REDbird to be rolled out nationwide, and other hints from a recent focus group

Note: As of October 13, 2015, 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”

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?

REDbird is the nickname I use for the Target Prepaid REDcard.  The nickname serves two purposes: it clearly differentiates this Target REDcard from the other two Target REDcards (debit and credit); and it conveys important information: this card is very similar to Walmart’s Bluebird card.  Bluebird and REDbird are so similar, in fact, that each person is only allowed to register one or the other (or another similar card: Serve).  For more about these American Express prepaid cards, please see: The complete guide to Bluebird, REDcard, Serve, and SoftServe.

While there are many important differences between these cards, there are two key differences that I’ll discuss in this post:

Recently, a reader was invited to a marketing focus group with select REDbird (Target Prepaid REDcard) customers.  While the purpose of the focus group was for American Express and Target to learn from their customers, this reader was able to glean a bit of useful information from the focus group moderator…

Target_Prepaid_REDcard

Nationwide roll-out is coming. We don’t know when.

From the beginning it has been clear that Amex and Target have been test marketing REDbird.  In approximately half of the test market they sold the starter card for $5. Everywhere else, the card was free.  Clearly they were trying to determine whether or not a $5 fee was a deterrent.  The part that hasn’t been clear is whether they would ever roll out the card nationwide.  If the initial tests went poorly, would they scrap the whole project?  The good news is that the focus group session strongly suggested that Amex and Target are planning a nationwide rollout.  Here are quotes from the reader who attended the focus group (bolding is mine):

The first half was dedicated to questions about the card’s features; the second half was purely marketing, e.g. do you like this card package or this one?, is there anything confusing about the instructions?  During the second half the moderator advised that they were going to roll out the card country-wide (she did not say when) and wanted to ask us some questions to make sure they got it right.

..

The second half of the session, the marketing part, contained a lot of questions about the color of the packaging, the size of the AmEx logo, the instructions that came with the card, the conversion to chip + pin (which is apparently going to be rolled out later this year, perhaps in conjunction with the nation-wide roll-out of the card?), etc.

While I hope that the rollout will be sooner, my best guess is that the nationwide rollout will be a year from the date that the cards first hit shelves in the test markets.  In other words, I’m predicting an October 2015 nationwide rollout.  Hopefully the rollout will be accompanied by some things lacking in the initial rollout: a mobile app, Amex Sync Offers, etc.

The future of credit card loads remains unknown

The focus group attendee was most interested in the future of credit card loads, so he detailed related parts of the focus group session (bolding is mine):

My group had 7 people and the moderator.  Of the 7 people in my group 4 had professional-type jobs and 3 did not.

The four professionals were clearly only using the prepaid card because of the ability to reload it with a credit card.

I stated that I saw the card in a Target store in Cleveland … and became interested in it because I already had a Target credit card.  I stated that the ability to load it with a cc was attractive to me because that way I could save 5% like I was doing before but also get the benefit of credit card points.  I told them that either me or my wife shop at Target 4-5 times a week (which is true) because there is one so close to our house.  I wanted to continue to get the 5% discount while also earning credit card points.

The questions did not revolve around loading it with a credit card.  The moderator did not quiz us on this or probe into this feature BUT she seemed to be well aware of it.  She passed us some brochures that they either are using or plan to use about the card and they did not specifically mention the ability to reload with a credit card.  Someone pointed this out to her but she kind of ignored it and moved the discussion another direction.  She did not say that they were going to eliminate cc loads but she did not confirm its continued viability, either.  At one point she did bluntly ask, “If you could not re-load with a credit card, would you still keep the card?”  The … professionals all stated, “no.”  The others were not concerned with losing this feature.  In fact, the three non-professionals did not seem to even be aware that it could be loaded with a cc.

So there you have it: no real information was given about the future of credit card loads.  Unsurprisingly, they (Target and Amex) are aware of the ability to load by credit card. The good news is that maybe they’ll be swayed to keep the feature by focus group attendees who said they would ditch the card if credit card loads were no longer allowed.

Ultimately, Target will have to decide whether the benefits of allowing credit card loads outweigh their costs.  After all, Target must pay a credit card processing fee each time they accept a credit card for a reload.  If we assume that they average about 1.5% in fees (I’m assuming they’ve negotiated low fees), then their costs could average around $75 per month for REDbird customers who load the maximum of $5000 per month.  In return, they’ll almost certainly make many more sales.  I know that I’ve bought far more at Target in the past few months since picking up REDbird than I ever have before.  Yes, the automatic 5% discount helps, but there’s more to it than that: 1) I’m in the store anyway to do the reload so I might as well pickup other things I need; and 2) I feel compelled to reward Target with my business.  They’ve made REDbird incredibly easy to use and rewarding, so why not exchange the favor and shop more there?

