Switching between Bluebird, REDbird, and Serve

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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”

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

Bluebird, REDbird (the Target Prepaid REDcard), Serve, and Serve with Softcard…  These are prepaid reloadable American Express cards intended to be viable fee-free checking account alternatives.  Even better, they are all good choices for those who primarily want to earn miles and points.  The problem is… each person can have only one.  And, each has its own strengths.  For details see:

So, what if you decide you want to switch from one type of card to another?  The key is to close the old account and then open a new one.  You can’t simply call Amex and ask them to switch you over.

Here are a few pointers:

1. Optional: Max out your old card early in the month

Each card has a $5,000 in-store + reload card load limit per calendar month.  If you want to maximize reloads within one month, you can load up the full $5,000 to your old card before switching to the new card.  If you initiate the switch early enough in the calendar month you should have time to take advantage of the new card’s $5,000 limit as well.

I do not recommend switching back and forth every month in order to load $10,000 every month. I believe that would be a sure way to get flagged by Amex.  They would most likely stop approving any new cards for you.

2. Empty your old account of all funds

Before you switch cards, you have to empty all funds from your old account.  The quickest way to unload up to $2500 is to send the money to a friend or family member who also has one of these cards.  Keep in mind that all of these cards can send money to each other: you can send money from Bluebird to REDbird; from REDbird to Serve; from Serve to Bluebird; etc.  Each card also has a calendar month $2,500 limit for these “Send Money Transactions”.

You can also unload funds through ATM withdrawals up to $750 per day and up to $2,000 per month.  With Bluebird and Serve, MoneyPass ATM withdrawals are fee free.  With REDbird, Allpoint ATM withdrawals are fee free.  With all three, the ATM machine may say that it is going to charge you a fee, but you’ll see on your receipt that it did not.

If you use Bill Pay or withdraw to your bank account to empty your account, it’s a good idea to wait for those transactions to completely clear before cancelling your old card just in case something goes wrong.

3. Cancel your old account online

For some strange reason, when people call to cancel accounts, those accounts often seem to get stuck in a state of limbo somewhere between open and closed. This can make it difficult to open a new card.  As a result, I highly recommend cancelling online.

To cancel REDbird or Serve online, log into your account, click on the menu button and then click “Profile”.  Scroll to the bottom of the screen until you find something like this:

image

Click the “Close Account” button and follow the instructions on screen.

With Bluebird, it’s just a little bit more complicated.  Bluebird doesn’t show the Close Account option online, but there’s a simple work-around.  Please see: How to cancel Bluebird online.

4. Consider using a new email address for your new card

Many people have successfully switched from one type of card to another without changing their email addresses, but others have had trouble until they tried using a different email address.  If you use Google’s GMail, you can change your email address without changing where the email goes by adding a period somewhere in your email name.  For example, if your email address is someonecool@gmail.com, you can use someone.cool@gmail.com instead.  Emails sent to either address will go to the same inbox.

UPDATE 9/7/2015: Several readers have told me that the process actually works more smoothly if you use the same email address as you used before.

5. Sign up for your new card

Each type of card has a different process for signing up:

Bluebird:

  1. Browse here: www.bluebird.com.

  2. Press “Register”

  3. Click “No” to the question “Did you purchase a Temporary Card at Walmart?” (unless you did buy a temporary card at Walmart)

  4. Answer all of the remaining questions.  It’s OK to use the same information as you used with your old card (but see step 4, above, regarding email addresses).

  5. If all goes well, it should take somewhere between a week and 10 days for your new card to arrive

Serve:

  1. Browse here: serve.com.

  2. Press “Get a Card”

  3. Click “No” to the question “Did you purchase a Temporary Card?” (unless you did buy a temporary card)

  4. Answer all of the remaining questions.  It’s OK to use the same information as you used with your old card (but see step 4, above, regarding email addresses).

  5. If all goes well, it should take somewhere between a week and 10 days for your new card to arrive

Serve with SoftCard:

Serve with SoftCard is just like Serve, but with higher online load limits.  To sign up for Serve with Softcard, you must have the SoftCard app and you must sign up for Serve within the app.

REDbird:

REDbird (more precisely known as the Target Prepaid REDcard) requires buying and activating a temporary card in-store before you can register online for your permanent card.  Unfortunately, the temporary card is currently available only in certain test markets.  In about half of the test markets the card is fee free. In the rest, they charge a $5 fee to purchase the card.  It is fine to get the temporary card before cancelling your old Bluebird or Serve card, but you must cancel the old card before registering the new card online.

See also:

No need to wait

After canceling your old card you can order (or register for) your new card immediately.

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