Good evening everyone, the word on the
street blogosphere is that American Express is starting to shutdown Redbird Cards. The story was first announced on FlyerTalk and quickly spread to other forums and onto the miles and points blogs. Here is the image of the email that was uploaded to the FlyerTalk thread. American Express accuses the user of “repeated suspicious activity” by loading funds onto the Redbird Card and withdrawing the funds (via ACH bank transfer) “and/or bill pays equal to the account balance immediately following “Cash” Reloads.”
Frequent Miler had an interesting article out this afternoon called Real or hoax? Your Target Prepaid REDcard Account has Been Closed where he tried to determine if the above email was real or fake. Personally, I think the email looks Photoshopped and has weird font colors and formatting. I found 2 emails from American Express regarding my Redbird Card that I wanted to use to compare to the image above. The title of the email above says, “Your Target Prepaid REDcard© Account Has Been Closed.” I find it strange since my emails never have the © symbol. The signature line from above also strikes me as strange, “Thanks, Target Prepaid REDcard© by American Express Fraud Protection Team.” My emails from the “Fraud Protection Team” do not have a similar email signature.
The point of this post is not to argue whether or not the first email is real, but to share my philosophy and loading/unloading strategy. Over the last year, I have had a Bluebird, Serve, and now a Redbird Card. Over that period of time, I also managed other Bluebird, Serve, and Redbird Cards, so I have quite a few data/reference points in my mind. I am not worried about loading any of the cards. I am not worried about loading even dollar amounts ($200, $500, or $1,000) at a time, since the “normal person” who is loading cash to their card is probably paying with a few $20s, $50s, and $100s, not a random handful of change ($268.63 or $652.11). No one does that. I don’t think American Express cares how you load the card or what increments you use to load your card.
The most important part is how you unload your card. You should never load your card and immediate withdrawn funds from the card via ATM, ACH bank transfers, or bill payments in the same amount as your load. That is a big no-no and looks very suspicious. Imagine a criminal who stole your credit card, loaded his Redbird Card with your credit card, and immediately withdrew the funds a few minutes later. You don’t want American Express to think you are acting like a criminal.
I’m not sure if this has any impact on shutdowns, but I recommend using your Redbird Card in Target to purchase items every now and then. If you never use your Redbird Card in Target and only go to Target to load your Redbird Card, your account might get flagged as someone gaming the system. Target does not have the best selection, but if you can get 5% instant discount on almost everything in the store and an extra 30 day return period by using your Redbird Card, surely you can find something to buy every now and then.
As far as ATM withdrawals and ACH bank transfers go, the occasional ATM withdrawal is fine. I’ve never used any of my Bluebird, Serve, or Redbird Cards at ATMs, but small withdrawals should not get your account flagged. With that said, if all you do is withdraw all your funds via ATM and never use your Redbird Card in Target, your account might get flagged. There is also no real reason to do a ACH bank transfer. Why are you loading cash to your Redbird Card and then withdrawing the funds to your bank account? Isn’t the Redbird Card intended for people that don’t have/want traditional bank accounts? If all you do is withdraw your funds to your bank account, your account might get flagged.
Lastly, bill payments can be tricky as well. Most bills that we pay on a daily basis do not come out to nice round numbers ($500, $1,000, or $5,000). All of my bills have random digits at the end ($211.85 or $869.86). Paying bills with random numbers instead of nice round numbers is what “normal people” do. It is also advisable to wait a few days between loading and using bill pay. Never ever make a bill payment that matches the amount you just loaded to your Redbird Card. That looks very suspicious and might get flagged. Instead, if you load $2,000 today, wait a few days and pay 2-3 bills in random increments, but leave a few dollars on the card. I never completely drain my cards, I always leave at least $5 on at any given time.
The best course of action is to mix up your unloading strategy. Throw in a few Target purchase and the occasional outside purchase too. Use the card like the other 99% of credit card users do. Try to blend in with the crowd and not stick out. That is my advice. I follow this advice and have never had a problem with any of my cards.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. Have a great evening everyone!
P.S. I am flying down to San Diego tomorrow afternoon and might be at lounge in SAN for a few hours. If you are flying in tomorrow afternoon, let me know. See you all at FTU San Diego!