Posted by William Charles on October 25, 2017
Manufactured Spending

Published on October 25th, 2017 | by William Charles

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Another Wave of Serve & Bluebird Shutdowns

It has been awhile since the last round of Serve/Bluebird shut downs, but it was bound to happen again. I think we’re up to shut down wave #6 now. The first wave of shut downs happen in January 2016. The second wave of shutdowns came in March, the third in May, and the fourth in August all in 2016 and then the fifth was January 2017. Serve and Bluebird cards are an easy way to liquidate Visa/MC gift cards by using them to load these prepaid cards at Walmart.

Once banned, you can not get the an Amex prepaid card again. Some people like getting the card under a different SSN (e.g. a spouse) and using it for a few months for old time’s sake.It’s still possible to load other prepaid cards or buy money orders with Visa/MC gift cards, but it’s not always easy to find a vendor or a card which allows it.

Hat tip to readers Jeff L & Charles

 

 



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BHanna
BHanna

If I still have not utilized this liquidation route, would anyone provide advice on what maybe considered a “safe rate”? I haven’t been in the MS business for more than the past 9 month, and currently liquidating via MO, but that is becoming more and more suspicious, so I may want to add an alternative route to my arsenal.

Also, serve/bluebird allow for loading via Vanilla cards or no?

James
James

It would seem that anybody who has done naughty stuff AND has the card open at the point of a shutdown wave will get swept up in it. People who survived this far are those that open and close conscientiously every month or two.

BHanna
BHanna

Open, close, re-open, re-close, etc? or what do you mean?

James
James

pretty much that, maxing out 1 month’s loading limit each cycle. I couldn’t be bothered myself and deserved every shutdown I got.

Drivesabrowntruck
Drivesabrowntruck

Wonder how much Amex sold the program for. Wave 6 probably took out the last 5 people, 2 dogs, and 1 goldfish that still had accounts.

Prem
Prem

i am one of those 2 dogs, i guess………what now?

captainsave
captainsave

Omg just bought a bunch of 5 backs visa

Yet Another Redditor

Liquidate at WM for MOs, 4 swipes allowed.

captainsave
captainsave

But thats such a PITA and 50% of the time they asked to see the cards which equal to waste of time.

Elmer
Elmer

If that is a PITA to you, why are you even bothering with this? Pardon us.

captainsave
captainsave

Because there was serve! I wouldn’t have bother with this if there wasnt serve. Pardon me

Mser
Mser

Wow, a WM that doesn’t ask to see gcs and still allows 4 swipes? That’s a unicorn.

Curmudgeon
Curmudgeon

Not in the midwest. I have a dozen near my house that I can buy $2k at a pop with no problem.

NinjaX
NinjaX

aah yes. the midwest. the last final frontier of MS freedom. enjoy it.

Joseph
Joseph

Meaning one can do 2 MO’s of 1k each with 4 cards? I thought only 1k MO can be done at a time/visit.

JF
JF

I got the shutdown email this morning. Sucks bc I have $1800 in VGC I was going to liquidate today after work.

I was staying well under the $2k/day and $5k/month thresholds, and used the card for several other purchases to try and blend in. Not sure what the criteria was for shutdown, but I saw someone got the hammer for $1k/month. Serve is crazy with this nonsense.

RightNYer
RightNYer

Looks like we’re in the same boat. I really think anyone who puts in a any significant amount of money that doesn’t end up getting spent through an Amex credit purchase will ultimately end up getting shut down.

86
86

+1

artgriego
artgriego

I’m sure they first look at everyone making loads with a debit card, gift or not. Why would anyone need to do that? Then that’s probably a small enough dataset for a couple humans to spend a couple days sifting through to identify the MSers and money launderers.

86
86

Not everyone uses direct deposit. Amex probably winds up paying roughly the same in interchange fees for bank debits as they do for GC debits. Besides, it’s an Amex-approved way to load funds onto the card or they wouldn’t allow it, although DD or cash presumably cost them less to process.

However, From the Amex Bluebird Member Agreement:

“We reserve the right to suspend or close your Account…if, among other reasons,…(iv) you structure purchases or conduct transactions with your Account…to manufacture spend.”

Just sayin’.

RightNYer
RightNYer

I got shutdown today (opened my account back at the end of 2013, so it’s been quite a while). I used it very infrequently until the past year or so. I tried to stave off a shutdown by never doing deposits greater than $500 per day, never using it for BillPay (always did ACH), always did a few Amex purchases a month, and always left at least $1,000 in the account. My guess is there’s no way to use it except for very sparingly and avoid being shutdown.

