Amex lowers the boom on Bluebird and Serve again

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Exactly 9 weeks ago, Amex lowered the boom on many Bluebird and Serve cardholders. While they didn’t outright shut down accounts, they did bar them from loading new funds.  Most people with frozen accounts had been using the cards to indirectly increase credit card spend.  The basic process involved buying Visa or MasterCard gift cards with credit cards and then using those gift cards as debit cards in-store to reload Bluebird or Serve.  Then, the Bluebird or Serve account was used to pay bills that can’t usually be paid by credit card (e.g. mortgage, rent, or even credit card bills).

Some people had their accounts frozen even though they weren’t using the card to increase spend.  The one common denominator I could find was that most people who were shut down did not use the cards often in place of a credit card for regular purchases.  Merchant fees earned by Amex on purchases are the primary way that Amex makes money on these cards, so they appear to simply be eliminating unprofitable customers.

Bluebird and Serve accounts frozen

Wave 2 (9 weeks after wave 1)

Today, March 4 2016, reports are coming in from email, Twitter, and elsewhere that Amex has sent out email notifications again.  The subject heading is “Termination Of Funds Loading Capabilities on Your Bluebird® [or Serve] Account.”

As before, the emails state that “…we have observed unusual usage patterns on your Bluebird [or Serve] Account. Because of this, effective immediately, you will no longer be able to add money to your Account.”

Check your Spam folder

With the last set of account freezes, many people reported that their accounts could no longer be loaded even though they didn’t receive an email.  It’s possible that Amex messed up and didn’t send some of the emails.  We do know, though, that many of these emails were flagged as spam and hidden away.  Check your spam folder.

A pattern?

Wave 1 occurred on Friday January 8th.  Wave 2 occurred on Friday, March 4th.  It’s too early to know for certain if there’s a pattern here, but I see two likely possibilities (assuming there is a pattern):

  1. Amex is sweeping through accounts once very 9 weeks; or
  2. Amex is sweeping through accounts every two months, on the first Friday of the month which is not a holiday.

If either of these patterns is right, May 6 will mark the next Birdpocalypse.  After that, the 9 week pattern brings us to July 8 whereas the every 2 month rule brings us to July 1.  Time will tell.

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[…] everyone knows by now, last Friday the proverbial “second coming” occurred when Amex shut down another large swath of Bluebird and Serve accounts for “unusual usage patterns” (which translates to “we’re losing an […]

Lea

I need to do a direct deposit to Santander Bank, from what I read, Serve is eligible to do a Direct Deposit (I guess by withdrawing funds to my Sanatander Bank). The problem is my Serve account was ‘shut down’ so I can’t add funds to it. I tried depositing a check through the Serve app, but it was rejected. Is there any way I can add funds to my Serve account, so that I can withdraw it to my Santander account to get a bonus?

Thanks.

[…] That left me with one Serve card left.  After those 2 shutdowns (January 8th and March 4th), Frequent Miler proposed two possible patterns […]

[…] This is the 3rd wave of Bluebird and Serve freezes.  The first came on January 8th 2016 (see: Amex kills Bluebird and Serve for many).  The second came exactly 9 weeks later, on March 4th (see: Amex lowers the boom on Bluebird and Serve again). […]

Bullfrog

Sorry for cross posting here and on FT. Need some advice: So I signed up for BB on 2/25 (online) activated it on 3/2, and have loaded the full $5k through MCGCs – all at registers since my seemingly working KATE won’t let me load. Fully realizing that no one really knows for sure what the best path forward is, do you have any advice on whether I should clear the balance and close BB account before the end of the month and try re-signing up in April or May? What would you do in my shoes?

[…] everyone knows by now, last Friday the proverbial “second coming” occurred when Amex shut down another large swath of Bluebird and Serve accounts for “unusual usage patterns” (which translates to “we’re losing an […]

Mitch Cumstein

My wife and I both had our Bluebird cards closed in the first wave. We maxed those out for $5k every month with gift cards. I got a Serve 1VIP card later in January and it’s still alive. I’ve only done online debit card loads so far ($1k per month), and haven’t withdrawn any funds.

Cat

My husband and I have both Serve and Bluebird accounts were not shutting by both Wave 1 and Wave 2. However, i was not able to load gift card to both accounts today at Walmart. I believe AMEX was able to track the loading method as if you’re using a gift card instead of debit. 🙁

JustSaying

That is exactly what happened on my 1 of 2 cards. No email and no ability to load. AMEX communicated telepathically. It gave me a cold headache.

