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
UPDATE 9/28/2015: Amex has added the ability to close Bluebird online directly, so the “hack” below isn’t needed anymore. Instead, simply: 1) log into your Bluebird account; 2) Go to Profile; and 3) Click “Close Account”
Bluebird is a great product. For those without checking accounts, it’s a reasonably good fee-free alternative. For those who like to earn credit or debit card rewards, its awesome. Bluebird allows up to $5,000 per month (max $2500 per day) to be loaded at Walmart via debit card, for free. And, it’s possible to earn credit card rewards by first buying debit cards in the form of gift cards with PINs (see “Best options for buying Visa and MasterCard gift cards”) and then use those to reload Bluebird at Walmart. On top of that, you can add another $1000 per month with a debit card (but not gift cards) online. So, why cancel?
Better options, for some
Despite being a big fan of the Bluebird card, I think that for most people the Amex Serve card is better. And, for some, the Target Prepaid REDcard is better. And, you can only have one. Bluebird, Serve, and REDcard all run on the same technology stack, and Amex allows each person to have just one.
To see why you might prefer Serve, please see: Earn miles automatically, with Serve.
To see why you might prefer the Target Prepaid REDcard, please see: The Target Prepaid REDcard.
The one big advantage Bluebird has over the other two options is that it offers paper checks that you can write yourself. All three options, though, have a no-fee online bill pay service that can be used to mail a paper check to anyone.
Cancel by phone
If you want to switch from Bluebird to Serve or REDcard, Amex wants you to call to cancel. Bluebird does not have a visible option to cancel your account online. In fact, their FAQ says: “A Bluebird Member can suspend, reactivate, or cancel the Account simply by calling us.” The number they give is: 1 (877) 486-5990.
The key to cancelling online
I manage my wife’s account. To do research for this blog, I wanted to switch her from Bluebird to the new REDcard. I didn’t really want to call and pretend to be my wife.
Too bad she didn’t have Serve. Serve allows users to cancel online….
Remembering that Serve and Bluebird are on the same platform, it occurred to me that I could get the URL for cancelling the card from Serve, and then apply that to Bluebird. I logged into my own Serve account, right-clicked on the cancel button to get the Cancel URL, and applied the URL to my wife’s Bluebird account. It worked!
Cancel Bluebird online, step by step
Step 1: Empty the account
One fast and easy way to empty your account is to send money to another user (max $2500). You can send money to a friend or relative who has any of the three related cards: Bluebird, Serve, or REDcard. As soon as they have confirmed that the money transfer is complete, you can safely cancel your account. Other options include bill pay, ATM withdrawals, or withdraw to bank account.
If you have any family accounts, clear out the money on those as well.
Step 2: Cancel family accounts
One by one, go to each family account’s settings page and copy the browser’s URL to a text editor like notepad. It should look something like this:
https://secure.bluebird.com/Account/SubaccountSettings?subaccountId=[long jumble of numbers and letters]
After the word “SubaccountSettings” and before the question mark, add the text: “/CloseSubaccountEdit”. Your new URL should look like this:
https://secure.bluebird.com/Account/SubaccountSettings/CloseSubaccountEdit?subaccountId=[long jumble of numbers and letters]
Copy and paste the new URL into your browser, and press enter. You should then see a sad face and text indicating that you’ve closed the family account.
Step 3: Cancel primary account
This is the easiest one. Make sure you are logged into your account, then enter the following URL into your browser (or, click the link):
You should then see something like this:
That’s it, you’re done! You can now register for a new Serve or REDcard account.
Notes about registering for a new account:
- You should use a different email address to register your new card. If you use Gmail, an easy way to use a new email address is to simply add a period somewhere in your existing email. For example, if your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, you can use email@example.com instead. Emails sent to either address will go to the same inbox.
- REDcard registration can be done immediately after canceling Bluebird. I only have one data point of this so far, but my experience was as follows: I bought a REDcard temporary card at Target under my name and SSN. At home, after cancelling her Bluebird account, I registered the REDcard card to my wife’s name and SSN. I had no problem opening the account in her name. She can now log into her REDcard account.
- Serve offers two ways to setup a new account: enroll online or start with a purchased temporary card and register it online. It used to be tricky to setup a new Serve account immediately after closing Bluebird, but apparently that’s no longer the case.
- With either card, you have to wait until you get the permanent card in the mail before you can activate it.