Since American Express dropped the ax on many Bluebird/Serve cardholders (including myself) last week, the big question everyone has been asking is, why? What triggered some accounts to get shutdown and why were others spared? In my family, only my card was shutdown. It was a beautiful SoftServe from another era with grandfathered in Visa/MC credit card loads. May she rest in peace.
The two other main cards I manage were both spared. One was a One VIP Serve card that was opened back in November. This card had never done online loads or transfer to a bank account. It had only been used to pay bills. I believe many of those things are factors in why that card survived. I actually think the age of the card is especially important.
Tracking Data Points
Currently there is a Google Spreadsheet with about 200 data points from people who were shutdown. (HT: Danny the Deal Guru) In that spreadsheet people can share the age of their accounts and how they used it. Based on the data, it does seem that newer accounts were much more likely to survive. The majority of accounts older than 3 months were shut down.
My Bluebird Is Alive
There is a Bluebird card in my household that is over two years old and has been used fairly heavily during that time. It has probably been maxed out with loads 90% of the time since the card was new. No checks were ever written, but bill pays have been common. In other words, I couldn’t figure out why it was spared. It fits the patterns for the shutdowns, except for one thing.
Over a year ago Walmart ran a promotion with their Savings Catcher price matching program offering double the difference back when the savings were loaded to Bluebird. I covered the deal and Savings Catcher extensively at the time and used it on occasion when I would pick up a few items as part of my frequent trips to the Big Box Retailer.
In fact, I still use Savings Catcher to this day for my very infrequent grocery purchases at Walmart. After making a purchase I scan the receipt into the Savings Catcher app and they do the rest. It doesn’t take long and ensures I get the best or close to the best price on the items I am purchasing. Whenever the Savings Catcher balance is a few dollars, I then use the Bluebird card at Walmart to make small purchases.
I am theorizing that the use of Savings Catcher saved this Bluebird card. First, by actually using the program and having funds loaded to Bluebird, I am using the card as intended. This is good. Second, by redeeming the money and swiping the card at Walmart, I am doing what the card was meant for. This pattern of activity certainly could have helped the card survive.
Am I suggesting that using Savings Catcher will save your Bluebird? Absolutely not, but it couldn’t hurt. If you shop at Walmart anyway, then you should be using Savings Catcher. Once the app is installed and loaded, it takes less than 30 seconds to scan the receipt. I do it as I leave the checker and have it done by the time I am at the door. Here is my full review about how to use it.
While everyone has theories about what caused the shutdowns, there is no doubt in my mind that people with active cards should use them regularly as intended. In my case, I will lay low with my open cards when it comes to loading, but I’ll continue to use them for Amex Offers and use the Bluebird for Savings Catcher. This is how the cards are supposed to be used and perhaps it will save them from the chopping block.
What are your thoughts? What do you think about the data in the spreadsheet linked to above? Let me know in the comments!