Manufactured Spend: BB or Not BB?


 American Express Bluebird and American Express Serve prepaid cards are the apples from the same tree, but they do have “their differences”. I posted about Bluebird and Serve here, but since Vanilla Reload is dead, it’s time to make a few adjustments.

American Express Bluebird allows you to load prepaid cards, such as Vanilla Reload One Vanilla up to $1,000 per calendar day and $5,000 per calendar month. You can also load up to $1,000 with your debit card. Then you can use your Bluebird account just like you can use any online bank account, and your Bluebird card just like any other debit card. You have to do it at Walmart. With a BB account, you will be either writing checks or making online payments to your other accounts that you can’t pay directly with a credit card. By using your BB card for regular purchases every now and then, you would buy stuff you need anyway to try and convince AMEX that you are just another underbanked fellow for whom this service was invented in the first place. :)

American Express Serve is similar to Bluebird, but it has some advantages. In addition to loading Vanilla Reloads, you can also load up to $1,500 with a credit card and the same with a debit card. However, to get these terms, you should go with Isis.

Isis is a mobile wallet application available on Android phones and iPhones. That’s the reason I didn’t link directly to an Amex Serve website that limits your loads to $1,000 with a credit or/and debit card each. In addition, you will get some other perks from Isis.

The problem with Isis is that you can’t have the service unless you own the latest iPhone or Android phones, or you have to buy a special case for iPhone that costs $69. If you don’t have the phone that can work with Isis, you are limited to $1,000 load from a credit card and $1,000 load for a debit card monthly. And no, the gift debit cards won’t work.

However, even if you can’t get Isis, Serve has gained a huge advantage over Bluebird recently. Grant from Travel with Grant reports that OMG You can now Load AMEX Serve at Walmart with Visa/MasterCard Gift Cards. OMG is about right, because it’s really huge! That adds the ability to liquidate an extra $1,000 dollars a month via credit card. That makes it possible to “process” $7,000 a month on Serve only — if, like 95% of Americans, you have a Walmart within a short ride from home!

However, Serve still has this one disadvantage compared to Bluebird. You can’t write a check. It is a huge disadvantage! My family members, for example, graciously allow me to take care of their monthly rents. It cannot be done with electronic payments (well, try to convince New York landlords or management companies to take electronic payments). The Bluebird checkbook has been perfect in this respect, which is why I have been delaying my own transition to Serve. But now, the lure is too irresistable. I think I’m doing it.

So, BB or not BB? I think not BB! Go Serve, especially if your cellphone supports Isis, and if the ability to write checks is not too crucial to you.

What do you guys think?

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