Switching REDbird to Serve, but which one?


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”

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

Note for those who don’t like to read long posts: Amex is currently issuing multiple versions of Serve. Shawn has created a great new resource to help you decide which is right for you: Complete guide to the many flavors of Serve. Which is Best?

I’ll probably regret this soon, but I’m considering converting one of my 7 REDbird cards to Serve.  Amex offers a number of related prepaid products: Serve, Bluebird, and REDbird (The Target Prepaid REDcard) and each is valuable in its own way for those who like to manufacture spend (e.g. increase credit card spend in order to earn rewards and get most of your money back).  For a comparison of the three cards, please see: The Complete Guide to Bluebird, REDcard and Serve.

The trick is… each person can have only one.  I currently have 7 REDbird cards only because 6 family members and friends let me manage their accounts (see: Managing multiples: Bluebird, REDbird, Serve).

Switching to Serve

Considering the switch

I’ve been planning for a while now to switch one of my REDbird cards back to Serve.  Here are the reasons:

  • It’s hard for me to blog about things that I don’t have access to.  Serve continues to be an important prepaid card for this community, so it makes sense for me to have one (by the same logic I should convert a card to Bluebird as well – I’ll worry about that later).
  • Serve allows Amex online credit card loads.  Please see: Best options for Serve online loads.
  • Some Serve cards can be loaded at Walmart.  While Target is more convenient for me in many ways, I like the fact that some Walmart stores have automated Kiosks with which you can load Bluebird or Serve.  Last I checked, at least one area store had a kiosk that actually worked (they’re often out of service).  When I have a pile of $100 or $200 Visa or MasterCard debit gift cards, I’d much rather load them to my prepaid card at an automated kiosk than in-person with a cashier.
  • Serve cards are eligible for Amex Offers.  REDbird cards currently are not eligible.  Please see: Complete guide to Amex Offers.

Bad timing

The best time to have switched would have been when Serve with Softcard was still available.  That version of Serve has higher online load limits and continues to allow Visa and MasterCard online loads.  Next best would have been to signup for the regular Serve card before Amex recently unveiled a slew of new Serve cards with new rules.  Still, there appear to be a couple of good choices still available.

The main reason that this may be bad timing, though, is that Walmart may be phasing out the automated kiosks in favor of new machines that are more like standard ATMs and cannot currently be used to reload Bluebird or Serve.  You can read more about this switch here: Meet Walmart’s New MoneyCenter Kiosk (KATE) – The News Isn’t Good for Bluebird/Serve Reloads.

If I switch and then find that I can’t easily reload the card, then I’ll probably switch back.

Switching Plans

My plan is to fully load my REDbird card this week and fully liquidate the funds before switching.  This way, I should be able to load my new Serve card later in the month.  My rough plans are:

  1. Load $2,500 to REDbird in one day ($2,500 is the daily load limit).  In the same day, initiate an ACH bill payment for the full amount on the card.
  2. Load $2,500 to REDbird the next day.  Use REDbird’s Send Money feature to send the $2500 balance to another one of the cards I manage.
  3. Once the bill payment is complete, I’ll cancel my REDbird card.  REDbird offers a “Close Account” button at the bottom of the Profile screen.
  4. Next, I’ll signup for a new Serve card online.  Based on a number of reader accounts it seems that you must use the same email address to register Serve as was used with REDbird.  So, I’ll try that.

Which Serve?

Shawn has created a fantastic new resource page for this site: Complete guide to the many flavors of Serve. Which is Best?  It seems pretty clear to me that I should get the One VIP card since it appears to have the best combination of features.  Hopefully it will still be available!

I also considered the new Serve Cashback card for a single reason: Serve cards usually allow you to setup a credit card as a back-up funding source.  It occurred to me (and apparently to others as well) that I could setup a Fidelity Investment Rewards Amex 2% cash back card as the backup funding source and make sure that I never leave funds in the Serve account.  I would then use the Serve Cashback card everywhere for a total of 3% cash back (2% from the Fidelity card plus 1% from Serve).  Unfortunately, the terms for the cashback card do not list the ability to setup a back-up funding source.  You can find the terms for each of the current card offerings here: www.serve.com/legal.html.  If anyone reading this has the 1% cashback card, though, please let me know if it offers a back-up funding source option.  Just because it isn’t mentioned in the terms does not mean that it’s not there.  Even if it is there, of course, Amex might be smart enough not to give 1% cashback for those transactions.

Wrap up

If you’re considering a switch to Serve, please see our new resource page: Complete guide to the many flavors of Serve. Which is Best?  I plan to switch one of my 7 REDbird cards to the One VIP card if it is still available by the time I’m ready.  If the One VIP card is not available at that time, I’d probably choose the green Free Reloads card instead.

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