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Yesterday the manufactured spending world was rocked by the news that the great majority of Bluebird and Serve users were shut down by American Express.


Reports flooded in across several channels of people receiving emails letting them know that they got the proverbial BAN HAMMER!

To American Express’s credit, it was not an immediate shutdown (where you would forfeit any money that you had in your account), but instead they just indicated that you would no longer be able to LOAD any money to your Bluebird or Serve account.  Since that was what most travel hackers were using Bluebird and Serve for, this essentially means that it’s just about worthless.

For whatever reason, I did NOT get the email and it appears (at least for now) that my account is still open and in good condition.

It’s interesting to note that Serve recently changed their terms / conditions to specifically say “manufactured spending” was against the terms.

We, in our sole discretion, may limit your use of, suspend or terminate your privileges with respect to, your Account…when you structure purchases or conduct transactions with your Account, Family Account, SetAside Account and/or Card to manufacture spend,

serveWhy to keep your Bluebird / Serve account open?

Even if your card was shutdown, there may be some reasons to keep your account open.  First of all, of course you’ll need time to transfer your money out, and it’s probably worth at least letting the final statement close.

Running with Miles makes another good point – it may be worth keeping the card open for access to Amex Offers.  Of course if you take all your money out, and can’t add more, you can’t really buy anything with an Amex Offer!

Or maybe close it right away?

Another option might be to close it right away (or soon), and then try to apply for a new card?  I have a One VIP Serve card and my wife’s variety is still a Target RedCard (haven’t switched it back over after the shutdown of debit card loads at Target – like I said, I’m not a huge MSer).

If she were to close her Redbird and open up a Serve card, would it get shut down immediately?  Or if she did some MSing on it – how long would it take?  I’d imagine somebody that got a shutdown email yesterday has probably already closed their account and opened up another one – it will be interesting to see how American Express handles that.

Finding a pattern to whose accounts got shut down

bluebirdAs I mentioned, my Serve One VIP account did NOT get shut down, but I’m not really sure why.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, here were some factors about my account that might be different from the average travel hacker’s account

  • I don’t use it super frequently (I don’t think I ever max out my account monthly)
  • My account is fairly new (I re-opened it in November)
  • I’ve been loading $200 and $100 cards rather than $500
  • I only have one account
  • I also am not super vigilant about clearing out my balance (for instance, I currently have $2900 in the account that’s been there for awhile)
  • I also have not done any online loading

I’ve tried to look through some of the comments of various posts to see if a pattern has emerged.  There’s this Frequent Miler post as well as the comments on my post yesterday among others.

One redditor suggested it was only new accounts that remained open.  Has anyone with an account opened since October / November been shut down?  There have been also definitely reports of people with older accounts that have not been shut down.

Another suggestion is this has nothing to do with MSers but is more a clampdown initiated by the federal government to tighten things up to stop money launderers.

But now what?

So if your account has been shut down, now what?  There are still a few options, but none quite as easy as buying gift cards and loading them to serve.  I enjoyed Mommy Points’s take – Earning Miles in a Post-Bluebird World.  I have been spending a bit of time reselling products, as well as buying gift cards to resell.  If you’re still looking to liquidate gift cards, there are still some stores that will allow you to buy money orders with PIN-enabled debit cards, though I would tread carefully there, as banks have been known to shut down people who deposit lots of money orders.  Remember – don’t poop where you eat!  If you going to be depositing lots of money orders, I’d set up a bank account separate from your “real” life account at a minimum.

What are your plans in a post-Bluebird / Serve world?

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