Bye, REDbird; Hello again, Serve

Also see: 

From the I-knew-if-was-too-good-to-be-true files…

Well, consider this a data point if anything.

Oh, kwitcher cryin'

Oh, kwitcher cryin’

Tonight, I decided I was done messing with the REDbird card in New York City. It’s just too hard. The closest Target to me is the one at Atlantic Terminal, and they no longer accept credit cards for reloads – only cash and debit cards – which makes this product useless to me.

I’ve heard the one in Harlem is still accepting credit cards, but from my vantage point in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, it might as well be on the other side of the moon. I will go far for points and miles – but not that far.

At about 6 hours round-trip (yes, I am serious. New York City is huge and the MTA is a nightmare), I have to weigh my opportunity costs as well as my time. And while loading $5,000 per month is obviously more than $1,000 per month, at least I can run my Serve reloads from the app on my phone while I’m still lying in bed.

Time required: seconds. Opportunity cost: slight delay on coffee in the morning. 

My REDbird story

I grabbed the card when I went down to REDbird Land for the Christmas holiday. At the store in Southaven, Mississippi, I grabbed a temp card and loaded that baby up with $500 with no issue.

Then, back in NYC, I did one last reload and spend cycle on the Serve card. Afterward, I closed the Serve account and opened a permanent REDbird account. So I floated the $500 for a few weeks while I did all that and waited for the new card.

Afterward, I headed to the Target at Atlantic Terminal and loaded up at the register – again, with zero issue. I was so happy that it worked; I’ve always been mistrusting of that particular location for some reason (maybe it’s because it’s the busiest Target in North America and always crazy busy), but I thought I would get in at least a few months of loading up the REDbird card.

But nope. I got in just one reload before they killed it.

The next time I went back, the cashier at the register took one look and sent me to Guest Services. Bad sign. Guest Services told me what I didn’t want to hear: “Cash or debit only.”

Which leads me to tonight.

I cut up the REDbird card, closed the account online, and then headed to to see if Amex would let me have another Serve card so soon after closing the other account.

Hi again

Hi again

Well, instant confirmation that a new Serve card is on the way. So now, back to Serve I go. Oh, and it seems like the Serve website got a little “refresh” – looking great!

The state of the game

I’m equal parts disappointed and relieved. Disappointed about losing the opportunity for points but relieved I don’t have to deal with that particular Target location any more. It’s such a $#!+ show.

Why is NYC so bad for manufactured spend? Even today while grabbing a couple of PayPal My Cash cards, I got a dick manager at a CVS who told me he wouldn’t do it (just like Vanilla Reloads. I’m telling you, the PayPal cards are just like Vanilla Reloads), but the other 90% of the time, it’s been fine.

In a way, I am waiting for that little gravy train to stop running too. But I’ll take it while the getting is good. I’ve already met the spend on my new Chase IHG Select Rewards Visa, earned some Club Carlson points, some Arrival Plus miles, etc. And the RadPad/PayPal debit card combo has been a boon – I love it.

Turning back to REDbird and Serve… I guess I will have to settle with Serve for as long as I live in NYC. It’s so weird to me that I can load up with a credit card with no issue in rural Mississippi, but the Target in the biggest city in the United States wants cash from me. It’s 2015. Take my freaking card.

Bottom line

Hated to do it, but my little REDbird stopped flying.

I do want to keep earning points with a prepaid product, and Serve is the next best thing. After weighing time and opportunity cost, it is back to Serve I go.

Serve is a great option if you aren’t near a Target, if you can’t get to one 2 days per month (or even just 1), or if you just don’t want to deal with the risk of Target not taking your credit card.

It sucks because I was actually going to start grabbing a few items here and there AKA shopping at Target more regularly. After all, I was already in there – captive audience – and with the 5% discount, yeah, I might’ve grabbed a little of this and a little of that.I was also keen to use the bill pay function to pay my bills each month. But nope, sorry Target – the no credit card reload is a deal breaker.

I’d be curious to know if there’s anyone who has the option to have and reload REDbird but opts for Serve anyway – be it for convenience, reliability, or other factors? If New York City is any indication, will the Target credit card reloads will come to a halt any time soon? 

Furthermore, and this is more of a big picture question, how worth is manufactured spend any more? Is the risk still worth the reward? 

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. Surprised SF is still going very strong. No questions asked, loaded in seconds at CS. They know what they’re doing!

    • Hey James, you can load the Serve card directly on the website at – no going out required – so it’s the easiest way to earn some extra points with minimal effort.

