it really?? Since it’s done online and they are delivered to your front door. As you said you would be making a net profit and aren’t you taking the same trip to buy the Visa Gift Cards( VGC) with either a CC or a AGC..I’d rather do it W/ 1.5-2% cash back in my pocket. Just a thought.
FYI Love your insight on so many things.

JL
Guest
JL

Yesterday I ordered a Serve and I’m going to play with AMEX CC loading of the Serve. I still have the Redbird if I need it.

Barb
Guest
Barb

@JL, hopefully, you meant registering Serve to another SSN, right? since both are amex products, you can’t have RB/BB and Serve using same SSN. you can only choose one and for those who want more cards, they need other people’s SSN with their permission, of course.

just FYI to others who may not be aware.

FL
Guest
FL

If I do not want to use the Target/AE Prepaid REDcard anymore and like to switch over to another AE prepard card, how can it be done? Call AE?

mike
Guest
mike

Alex: No Kroger gas points on the loadable $20-$500 gift cards

In answer to: Do the Amex GC come with your name printed on them? They can. You need to order personalized cards. Be aware it takes 5 business to get the personalized cards

trackback

[…] Then, Million Mile Secrets posted that the Target policy does appear to exist, though some stores seem to be unaware of the change in Redcard policy.  So, what next? […]

trackback

[…] was some to-do about Target last week (FrequentMiler). I have mixed feelings about my own addiction. It was so easy I […]

Rose
Guest
Rose

1. I need to spend $3,000 for my new credit card, so it means I need to pay $35.7 (6 x $5.95 fee) to purchase 6 $500 gift cards. Is it correct?

2. What kind of $500 gift cards should I buy to load to Target RedCard? Should I go to Office Depot/Staples/Office Max or supermarkets (Giant, Safeway, Wegmans…)? Definitely do not by AMEX gift cards, right?

3. Are there any other quick ways to spend $3,000 without too much extra costs? I know Amazon Payments, RedCrad, and Serve are all out.

trackback

[…] 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?“ […]

trackback

[…] 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?“ […]

trackback

[…] 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?“ […]

JL
Guest
JL

FYI, FM’s recommendations for closing down the Bluebird also work with the Redbird. I just closed my Redbird account in order to get another Serve using this method:

1.) Login with normal credentials.
2.) Empty account. You may have to wait a day or so for the transaction to finalize.
3.) Use this URL: https://secure.prepaidredcard.com/Profile/CloseAccount

Overall, Redbird was a great card to learn about MS but Serve will work just as well for me and I don’t have to visit a physical store anymore.

JL
Guest
JL

One more note: Not 2 minutes after I cancelled the Redbird, I was able to sign up for the Serve using the same SSN and email I previously used for the Redbird.

Dan B
Guest
Dan B

I left BB and went red b/c I couldn’t get past the 9 digit pin requirement at WM moneycenter. It was asked for regardless if I picked BB or WM money. I use visa GC’s from Meta. Has anyone got past the 9 digit pin?

Derek
Guest
Derek

Supposedly, Target in San Jose in CA no longer takes VGC. The associate said the store policy is not to take third party gift cards. “It has to have your name on it or each time it happens, we get fined.” … Don’t know why San Jose fines Target, but it’s time to change my name to “gift card recepient.”

David
Guest
David

I don’t see any Vanilla Visa gift cards at Kroger. I do see Green Dot Visa gift/debit cards. Will those work?

NoonRadar
Guest

I doubt you’d be able to buy Green Dot Visa gift/debit cards at Kroger with a credit card. Or so I assumed (haven’t tried)…I’d be interested to know if you can though.

trackback

[…] the post “REDbird grounded. Now what?” I described how I would deal with Amex gift cards I had on […]

trackback

[…] 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?“ […]

trackback

[…] 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?“ […]

trackback

[…] 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?“ […]