I’m not Worried about Redbird Card Shutdowns

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.”

Suspicious Redbird Email

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  You should never load your card and immediate withdrawn funds from the card via ATM, ACH bank transfers, or bill payments in the same amount as your load.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!

42 thoughts on “I’m not Worried about Redbird Card Shutdowns

  1. Syed

    Lots of good points in here grant. “Subtly” unloading your card is important just think about it from targets point of view. They want people to buy stuff from target and if they just see loads and unloads for the same amounts they will not be happy. Like you said, try not to stick out like a sore thumb.

    I actually do like unloading into my checking account since I have had some problems with the serve bill pay system in the past. But I withdraw at random times for random amounts. Never nice round even numbers.

    Reply
  2. brad1973

    I think these letters could be fake too but all the same I am changing my methods. I will be using the Redbird for more daily purchase activity as opposed to just bill pays. Also no more ACH bank transfers. I never pull cash either and won’t start to.

    Reply
  3. chrisflyer

    I agree that it is probably a hoax. Why would it be suspicious that loads are always in $500 or $1000 increments? And the wording of the whole thing seems odd.

    Regardless of the veracity of the email, I think it is prudent to mix up the unloading strategy. That’s what I do with my Serve.

    Reply
      1. Hoang

        I also believe it may be a hoax from someone with good intention worry AMEX/Target might shut it down. I have been doing with BB mostly to transfer money to the bank. Now I should be careful with Redbird. I may use them to pay for the credit which I charge for everyday purchase like gas, grocery, cable, insurance, and mix with the money loaded to the card. To me if you load the money to the prepaid card, $100, $200, $500 or $1000 make more sense than $950, $925,…

        Reply
        1. brad1973

          These are my thoughts too Hoang. I am setting up my Redbird for utility payments in order to generate some legitimate purchase activity. If Amex is making money from my purchases they will be less likely to shut me down. Loading would be in round numbers in any case since most people find that easier to keep track of.

          Reply
  4. Carl P

    You mention (C) in the emails, but all I see is (R). I also see that in the first email to you. Maybe I’m missing something.

    But, I still think it’s a hoax.

    Reply
  5. Michael

    Grant – I’m scheduled to arrive in SAN around 1:30 PM today, but that is contingent on my flight from IAD leaving on time in the snow and then making the connecting flight in DEN with a 40 min layover.

    Reply
          1. Grant

            Sounds good, I forgot that I have a close friend from college who lives in San Diego, so I am having dinner with her tonight. Then tomorrow night I will be at the Hyatt all weekend long :)

  6. Jake

    For those that are creating hoax emails, AmEx and Target invest a lot in building and protecting their brand. They are liti-happy and I’m sure they’re working on identifying individuals involved with this hoax and pursuing legal action against them.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      That is definitely a possibility, but it might be hard for AMEX to track down the individuals since everyone on FT is very secretive.

      Reply
      1. Jake

        I was able to write a quick and dirty java script. I could easily identify the IP address / some identity information on the FT posters.

        Reply
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  8. Keith

    Grant,

    I’ve had Redbird since November. Since then Ive loaded approx 25k, done two ACH transfers to my savings account (about 3700 and 6500), and a small ATM withdrawl for approx 300. Currently have 16k in my Redbird account. NEVER purchased a thing in Target or used Redbird’s billpay feature.

    Since I currently have about 80k in a few bank accounts I paid off the CC’s I funded Redbird with using my Bank’s billpay, thus avoiding a “closed loop.”

    Would having a large amount of cash on my Redbird would reduce the possibility of a shutdown?? The way I see it, since AMEX gives us the oppurtunity to MS, I don’t mind keeping a large balance in my Redbird. Yes, I’m not earning interest, but won’t miss the whopping .005 annual percent I’d earn, then get 1099-ed adding insult to injury. The $100 per month in travel-related statement credits is MUCH more appealing.

    Another point.. Redbird has been encouraging a direct-deposit of tax refunds. For those of us who have routed our refunds to our Redbird accounts, If AMEX shuts down our accounts we can’t get our refunds!!!

    Reply
    1. Grant

      I’m not sure what is safe with Redbird, but if you get direct deposits onto your Redbird Card, that should help. I had a little issue with my direct deposit onto my Redbird Card from state/federal taxes that I need to clear up soon.

      Reply
      1. brad73

        I think the key with Redbird is to show normal banking activity like utility bill pays and random card purchases at Target and elsewhere. I figure I earn points when I use a CC to buy Amex GC’s so I don’t mind using the Redbird to make some daily spends. I want to keep Redbird alive for the most important use: meeting minimum spends.

        Reply
  9. Eric Rich

    Grant,

    I’ve had a lot of fun with the Target Prepaid Redcard. I’m currently using a 5% cashback card to load $5,000 per month to 50 cards. I spread out the loads across 10 Target stores in my area to keep a low profile. I do one $1000 load every day of the month at each store. $5,000 x 50 = $250,000. 5% cashback on that is $12,500/month. I got all 50 cards from “Redcard Resales” online.

    It is absolutely baffling to me that people think $20-$30 is too much to spend for one of these cards. They are worth $100 in the 1st month alone with a 2% cashback card….$250 the first month with a 5% cashback card.

    Reply
  10. Kevin S

    According to info on an Amex web page, the Redbird should be in MO local Target. Went to a store and it’s not. Called Amex CS that handle the card and no help. Just got off the phone with a Target CSR and best the guy could do was provide the same Amex phone number.

    Has new stores in state/area been getting the Redbird sign-up card or not?

    Reply
    1. Grant

      The list of participating Target stores is way out of date. Just call around to local Target stores and see if any of them have the Redbird Cards.

      Reply
  11. Gary

    Just went to my local Target in petaluma, ca. and they said the new policy is $500 max load per day on the REDcard. Have you heard anyone else encounter this possible REDcard deal breaker for me?
    Gary

    Reply

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