      • you can only load a thousand a month online and you cant use any cards form Citibank because they will hit you with a cash advance fee but if you want do load more than that up to the max 5k using gift cards or money packs, i think you’re out of options in nyc

  2. Hey Harlan,
    Hate to hear about Redbird. I have a Serve Card, I am loading it from a Cap One card. I am also waiting for my permanent Tmobile card to arrive so I can use that to load on onto Serve. I have had luck buying Reloadit Cards with VGC that I got from Simon Mall (with a cc). I’m not sure that this is the most optimum strategy but this is my first MS attempt.
    As for Paypal MyCash, I am not sure how you will use that strategy without getting shut down? I found a Duane Reed in Manhattan that will sell PPMC to me with a cc with no problem, but I am a bit sketchy about taking money from that account through PP.

    • Hey Dominic!

      The REDbird thing sucks… I’ve thought about gift cards and liquidating them through Evolve (and have done so before) but they added a 3% fee for gift cards today so not sure how worth it that will be moving forward.

      As for the PayPal, I only use the business debit card to pay my rent payments via RadPad… and that’s it. So they are all completely legit charges. I don’t transfer the money to my bank account. If I have extra left over, I leave it until the next month. Or if I don’t have enough, I transfer some in from my bank account. I don’t worry about being shut down using the service in this way. I feel like I’m using it as they intended.

      Just keep it clean with PayPal and you’ll be fine.

  3. Hi Harlan,

    This is unrelated to this thread but we need some quick help if you can!

    Just got the Freedom and want to max out the 5X, but we’ve never brought GCs at grocery stores before.

    Where in NYC can we buy $500 GCs with a CC at a grocery store? We have a stop and shop near us, would that work?

  4. Hi Harlan,
    Great blog!! I am also a NYCer who started churning. Quick question..where is the best place to offline load the Serve card in NYC?

    • Hi Dan! I’ve never loaded up the card anywhere but online. If you load it in a store, it will be cash only. This is the drawback to MS-ing in NYC: few opportunities for large amounts of MS. I’ve had to be content with the $1K online load limit. It falls into the “better than nothing” category for me, and only takes about a minute per month. Not a bad rate of return.

      Thank you for reading!


      • Keep up the great work! I will be a regular reader since we are in the same arena of NYC churners. Anyway back to Serve. How about buying VGC and going to a Family Dollar or Walmart to load Serve? I think I read somewhere that Family Dollar give you hassles. However, I am willing to take a 40 mins trip to Walmart in Jersey if I am able to increase my max limit of $1000 (online). I know you are in Bay Ridge so this might not be worth it for you.

        • I’ve heard of people having issues with loading GCs at Walmart these days too, but it’s certainly worth trying out. Nothing to lose!

          Bay Ridge is BARREN. I have a Staples that has a good variety of gift cards but that’s about IT.

  5. I am sure you have heard but if not I hate to be the bearer or bad news. It seems like Serve will only accept Amex as online load come mid April! I was getting pretty excited about MS in the barren wasteland of NYC but now we wont have the Serve option. I am thinking of getting a Redbird now.

  6. I reckon it’s a bit late to comment on this thread and get a response but will give a shot just in case. Harlan, do you (or anyone here) perchance know if the Flatbush Target works with Redbird reloads? I won’t go out of my way to get there during cold months, but the store is 15 feet in front of the Q35 bus stop and across the street from the 2/5 stop for the Riis Park/Fort Tilden beaches, so it would be great for me during summer. A search of the FT thread turned up nought. If Flatbush is out, then Redbird is dead to me as well. Advance thanks if anyone knows.

    • I’ve heard mixed things about the Harlem location, and lots about the Atlantic Terminal location. Based on that, I’d say you might luck out once or twice, but not to get too used to it. Target is starting to crack down on reloads that lead to immediate withdrawals to a bank account too, just FYI, so if it does work, try to pay bills with it – or at least mix it up with legit spend.

      If you have success at the Flatbush location, let us know. It’s too far for me to get to, but would make a great data point. I also searched FT for a mention of that particular store and didn’t find anything either.

      Thank you, Brendan!

  7. Thanks for the data points, Harlan. I’ll give it a shot in Flatbush once the weather gets beachy. That neighborhood isn’t quite the FT residential demographic, but I am surprised at least some people haven’t reported trying.

    • I’m gonna stay the course with the PayPal My Cash cards as long as the gettin’ is good, and I’m using the FIA Fidelity Amex with Serve now. See here and here.

      And, of course, waiting for the next big thing!

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