Bluebird & Serve Shutdowns
As they say, all good things must come to an end. Today, it seems that manufacturing spend with Bluebird and Serve may be mostly over. Many people including myself have received the following email on their accounts:
Dear Sad Manufactured Spender (Actually it said the cardholder’s name),
We are writing to let you know that we have observed unusual usage patterns on your American Express Serve Account. Because of this, effective immediately, you will no longer be able to add money to your Account.1 We have made this change in accordance with Section 15.d of our Consumer User Agreement, which you can view here.
Please be aware that you continue to have full access to the funds on your Account and can withdraw them at any time. Any applicable monthly fees continue to apply.
Once your balance reaches $0, please close your Account online via your Profile page accessible here. Scroll down to the Close Account section and click “Close Account.”
If you have any questions or would like to inquire further about this issue, you may write to us at the following address:
C/O Customer Relations 02-04-40
4315 S 2700 W
Salt Lake City, UT 84184-0440
The American Express Serve Team
As for the language they refer to, here is what it says (emphasis mine):
We, in our sole discretion, may limit your use of, suspend or terminate your privileges with respect to your Account (including your Reserve), Sub-Account, Card and/or Sub-Account Card with or without cause or notice, other than any notice required by Applicable Law, including in the event we believe there has been a breach in security or there has been unauthorized activity involving your Account or you have engaged in activity that is fraudulent or inappropriate (e.g., manufacture activity that is inconsistent with the intended use of the Account) or violates the terms of this User Agreement. We will only close your Account if there are no funds remaining in your Account (including your Reserve) or Sub-Account, unless you specifically instruct us to close your Account or Sub-Account with funds remaining, in which case, any remaining funds will be escheated to the applicable state in accordance with Applicable Law. Closure of your Account will prohibit your access to the Service.
Not All Accounts
I do want to be clear that not everyone has received these emails and we obviously don’t know exactly what “unusual usage patterns” are. It stands to reason that anyone who does multiple loads of certain dollar amounts and then cleans out their account shortly thereafter will be triggering this. I do know of people who have MSed with a Bluebird/Serve that haven’t yet received this email so any guess as to exactly why this is happening is simply speculation.
I suppose the silver lining in all of this is that American Express is allowing people to access all of the funds in the account. In the past during shutdowns on similar cards from other issuers, funds could be tied up for quite some time. At least if you have thousands of dollars sitting in an account you can make one last sad bill payment.
Switching to Another Flavor?
At this point we simply don’t know if American Express will simply “blacklist” people from opening up another prepaid card if their current card was shutdown for this reason. This is another answer we probably will have within a few days. My guess is they won’t let you, but who knows.
How to Liquidate Now?
I maintain a resource on the site called How To Liquidate Prepaid Visa & Mastercard Gift Cards. While I haven’t removed Bluebird/Serve yet, there are many other ways to liquidate these cards listed there. Not all of them are pleasant, but there is still hope if you have a lot of cards you are sitting on.
This is a very bad day for many including myself. I won’t try to sweeten this with a glass half full mentality since this is definitely a huge blow to manufactured spending. As we learn more about this new “change in policy” and how it is being enforced I’ll make sure to keep everyone up to date.
Thanks to all of the readers who wrote to me this morning to warn me of this.