Sa
Sa

They shut down my bluebird this round. Never did any ms. I did not have activity at all the last three months at least. Unusual pattern of usage.

Sean
Sean

Did not get shut down. Have done $5,400 since September all with VGC and using for bill pay. Counting my lucky stars and going to close as soon as my billpay hits.

JASON
JASON

Checked all of my (including family’s) 10 BB and serve accounts just now, all alive. I opened my first BB account after Jan 2016, and that’s when I learned from DOC about shutdown of BB/Serve at that time. I didn’t know what BB/Serve is before. Later on I added other serve accounts such as VIP, 1%,Green, Serve. I load MC issued by U.S. Bank because that’s the only GC I know that can register personal info online, and then load into BB/Serve account as debit card. I used to load PPBDC but since PPMC not working as of May 2017, I’ve gone to S&S to buy only MC for MS purpose. After loading, I would send the money from my family account to my own and only use it for bill pay, I pay mortgage, utility and CC from my account for nearly 2 years. I never ACH money out. That being said, load MCGC and bill pay at $200/day for 5 days to reach max. $1000 per account per month. I guess that’s also why I got two targeted offers from AE for their business cards. I live in the City and Walmart i just too far away so never go to Walmart to buy money order or load prepaid gift cards to BB/Serve.

wesz
wesz

what is s&s ?

AL
AL

Probably Stop & Shop.

Sal
Sal

Stop&shop.
You’re late to the party.

SamSimon
SamSimon

Hey,
I never done any M.S.
Just gathering some info for now.
One person can have these four accounts – VIP, 1%,Green, Serve?
Then use each up to $1,000 (total for 4 accounts it’s up to $4,000 a month) to pay bills online? Can pay Credit card bill?
And can buy in any store regular prepaid Master Card Gift Card to load those accounts (VIP, 1%,Green, Serve)?
Are there a fees for paying bills online or/and to load all these accounts (VIP, 1%,Green, Serve) using prepaid Master Card Gift Card?
Thanks

Ferris
Ferris

There’s tons and tons of answers to your question available on the internet. Try http://www.google.com or go to the Serve website which gives you some of these answers also. To give you a headstart, you can only have 1 Serve “flavor” of a card under normal circumstances.

JASON
JASON

Yes.

One account can load max $200/day, max $1000/month with bank card/debit card. Clock resets at 12:00am EST. Trial deposit verification required prior to add funds from debit card. VGC cannot register personal info and only MC issued by U.S. bank can be registered online. Once fund is loaded, you can use the bill pay function because BB/Serve functions just like a regular bank such that you have your routing number and checking account number. Yup paying CC is certainly yes, just like when you login to your regular bank account now, you can perform bill pay function from there.

Not all regular MCGC in store can be loaded. Back in about April – June, Discover has 5% cashback on wholesales club such as Sam’s Club, I bought MC from there and at first they could be loaded into BB/Serve after you register only the zip code online. However, starting in mid May, I suddenly found out that those MC cannot be loaded into BB/Serve even I register zip code already, so I had to spend it on regular purchases. And then I found out S&S sells MCGC issued by U.S. Bank and that can let me register my full info online, which is much more convenient. I always prefer to do everything in front of computer rather than walking in a Walmart or post office and wait in line for a money order.

There’re no fees for paying bills online or loading prepaid debit cards. But there is monthly fees except for some states. Always check the fee schedule before you apply for prepaid product.

Anthony
Anthony

Jason, I’d like to clarify. You’re saying that the gift cards purchased at Stop and Shop allow you to register personal details online? And then you can use these gift cards for online Serve debit card loads? What is the brand of the gift cards? How do you get them to send you the trial deposits?