Ultimately, my guess is that they’ll keep credit card reloads.  I expect that they like the idea of drawing more professionals into their stores and they certainly like the idea of people making more purchases at Target while they’re there.

Other questions

For those interested, the focus group attendee listed a number of questions that were asked:

o Tell me a little about yourself.

o How do you pay for items, cash/debit/credit?

o What comes to your mind when I say, “American Express”

o How often do you shop at Target?  Do you have other Target cards, credit or debit?

o How did you learn about the Prepaid card?

o Why did you get this card?

o How much did you put on the initial load?

o How do you use it?

o How do you re-load it and how easy is that process?

o Did you know you could use it outside of Target?

o Do you use the card?

o What features do you like/dislike?

o Anything confusing about the card?

o What problems did you have setting up the card?

Read more about REDbird:



Also:


Last updated on March 31st, 2019

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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ABC
Guest
ABC

” In return, they’ll almost certainly make many more sales.”
Wishful thinking. Most business are willing to take a hit on customer acquisition costs not customer preservation cost. I would guestimate that >90% of loaded dollar are from MSer. And most have 2 or more cards costing Target $2k/year to “keep” those extra store purchases. Margins aren’t that great. This will soon be a lost MS opportunity.

CLP
Guest
CLP

Once it officially hits CA and NY it’s game over

GordonBombay
Guest
GordonBombay

Some locations in NY are already starting to reject CC loads. Every store has different policies.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Yep, the Target at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn is already cash/debit only. This is the most convenient location by far for those who work in Midtown or Downtown Manhattan and don’t have a car. You don’t even have to go outside to get from the subway station to the Target. There are other targets, but they are further away and often involve a bit of a walk.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Can anyone else confirm this? I live around the corner from Atlantic Terminal and I just made a weekend trip to Mass to get a REDBird. Still waiting for it in the mail. If this is true and we can’t use CC can we still use AGC?

Tom
Guest
Tom

Multiple reports on flyertalk. The blog outandout had a post the other day and I’ve been twice in the last week.

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

Yes, I can confirm. Atlantic Ave only accepts debit/cash. Harlem works, loaded last Saturday.

Alex
Guest
Alex

Major bummer. How about using AGCs?

HonestlyTho
Guest
HonestlyTho

I work in market research and I’m not sure that the moderator skirting around the issue means they’re well aware of it being able to load with a CC. If the moderator worked for a 3rd party company, she/he may not be aware of the future of CC loads and not be able to answer that question.

Audrey Fisch
Guest
Audrey Fisch

According to Harlan of Out and Out, he was able to load at a NY Target only once (previously) before being told “cash or debit only” yesterday.

dean
Guest
dean

I would imagine once nationally rolled-out, while is *may* allow CC loads, it will be severely curtailed…at least in respect to the MSers piling in on it. Greg himself said he uses 3 or 4 cards…that’s 20k/month, * $75 per, that’s a loss of $300 PER MONTH on this one MSer alone. Depending on the avg. profit margin of store items (we’ll say grocery), how much would have to be spend PER MONTH, in order for Target to break-even? Now multiply that out and there is very little chance CC loads will still be a viable option at the current allowable limits. Debit cards server a few demographics…one being that the holder can’t and/or doesn’t like getting a CC themselves. The “smart” play with consumers of this nature are ones that would only load the amt. necessary for the items they need to purchase since they’ll save 5% off the top. In short, b/c THOSE customers only loading what they “need” in order to buy at Target, they may end up making a slightly larger average purchase b/c of the 5% incentive. The loading of the CC very well is meant to be for persons to “top off” their debit card in order to make those fringe purchase and/or impulse purchases. It is NOT meant for loading $2500/day and buying $40 of groceries.

As for the CC load ?, the other poster mentioned they may be 3rd party…or that they astutely picked-up on a “concern” of a member of the focus group, but they fate of the CC load was already written in stone. When people are willing to pay upwards of $6.95 for a $200 “debit” card (ok technically credit like instrument) you’d got to be wearing rose colored glasses to think it’ll stick around…and hence why the MSers are pounding the living crap out of this card right now.

I hope I’m wrong…but I doubt it.

josefismael
Guest
josefismael

So here’s a question – how much am I costing them when I pay bills through the service? I like to “keep up appearances” when it comes to card usage, and to keep usage as legit as possible. Is this actually costing them money? Do they have to pay fees to Checkfree?

LoneTree
Guest
LoneTree

“I know that I’ve bought far more at Target in the past few months since picking up REDbird than I ever have before.”

All my prepaid loads go straight back to the CC via billpay. For any Target purchases I use the old Target Debit card that still gives 5% off plus a donation to my old school. But I do buy a starbucks cappuccino every time I’m at Target, so I guess my spending increased?

