Many of you that are into manufactured spending have probably already read about Amex shutting down more Serve and Bluebird accounts or might have received an email yourself this morning.

The Email

For anyone that has not heard, Amex sent Bluebird and Serve holders emails this morning similar to the one from January 8, 2016.  I received the email on January 8 (the entire email is copied in Jan post) but my mom’s (in name only as I am the one using it) Serve account survived this time. The email states that you will no longer be able to add money to your Account (making it dead from a MS standpoint). From what I read, it sounds that many people that survived in January were affected today.

I’ve read a lot of the comments and there still does not seem to be an exact pattern that determines who was affected. The only pattern I noticed is that people with new accounts (opened in February maybe January) were not affected.  This is similar to last time where it seems like people who had opened accounts November or December were not affected. See this reddit thread for more information.

A few people think the dollar amount of manufactured spending might matter but I don’t think that is the case since my sister’s Bluebird was affected in January and she had not been loading her Bluebird to the maximum allowed.  I think that Amex has a list of a few things that indicate MS activity and one or more of these factors makes them target your Bluebird/Serve account. These probably include online credit card loads, gift card loads and bill pay to credit cards.  I am not sure if making regular purchases even helps and if so what amount would be required.

After my Serve was affected in January, I opened a new Serve account in my mom’s name.  I opened it in mid-January but did not activate it until February (I was taking a mini break from manufactured spending since on top of the Serve shutdown my nearest Walmart store was closed).

My Plan to Keep Using Serve

Although there are no guarantees that Amex won’t change Serve completely to not allow debit or Amex credit card loads, right now it seems like Amex might be sending emails every 2 months on Friday.  Just in case this continues, I plan to close my mom’s Serve late April or early May. Hopefully, this means that she could then reopen a Serve account again after the next round of Amex emails.  If that fails I have other family members that will let me open accounts for them but I would only open one at a time.  Not sure if this will work or that Amex will even keep on the same schedule but I think it is worth trying to see if closing your account and reopening spares you from the next email.

[4/12/16-Update: Amex did a third round of Bluebird/Serve shutdowns on April 12, 2016 and closed down my mom’s Serve account. They changed their schedule from the first Friday of the month and did it earlier on a random Tuesday.  I think they wanted to catch people that were going to close their account before early May like I was. Looks like you can only use Serve/Bluebird for a bit as Amex keeps aggressively shutting down accounts. I might eventually open a new Serve using yet another family member but I might wait a few months to see if the pattern changes or if Amex eases up.  In the meanwhile, I am using Plastiq to meet my minimum spending requirements on new credit cards.]

My Advice

It is had to predict the future but my advice for anyone with a Serve or Bluebird account that has not been affected is to not get stuck with tons of gift cards.  I like to buy only a few gift cards at a time and to liquidate them as soon as possible after they are in my possession. That way if something happens with Serve/Bluebird you are not stuck with thousands of dollars of gift cards.

Was your Bluebird/Serve account affected?

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