JASON
JASON

To be more precisely, it’s the mastercard gift card issued by U.S. Bank only. They have $50, $100,$200,$500 with fixed fee $5.95 per card. Staples sell that too but I only see $200 never see any $500. It really depends on location. The S&S near my work place and the other one near home have stocked plenty of $500. Once you purchase the card with your favorite CC, open it, and you’ll see there’s sticker on it, back of it tells you to go to or will direct you to www2.consumercardaccess.com/main/mygiftcardusb/Home to register your card before online use. So follow instruction and register your info there. Link this debit card to your BB/Serve account. Be sure to match name and address otherwise you won’t be able to load funds into BB/Serve. Click submit and then your BB/Serve account will ask you whether to OK 2 small trial debits to your card, ranged from $1.01-$1.25 each. Continue. Go back to the above website where you just finish registering your card, click on transaction and you should see two pending debit amounts. Enter that two amounts into your BB/Serve for validation purpose. Then you are good to go. The pending debits on the card will revert after 8 calendar days, i.e. you do the trial debit verification on 11/1, $2.20 pending for example, then load $200 on 11/1, load $200 on 11/2, load $97.80 on 11/3, wait till 11/9 and load the $2.20. Just keep in mind that not the gift cards sold by S&S can do so, it’s the MC issued by U.S. Bank can allow you to do so and S&S is just a physical store that sells it. I never spot $500 in target, CVS, staples but this is YMMV. And because S&S codes purchase under “supermarket/grocery”, you may want to get a credit card that earns higher rewards on grocery purchase as well. Even with a 2% CC, depending on your statement closing date, say 10/28 for example, you can purchase on 10/28 and that your transaction will be posted on 10/30 which falls on the next statement date may be 11/29 with a due date of 12/25 maybe, so that gives you almost 2 months to pay back the CC that you previously make the purchase on 11/28. One stone, four birds: 1)CC sign up bonus 2)fee free CA for 40-50 days+ 3)pay CC with CC through… Read more »

Gerald
Gerald

Lots of discrepancies from my experience. I often load 2x$500 a day, I know someone who loads more, but we only do one per store unless they offer to do more. I’ve never had a problem loading VGCs or MCGCs (though I avoid the latter whenever possible and load ASAP when I can’t avoid them because of the hacking danger). The VGCs I use are either Metabank or Vanilla, the MCGCs are U.S. Bank. I almost never register them.

MarcoPolo
MarcoPolo

@Gerald
I believe you are talking about loading at Walmart kiosk/cashier and not Bluebird/serve.

SamSimon
SamSimon

THANKS A LOT! I think I’m almost set.
1. The only way is to use MCGC issued by U.S. Bank – so the same MCGC can be reloaded with funds with no issues online using credit card or have to buy new one every time?
2. So any other MCGC cannot be used because they won’t have your name on it, will not attached and trial deposit will not get through?
3. Cannot use VISA (debit) Prepaid cards such as Vanilla to load to BB/Serve because it will not be registered? Card must have registration feature?

JASON
JASON

It cannot be reloaded. You have to buy new one every time.

Not that I know about. Vanilla MCGC used to work until this May. It allows you to register only your zip code then you can use for online purchase. However it’s not loading with BB/Serve any more. Other MCGC cannot be used because you cannot register your name and address to the card, but not because your name not printed on it. I should say trial debit but not trial deposit. You can check back the comment I replied to Anthony above.

I guess so. I used to buy VGC from GCM but only use VGC to buy PPMC @ CVS and load to paypal account then load PPBDC into BB/Serve. When the Five Back was just released I thought it would be fun but I wasn’t able to purchase it due to order cancelled so never got the chance to test it in CVS. I don’t see where it allows me to register VGC. If you discover something new please let me know as well. 🙂

MarcoPolo
MarcoPolo

@JASON
I was able to register VGC issued by metabank here
https://mygift.giftcardmall.com/
I was also successfully able to do the trial deposits from my BlueBird account and veirfy them.
However, when I tried to load $200 using that VGC it threw a technical error.
What am I doing wrong?
Thanks

JASON
JASON

Hello MarcoPolo, I tried this website before for VGC purchased from GCM but just wouldn’t load into BB. It seems that it would proceed as credit instead of debit therefore preventing from adding into BB/Serve. That’s exactly why I only buy MCGC issued by U.S. Bank as that’s the only GC and also MCGC that I know how to unload online without any problems. I don’t think you did anything wrong. But just about the registered info about the card. IMO, BB/Serve treats registered MCGC just like a normal banking card(debit card), and maybe that’s why I have not been shut down so far. My loading and spending pattern is what the system deems to be regular behavior.

MarcoPolo
MarcoPolo

Thanks a lot @JASON
So much to learn I have……..
These VGCs are gathering dust in my drawer for years now and found no way to convert them to cash.
This was my last hope but it looks like I’ll end up using them for normal spend.

