Over the weekend, Target quietly rolled out a new American Express product that is strikingly similar to both Bluebird and Serve: The Prepaid REDcard. This card opens a new option for up to $72,000 worth of manufactured spend per year. I broke the news about the card here. In this post I’ll share with you what I’ve learned about this card so far, and why you might care.
It’s the other REDcard
One confusing aspect about this new product is that it has the same name as the existing Target REDcard credit card and the Target REDcard debit card.
All three cards share similar benefits:
- Save 5% off Target and Target.com purchases. There are a few exceptions to this benefit such as gift cards and prescriptions.
- Free shipping from Target.com.
- 30 extra days for returns.
- Use REDcard to help a school. Enroll for free in Take Charge of Education and Target will donate 1% of your REDcard purchases at Target to the eligible K-12 school of your choice. It turns out that this feature is only for debit and credit REDcards.
Bluebird, Serve, or REDcard: Pick only one
The new Prepaid REDcard runs on the same technical platform as other Amex prepaid products: Bluebird and Serve. Each person is allowed to have only one of the three products. Here’s a rough guide as to which I think is best for different people:
Serve: For most people, this is currently the best choice since it allows up to $1K per month of online credit card loads in addition to all of the load options available to Bluebird users. See: Earn miles automatically, with Serve.
Target PrePaid REDcard: Best for those who shop at Target often, or at least prefer shopping at Target over Walmart. May be a better option than Serve for those who want a prepaid card with no foreign transaction fees.
Bluebird: Best for those who value the ability to write their own checks from the prepaid account. May also be a better option than Serve for those who want a prepaid card with no foreign transaction fees.
How to get a Prepaid REDcard
If you want a Prepaid REDcard, you’ll have to go to Target. Not just any Target will do, though, since it hasn’t yet rolled out to all Target stores. You can find participating stores here. At participating Target stores, you’ll find big REDcard displays at most checkout registers. You can pickup a temporary REDcard there.
The temporary card has no purchase fee and can be loaded up to $500. You can pay for the initial purchase with a credit card. Be prepared to have the cashier scan your driver’s license, and for you to enter in your SSN and phone number before you get out the door with the temporary card. Once you get home, you can register for the permanent reloadable version of the card (as long as you don’t have an active Bluebird or Serve account).
The permanent version of the Prepaid REDcard can be loaded multiple ways, but only two are of interest to the points & miles crowd:
Online debit load: Just like Bluebird and Serve, you may link a debit card to your account and load up to $200 per day and up to $1000 per month. You may not use gift cards for these loads, so this feature is best for those with a debit card that earns rewards such as the Suntrust Delta debit card. Unfortunately, that card is no longer publicly available. Another option is to search for reloadable debit cards that can be reloaded with credit cards. Even then, though, there is no guarantee that Amex will allow those to be used for this purpose.
In store, “Cash” funding: Amex calls this cash funding, but it really means “load at Target”. Amex allows loads up to $2500 per day and up to $5000 per month in-store (although Target may impose further restrictions). Target’s registers ultimately determine which funding sources can be used. At this time I believe that Target will allow debit cards, but not credit cards for this purpose. And, my guess is I have confirmed that gift cards with PINs will work. Target accepts credit cards, debit cards, and cash for in-store loads.
Given that gift cards with PINs work for reloading the REDcard, it is possible to buy up to $5000 worth of Visa or MasterCard gift cards each month with rewards earning credit cards (see “Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards”) and then load those gift cards to the REDcard at Target.
Given that credit cards work for reloading the REDcard, you can easily use your credit card to reload the REDcard at Target and earn credit card rewards. Credit cards do not charge cash advance fees for this.
The Prepaid REDcard can be used as credit card anywhere that Amex is accepted. If your goal is to manufacture spend (to increase credit card rewards), a good use is to withdraw money at fee free ATMs* (in-store ATMs at Target, and Allpoint Network ATMs). And, an even better option is to use the card’s bill pay function to pay bills that can’t usually be paid by credit card (e.g. mortgage, rent, credit card bills, etc.). You can also transfer money directly to your bank account from the settings menu (just like Bluebird and Serve).
“*Card not usable at ATMs in Target stores in Kansas City, MO.” Weird. I know.
Questions and answers
Q: Can we load REDcard with Visa/MasterCard gift cards at Target?
Q: Can we load REDcard with credit cards at Target?
It is possible that Target has plans to change the register to not allow credit cards, but I don’t think that’s the case. During my early botched credit card experiment, the cashier was surprised that the credit card didn’t work (it turned out that there was a fraud alert on my card). She said that she remembered from training that loading with a credit card was one of the key benefits of the card. She even mentioned that people should be able to earn miles with their cards!
Q: Can we load REDcard with Target gift cards at Target?
No. When loading, the register displays a large message saying that gift cards cannot be used to pay for this transaction.
Q: What are the card’s load limits?
When reloading the card at Target, the following limits are in place:
- $1000 maximum reload per transaction
- $2500 maximum reloads per day
- $5000 maximum reloads per month
When reloading the card online with a debit card, the following limits apply:
- $200 maximum per day
- $1000 maximum per month
You cannot use gift cards for online debit loads.
Q: Do these charges count as cash advances?
While we don’t yet have absolute proof of this, I’m confident in saying “no”. The charges I’ve done so far fully appear to be purchases. And, previous experience with the similar Amex for Target card has shown that credit cards are safe to use for register reloads at Target.
Q: Can we reload REDcard at a Target store that doesn’t sell REDcard?
YES. I’ve done so, and the website explicitly says: “You can add cash to your Target Prepaid REDcard® Account for free at all Target locations in the US.” Note that when they say “load cash” they’re really referring to loading the card at the register. It doesn’t matter to Amex how you pay for that load.
Q: Can we get REDcard online?
No. The only way to get REDcard is to find a participating Target store and buy a temporary card there.
Q: Can someone else buy a REDcard for you?
I’ll give this one a tentative “yes”. When you buy a Prepaid REDcard at Target, you have to give them your drivers license info, your SSN, birthdate, and more. Then, you have to register the card online in order to get a permanent card. In the process of registering online, you do need a bit of info about the original buyer (birthdate, for example), to get past the first screen, but then you can change the details on the following screens. I did this for my wife. I bought the card at Target and used my own driver’s license, SSN, etc. But, when I got home, I registered the card to my wife. I can’t promise this will work for everyone, but it worked for me.
Why does this matter? Not many stores yet sell this new card and you can’t get one online. You can find participating stores here. If you have a relative or good friend who lives near a participating Target, you might be able to get them to buy the card for you. Then, you should be able to register it in your own name online.
Q: Can we buy a temporary REDcard while we still have a Bluebird or Serve account?
Q: Can we register our temporary REDcard online while we still have a Bluebird or Serve account?
No. You will have to cancel your Bluebird or Serve account first. Here’s how: How to cancel Bluebird online.
Q: Can we reload Serve at Target?
My guess is that they’ll eventually make it possible to reload Serve at Target, but for now you cannot. Bluebird is affiliated with Walmart so it will never be loadable at their rival Target.
Q: Can REDcard be enrolled in Amex Sync promos like Serve?
No. I tried and the system said “Unfortunately, the Card you entered is not eligible.”
Questions not yet answered
Is the Target Amex card going away?
My guess is that they’ll stop selling these old prepaid cards at Target or may have already stopped, but that they’ll let us continue using the cards we already have.
Read more about REDbird:
Last updated on May 15th, 2015