Scott
Guest
Scott

I have to agree that the load with credit card feature is going to go away. I’m sure we’ve already hammered them pretty hard for it.

If that goes away, I’ll go back to Serve probably. I’d keep the red card, obviously if they would allow me to have both. I have been using to make purchases at target.

Mark M
Guest
Mark M

We also have shifted most of our grocery spend to Target from Kroger, so we now spend at least $1000 a month there that we didn’t before RedBird. I hope they see that it is profitable for them to keep allowing cc loads!

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

This is what happened to me as well. Walmart and a large regional chain is a little bit closer to me, but now that I’ve been in and out of a Target pretty frequently, I find I much, much prefer their store. The prices are a touch higher than Walmart, but I’ll spend the extra few bucks to not have to walk into a Walmart ever again. The service at Target is SIGNIFICANTLY better. I lost my receipt for a pair of snow pants that I bought my daughter, which ended up being to small. The CS rep was able to look it up in moments using the REDcard I used to pay for it. The same exact scenario (different product a few months ago) at Walmart resulted in a 4 day runaround. I ultimately had to go to the woman in the “cash office” as apparently, she was the only one with the power in the entire store to look up a receipt by credit card.

wise2u
Guest
wise2u

Nobody knows the fee arrangement Target has with Amex on this card. What is certain is every redbird customer will visit the store to load (with or without CC) and likely shop there more to take advantage of the 5% discount afforded by the card. Loss leaders are common with companies this size and target has been innovative with online couponing the last few years.
I would prefer the rollout take a while, which would likely keep the same rules in play as far as CC loads until it becomes national and gets fine tuned.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Though I hope they will maintain the CC load I think it will be history once they go nationwide. They’ll have a years worth of data likely showing them that those who utilize the load with CC option load to max and drain to near zero every month. I don’t know what their deal is with AMEX but it probably cost target money if the those loading 5k with CC fees per month are not also purchasing 5k of goods in the store per month. I hope I am wrong.

Dee
Guest
Dee

Our local Target manager (Pittsburgh) stopped Hubby and me to ask us about our use of the Redcard. He was baffled that so many people were maxing them out. We explained about paying mortgage, bills, shopping at Target, etc + getting CC pts. For a while, he only let supervisors load cards because he was so confused. Now any cashier can do it. He must have talked to enough customers to put his mind at ease.

Brandon
Guest
Brandon

A fellow yinnzer! What store do you frequent?

Chris
Guest
Chris

I’m a yinzer too! Can usually find me in the S. Hills Village or McKnight Rd Targets!

Didn’t think there were many other Pittsburghers here:)

Cardbeagle
Guest

Ex-yinzer but I picked up the card on a visit.
I think Redbird is part of the recovery marketing from the data breach. I encourage cardholders to spend in the store so we can continue to enjoy one of the better ms’ing opportunities.

Chris
Guest
Chris

Ryan B.??

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

My guess would be that Target keeps the CC loading but reduces it a lot (to 1,000 – 2,000 per month). Something more in line with Serve (maybe more since swipe fees are probably less than keyed in costs). Since it’s cobranded I assume both Amex and Target are willing to throw a little money at it versus Bluebird and Serve which are independent products despite being aligned with Wal-Mart. I always assumed any fees were offset by getting people into the store and enticing them with 5% off (and possibly something about holding onto your money for a few days). Isn’t it true that most big box stores have special deals with CC companies where they don’t actually pay 2-3% per swipe? It’s all just a guess. Without knowing the dealings and cost behind everything it’s all just speculation.

Laarni
Guest
Laarni

i tried to reload at a Target in TX today and I was told no CC

NoonRadar
Guest

I’d make sure they know you’re talking about the “prepaid REDcard” and not the debit or credit one. Would also try a diff cashier, asked them to “can we please try and see what happens” and if not move on to a diff Target, assuming its not too far.

If you don’t mind sharing, what city was this in TX?

Laarni
Guest
Laarni

That’s what I’m hoping too that since they’re not familiar with the prepaid kind they’ve thought I have the debit one. The lady at the customer service wasn’t too nice so I didn’t push it. I might try it in a different Target in Southern Dallas.

Sam
Guest
Sam

It’s hard to load redbirds now , I can only imagine what’s going to happen once its rolled out nationwide… Everyday my target comes up with new rules.. The latest is you only load 1k and that’s it.. It’s becoming frustrating as it is.. And now this……

NoonRadar
Guest

We’re all paranoid about the cc loads going away soon. The good news is that it’s merely our paranoia (scared guess more than educated guess) and we don’t know jack about whether it will or it won’t, or when 🙂

Also, we don’t know the cost/benefit of Target about this (maybe they pay a bulk fee for cc processing REDcard and not each time), neither their focus, i.e. to actually make money in initial roll-out year(s) or to inflate growth via sales.