SamSimon
SamSimon

Jason, Boss, thanks.
I’m all set.
I will try and error. $500 a month for MS is ok with me.
On my list, first, I will try to purchase with credit card One Vanilla Prepaid Visa Gift Card to get money orders from USPS (these businesses are very close to my house). If it will not work. I will try different Debit cards with BB/Serve. I will let you know if anything. Keep in touch – samsimonusa@gmail.com
Regards

kirk
kirk

have you loaded recently? i did my very first online load yesterday and today the trial debits are already back to the card!?! i didn’t have to wait 7-8 days. have you encountered this before?

btw, how many BB can 1 person have? i’d rather have BB than 1VIP as i’ll only be using this avenue to meet (future) MSR and timely bonuses so having a zero fee over a $1/mo fee card is ideal.

Tom
Tom

Jason- That’s surprising you’re able to load BB/Serve with the MCGC. The wiki on FT specifically states don’t do online debit card loads with gift cards or your account will be flagged. I’m thinking about giving it a shot. You do the online loads with the MCGC to both BB and Serve?

JASON
JASON

Hi Tom. I don’t know what gift cards they refer to. But I’ve been doing for months. No problem so far. I also recently opened up a VIP serve for a family member before it ends next year.

Tom
Tom

Thanks for the response Jason. I’ll give it a shot. Hopefully, S&S has a fuel points deal on MCGC next week to make it even sweeter. Just to confirm, you’re loading it to both BB and Serve? Thanks again.

Jesse
Jesse

Looks like we survived this round. G/F and I are 6 OneVIP’s in. Use each one for 2 months and then close. We’re at 35k MS’d through Serve starting in February. Not a ton, but not just a little either.

TJ
TJ

I just used Bluebird for 3200 in loads and I used billpay to Pay the CC back. I don’t think I use it like most MSers. It hasn’t been used in a while. Hope I’m safe.

Tyler
Tyler

Data point – I got shut down and never did any MS. I did load monthly using PPBDC. I would also load $1,000 from my AmEx after the statement cycle closed and bill pay my other credit cards (just taking advantage of the float). Also used it for AmEx offers. Pretty non-offensive use in my opinion, thus I think they basically shut down cards that are unprofitable (no merchant swipe fees, incurring costs for bill pay, etc.).

Ferris
Ferris

That is definitely MS…I’m not sure how you think it isn’t. You are loading with spend on a rewards debit card generating cashback and paying bills on cards. You aren’t spending, but earning rewards for “spending”, which is definitely MS.

Bart
Bart

What spend is being manufactured in this case? Why would Amex know/care how the funds were loaded onto the PPDC?

86
86

They would care if those funds from a PPDC are used to pay off credit card bills. In their eyes, that’s almost certainly manufactured spend, which they prohibit (because it’s not profitable, etc.).

If you paid off CC bills through Serve using funds from your employer’s DD to Serve, they probably wouldn’t care. If you used their card to spend PPDC loaded funds by swiping it here and there, they also probably wouldn’t care.

Tyler
Tyler

Now that I’m no longer doing it with Serve, I’ll do it with Plastiq. I’m paying real life bills that don’t accept credit card payments with a credit card. MS is manufactured, that is, artificial. All of my Serve spending was legitimate and I think it fit within the spirit of the card. That said, it’s not that big of a loss and I’m moving on.

86
86

I haven’t been shutdown (yet), but so far my BB statements look like what could arguably be “normal usage.”

At some point, the opportunity cost in lost CC rewards doesn’t cost-justify keeping the account open to avoid MO fees, when you also try to use the account a normal way to avoid getting shutdown.

GL
GL

I dunno. With the multiple hoops and risk of shutdown, may be better off eating a 2.5% loss and pay stuff off with Plastiq.

SS
SS

I got shut down today 4 BB , Green serve , One VIP with my SSN , and same under spouse SSN ( which i was using for self ) . All got shut down today. I was maxing $5K by loading $2500 on day 1 , $2500 day 2 , letting it clear day 3, then mail check to self day 4 which would take about 1 week. Id wait 31days and repeat …. It was fun while it lasted, but there’s still GoBank , NetSpend, and possibly the TD Card ( signed up, but haven’t used it yet )

Dan
Dan

Who does not charge to load to GoBank and netSpend?

SS
SS

walmart doesnt charge for GoBank. As for netSpend , its free in some states. eg TX

Elmer
Elmer

For the limited anount of MS allowed through Serve monthly, I can’t imagine it would be worth the hassles of opening/closing/re-opening. I’d rather just stand in line at WMMC or a grocery.

adam d
adam d

i buy $200 vgc amd office stores for 5x UR pts, thats y its worth it, not for required spend

Elmer
Elmer

Of course, but with online and simon purchases of $500 for much smaller fees–and a max of $1000 load per month– you can run multiple times the value thru MOs without the hassle of closing/reopening Serves. To each his own.

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