If you use Serve and/or Bluebird for manufactured spending, chances are high that you received the email this morning. I did too but I am not giving up hope on using Serve and Bluebird for manufactured spending – for now.

The Email

If you are reading this post, you either received the email or read about the email that American Express sent to many people this morning.  I received the email around 9:20 am this morning regarding my Serve OneVip account. At first I thought it was just me, but then my sister called to say she just received the same email regarding her Bluebird account. (None of my other family members have a Bluebird or Serve.)  So I went to reddit and saw this thread and found out it was not just us.  Amex sent the same email to most (but not all) people that used Bluebird and/or Serve for manufactured spending,

This is the email I received which I copied below:

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. 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:

American Express
C/O Customer Relations 02-04-40
4315 S 2700 W
Salt Lake City, UT 84184-0440

Thanks,

The American Express Serve Team

Update: Amex sent a new round of emails to many Bluebird and Serve holders on March 4, 2016.

How I Was Using Serve

I looked up Section 15.d and of course it made sense why they closed my account:

d. Suspension of Use; Cancellation; Closure.

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.

I am not surprised that they closed my Serve as I had been using it fairly frequent since I signed up for it a couple of months ago.  I was loading Serve with a credit card online and loading gift cards at Walmart.  I had been liquidating the money with bill pay and had not been making normal purchases  (I think I made one maybe).

My sister had not been using her Bluebird too often recently, but she had used it to send me some money in the last month.

What My Plan Is Now

Obviously this is bad news for me personally but it could have been worse.  I am happy they did not freeze my account.  Fortunately, I already finished my $1000 online credit card loads for the month and have no gift cards that need to be liquidated.  (I try to liquidate gift cards right after I buy them because I always worry something like this will happen.) I only have $500 of manufactured spending left on one credit card so the timing was not the worst.

What hurt the most for me was that I had recently received a retention offer on my AA Amex card (no longer offered to new applicants) which I was using to make online credit card loads on Serve.  My retention offer was an extra 1,000 bonus miles for spending $1,000 each cycle so I would be earning an easy and free 24,000 AA miles a year without leaving my house.

It is possible that Amex will eliminate debit card loads to Bluebird and debit and Amex credit card loads to Serve completely.  If they don’t, I might apply for a Bluebird after I empty and close my Serve and see if they approve me or if I have been blacklisted.  A lot of people will also be doing the same so I might hold back and see how that works for them before I proceed.

My number 1 option is to open a Serve account for my mom and use her account to do my manufactured spending.  I am aware that they might close her account as well depending if this was a one time purge or if it will be ongoing.

My Advice to Others

If your Bluebird or Serve account was not closed I would recommend liquidating your gift cards while you can and to liquidate gift cards as soon as you buy them in the future. if your Serve/Bluebird was affected, there are still other ways to manufacture spending (such as Plastiq and purchasing money orders with pin enabled gift cards).

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