As for the nationwide roll-out, while I personally would benefit if that gets delayed indefinitely (since I provide/sell these online for people who don’t have them locally) my guess is that the more success REDcard has at current markets, the sooner it will be rolled out nationwide. Again, success depends on what Target’s aims are, and also Amex’s (hope they double down on REDcard since they’re loosing Costco).

Thx for the focus group news article and for keeping the precious REDcard on your radar continuously.

616 MG
Guest

If you are located in a state that has not yet rolled out the prepaid Target REDcard, please feel free to visit http://www.616mg.com to purchase an instant digital or physical prepaid REDcard.

Be sure to use coupon code FREQUENT for $5 off your order!

Carl C
Guest
Carl C

I ordered 2 from 616 MG successfully with no issues. Registered and permanent cards are on the way. I previously picked up 3 on a road trip, but didn’t feel like driving 3 hours and this was a nice compromise.

James Johnson
Guest
James Johnson

DO NOT TRUST. There are legitimate sellers but this guy is a SCAMMER.

JohnnyAppleSale
Guest
JohnnyAppleSale

Like others mentioned, I think CC loads are done. But debit/cash loads probably won’t. IME Walmart runs were horrific as Kate was giving me the random PIN error code and the cashiers were panicked when making substantial deposits while I panicked saying the amount in proximity to toothless, mullet Walmart goers. At least Target has comforting cashiers and good clientele reducing my chances of getting mugged in the parking lot.

As far as net impact. I admittedly spend more at Target just like I did at CVS/Walmart. However, in net I highly doubt that Target’s profit from my newly spending habits offsets my CC loading costs.

JohnnyAppleSale
Guest
JohnnyAppleSale

Like others mentioned, I think CC loads are done. But debit/cash loads probably won’t. IME Walmart runs were horrific as Kate was giving me the random PIN error code and the cashiers were panicked when making substantial deposits while I panicked saying the amount in proximity to toothless, mullet Walmart goers. At least Target has comforting cashiers and good clientele reducing my chances of getting mugged in the parking lot.

As far as net impact. I admittedly spend more at Target just like I did at CVS/Walmart. However, in net I highly doubt that Target’s profit from my newly spending habits offsets my CC loading costs.

Geoff
Guest
Geoff

“…toothless mullet Walmart goers…”?
That’s hilarious.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Hoping someone here can help me out. I have a redcard and reloaded it a few times at my local target. The last two weeks though every time I try to load it, when the CS rep scans my card it just brings up a refunding screen and provides no option to load at all. They have no idea why and 7 phone calls and 4 hours on hold with the card reps have been fruitless, except to make clear there is no reason my card shouldn’t be working? Anyone else experience this or find a workaround?

Eric
Guest
Eric

Has anyone had any success loading RedBird in North Carolina (particularly western NC)? My store says they can’t load redbird at all…

Joe
Guest
Joe

I just tried to pick up a Redbird at three stores in Greensboro that were listed as participating. All three said they had been instructed to pull the cards due to technical issues.

Kampung
Guest
Kampung

Alternatively, they may keep the CC load option to appease the ‘professionals’ but tweak the daily or monthly load limit. So instead of 2,500 per day, they may limit to 250 or 500 per day, which means 10 or 20 visits to Target in a month (more traffic), which may deter some MSers from maxing out. Or 2,500 limit per month.

Josh
Guest
Josh

REDBird clearly offers a treasure trove of info to their marketing machine. Heck, they knew girls were pregnant before their parents did. I’d imagine the sting of CC fees, if they even pay the full amount that others have suggested, is reduced if consumer spending increases on an instrument that is tied to your personal info (e.g. DOB, SSN, license). I personally believe that CC loads will remain, though maybe not at 5k a month, due purely to the clientele that Target wants to attract.

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[…] REDbird to be rolled out nationwide, and other hints from a recent focus group – Interesting information learned from a recent REDbird related focus group. […]

J
Guest
J

Question in how you’re doing your REDbird charges @ T. Are you doing $1000, $1000, then $500 all separately, or is there some other way you’re doing it? I seem to keep getting flagged by AMEX.

Thanks.

JL
Guest
JL

You have to load $2,500 in three chunks ($1,000, $1,000, and $500). I tried it one time and the POS terminal said something the amount was too low. In terms of the account getting flagged, I always call ahead to my CC and say that I am buying $2,500 worth of gift cards.

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[…] as much as loading prepaids takes up employee time, it also brings customers into the store. FrequentMiler went as far as saying that Target may decide to consciously allow credit card loads on REDbird so […]

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