[…] Amex’s second wave attack on Bluebird and Serve cardholders, it may seem strange for me to write about options for buying Visa gift cards.  After all, […]

Oz

Card got shut down in Jan and was unable to reapply after 30 days. SSN was surely blocked by Amex.

TravelingOn

I received the 3/4 shutdown notice. I opened my account summer of 2014, and I have even been swiping the card a few times lately as well to see if that would help (on top of all the other survival strategies). On to the next method…

JustSaying

Yesterday and today one of two cards loaded and one rejected. Received no emails and even after logging in saw no sign of shutdown. Moral of story. Damn sure better do your loads before first Friday of the month. Sorta like getting chemotherapy in that you know you are going to die and it’s just a question of when. The sick and twisted lives of MS.

Kevin

All five BB were shut down. Can we wait a few and get the Serve?

Jon

Got my vip shut down in this wave. Seems my wife’s classic serve survived. I did 2-3k per month on the cop in the months following the first wave. No loads on the classic.

Gary70

I am trying to find an explanation to AMEX madness. Why would it matter to them how we load money into account? They are profiting of our money deposits be it a day, a week, or longer money remain in the accounts. I had a minimum of $2K in the account for months before shot down. If you calculate daily interest on all of the cash we put thought AMEX it would be significant profit.
Just my $0.02

Nathan

I am new to the game, and have never had a BB or Serve. I’m wanting to meet a min spending quickly and am thinking about doing $2k in MS via serve. I was hoping to buy a temporary Serve at WM and load several VGC. Is it possible to use a temporary card to load either at register or money center express?

Matt

No, not possible.

jnrfalcon

For DP, I happened to closed my BB just days before Round 1 and opened a Serve. I was doing MS for like $10,000 during the year I own it. And on that first Friday, nothing happened to me. Then I used my new Serve and made around $4000 MS since Jan and got shut down today. So MAYBE, close your account just days before the wipe and reopen a fresh account can somehow avoid getting closed.

Jay P

Loaded 2k in late January, spent $500 on many small purchases, did a $1500 cc payment with the rest in late February. Got shut down today. Seriously, what WON’T get you shut down? Maybe it’s the repetitive $500 loads that are the problem…

Howard

1st Serve card was fried 9 weeks ago, and the remaining card took a hit today.

emmaS

If your account is closed, is it possible to wait a month and so and reapply? Since it’s been more than 2 months now, there must be some data on that. Did anyone have a positive experience with reapplying for the same product or similar product?

T.M.

Survived 9 weeks ago, but got my notice today. With my brother’s permission (he never had Serve/BB before and not into MS anyway) was able to open an account in his name right away. So I wonder, if Amex plans to eliminate it altogether, why then allow new accounts?

ScubaDuba

someone posted this on FT:

My green serve that I opened after my OneVIP was shut Jan 8th was just shut down. So that didn’t last too long!

If he/she could open green serve AFTER OneVip got shot down, then maybe there is a flicker of hope….

Travel Girl

I got my first Bluebird card right after the last shutdown in January. I NEVER loaded any Visa or MasterCard gift cards, I only ever used my bank re-loadable debit card to MS with Bluebird and I got shut down as well. So we know it isn’t just people who load with Visa or MasterCard gift cards who get shut down.

Daniel

My family’s 4 BB cards are still alive, I think. Checked all spam folders and didn’t get any email yet.

I only load less than $1000 per month with mostly NW BUXX and few with VGC.
I use one to pay rent with checks and usually unload writing checks to other family members. I had few purchases before the 1st round closures, but not any after that.

I guess the only way to truly find out is going to Walmart and try loading, but so far I don’t see any sign of closure.

fauxblogger

Shut down today. $0 reloads in since wave 1 shutdown; $2K in “Send Money” in 2016, some low $ bill pays, no swipes..

Ranjit

Got my notice for server as well. I was feeling lucky to survive in round 1. I stil have 1500 GC to cash out. I was only aware of serve method. Any other method 🙁 ?

Chris

MOs

Michael Belisle

gobank

TimmyD

They got my wife’s Serve today after killing my Bluebird in round 1. I hadn’t loaded anything via gift card on the Serve in months, but I was funding it via the online credit card amount. I used it for Bill Pay and send money, but no credit card type transactions.

Mow

I got my notice today, I didn’t get a notice 9 weeks ago. I have had a zero balance since November. This avenue hasn’t felt right in a long time, so I haven’t ms’d much with it. Still got shut down tho. ONE Vip serve, more like DONE Rip Serve

Ben

Important question…did anyone that got a NEW Serve after Wave 1, then use it for MS, get shut down in Wave 2?

Chris

I got my OneVIP in mid-February. I have been going pretty hard, in fear that they would shut it down pretty quickly. I survived Wave 2. I might consider closing it after I get my primary targeted MS finished, then try to get a new one after a month or so.

Travel Girl

I got NEW Bluebird after Wave 1, then used it for MS, I just got shut down in Wave 2.

CA

Just received my serve when 1st round hit, did not survive this one.

Gabriel

Add me to the list of people that survived round 1 but got killed in rnd 2. These products are dead. Time to move on to the next thing I guess. Sigh

Gary70

I got card number 2 (out of 3 original cards) shut down today that survived round one. Just reached my limit for this month 2 day ago. Will be maxing out my 3rd card and waiting for round 3 🙁

Helga

Shut down today too. Any ideas how to chase GC’s or meet spending now??

NetSpender

Best way to keep stuff alive is to keep mentioning it in public forums and sites. Oh wait, thats how to get stuff shut down. But spill away. Your time for giving away MS deals will soon be up. Wonder if you’ll finally admit that your making money on this site trumped keeping deals alive. +1 for selfishness #amirite

SDO

Oh the irony behind the +1 selfishness comment. lol.

JL

Yep it’s true, I found mine in my Spam. Survived the first round, but certainly not this round. I was even careful and only loaded amounts that didn’t follow a pattern. I tried to avoid loading the entire gift card in order to switch up my activity. I even made small gift card purchases on Amazon and left my account balance full for a week. Looks like there is no way to avoid this…

SDO

Seriously, AmEx? If you really want to end this product, just do it already.

dan

if survived this round and that the next round of shutdown in early may were true, wonder that one should close the acct shortly then re-open after the next wave?

singerbabe

Yep – survived Round 1 but got shut down today. Feeling lucky it lasted as long as it did. FWIW I used my card for everything – CC loads, VGC, small purchases, bill pay. I agree with the previous poster – AMEX seems to want these cards gone.

Coldagglutannin

Got shut down. Opened Serve in December and have just been doing flexperk CC loads up to my $1000 limit. No giftcard loads. Was just about to add another $200 when I saw the email 🙁

Logan

Well my Bluebird account appears to be still alive and well as no notifications from Amex anyway. I haven’t loaded from a gift/debit card probably a couple of years ago. Only thing I’ve used it for lately is to write checks no debit card spend whatsoever so I’m not really earning them money. I planned on getting back into the manufactured spending but not taking any credit hits before I get my first mortgage.

Shonuffharlem

Same with me I think I loaded a little bit a year or longer ago. My 1 Bluebird is totally fine for now not shut down. I never did much MS on it though.

[…] folks are covering this as well – Frequent Miler, Travel with Grant, Miles to Memories and reddit […]

Dee

My daughter got shut down today.

Gary

Survived round 1 but not round 2. I loaded $1k yesterday and need to unload $1k in gift cards which I’ll still try to do today.

Lantean

I got shut down this time as well… I wonder how many Serve accounts they have left???

I didn’t even load that much, maybe $3 a month. they just want to get rid of this product, it’s obvious.

Ben

I too was shut down today, survived round one. Full loads in Jan and Feb, was using it for small (>$10) retail purchases.

[…] Frequent Miler – Amex lowers the boom on Bluebird and Serve again […]

Chris

Both accounts survived round 1… Both crushed on round 2.

I did a bit of a controlled experiment and used one of my cards for ~5 transactions a week while the other was not used. This made no difference in my case. I also tried to keep a hefty balance in both accounts thinking this may also save me (as they are making money off my account balance). No dice

rick b

I’m pretty certain that AMEX is on a mission to eliminate MS and they will not tolerate even slightly profitable customers who “thrown them a bone” as you tried to do.

You would have to be making them so much money that it would defeat the purpose of using BB so by definition none of us will ever qualify.

Brandon

Got my notice today right after I loaded with my Amex Flexperks online. I thought that’s what triggered it but maybe I got one last load in before the inevitable