20% Cash Back (Up To $200) Using American Express Serve. Is This A Bluebird Replacement?

I don’t spend a lot of time churning cards for points, certainly not as much as some folks do.  I certainly don’t consider myself an expert on the subject, though I have dabbled a bit with American Express Bluebird.

You used to be able to buy Vanilla Reload cards at office supply stores and get 5X miles per dollar by purchasing them using a Chase Ink Bold or Chase Ink Plus cards(not referral links, just handy in case you want to review the cards).  That went away some months ago, which was certainly unfortunate for folks who were churning them.  Diehard mile and point junkies are always looking for the next deal, and a friend asked me recently what I thought of Serve from American Express.  I hadn’t heard of it, but figured I would do a bit of research, especially when he told me that there was a 20% rebate on Serve purchases in the Isis Mobile Wallet.  HT: Justin.  Thanks!

So, first some details about Serve from American Express. It’s important to note that you can’t hold a Bluebird card and a Serve card at the same time.  Quoting from the T&C of Serve:

Registered users of the Bluebird® by American Express® service are not currently eligible to register for an Account or open an Account. In addition, after you register for the Serve Service, you will not be eligible to register for Bluebird for as long as you maintain a Serve Account.

Now, based on the definition of a registered user, if you’ve had a Bluebird card in the past and no longer have the account open, you likely would qualify for a Serve card. HT: JoshUK for pointing this out.

The website lists the product as something similar to Bluebird, a product for those without access to conventional bank accounts.  It includes features like direct deposit and bill pay.  It also includes a $1 monthly fee which is waived if you use direct deposit or deposit at least $500 a month.  So, it’s easy for this product to be free.

The temporary cards themselves cost $2.95 in the store and can be loaded with up to $500 in funds.  I went to my local Office Depot and found a large display of Serve cards.  I asked if I could use a credit card to load the initial balance and was told yes.  Obviously, with some of the inconsistencies surrounding gift card purchases at places like office supply stores and CVS, your mileage may vary.

20% Cash Back

 

It’s unclear from what I’ve read so far if an individual can have multiple serve cards.  At $2.95 a pop, that’s certainly cheaper than what office supply stores charge to buy regular gift cards right now.  And, if the $500 is allowed to be funded with a credit card, then that’s a good value for the miles.  I suspect that as things unfold we’ll hear about complications with having multiple Serve cards.  Here’s a snapshot of the inside of the card pack and the back with some more details.

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As a permanent replacement to Bluebird, I don’t see it.  You’ll likely be limited to 1 card and that may not be worth the effort.  But, the Isis mobile wallet 20% cash back deal looks legit.  Here’s how you would go about piecing it together easily:

1.  Go buy a Serve card at Office Depot.  Use a Chase Ink Bold or Ink Plus to get 5X if you can.

2.  Load it with $500, preferably at Office Depot or somewhere else you can get bonus points.

3.  Link the card up with your Isis mobile wallet.  More info here.  Don’t worry, iPhone users.  You can play, too.  There’s a case coming out for the iphone here, detailed here.  But, you can also buy a Flojack to turn your iPhone into an NFC deviceNOTE:  T&C state plastic card transactions don’t count.  You need to link to Isis.

4.  Go to CVS and buy $500 worth of gift cards using your Isis mobile wallet.  Wait for $100 statement credit to post.

5.  Lather, rinse, repeat to earn a total of $200.

ETA:  If you’re not using a card that gives you bonus points for purchase such as an Ink card at an office supply store, then you could in theory load the whole $1,000 on at once and redeem for $1,000 in gift cards.  But, make sure you don’t have a way to earn bonus points for loading the card first.

Damn skippy!

I can confirm having spoken with folks who have done this successfully, though I haven’t myself.  Good luck, and please report back on your successes or failures.

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8 Comments

    1. Josh, I read through the T&C on serve and couldn’t find that. That was one of my first thoughts. I’ll keep hunting.

  1. So it looks like to use ISIS you also need to get a special secure SIM card from your carrier. Presumably you go into a local AT&T or Verizon store and request one. Whether they look at you with a blank stare or go in the back and get you one I have no idea. Whether it works with the flomio or requires the case I have no idea. To get the rebate (probably to your ISIS account?) you have to use ISIS to do your transaction, so this will only work at your local CVS if they support mobile wallet NFC payments AND specifically with ISIS. From the ISIS site it looks like my local CVS does in fact support ISIS so that looks viable. Whether they’ll take ISIS payments for a credit card? Still to be tested…

    1. Glenn, I certainly don’t consider myself an ISIS expert. But, there are phones out there that can use ISIS out of the box, though I’ve heard with older Android devices that’s not the case. The T&C are very clear that you have to use ISIS and not a plastic card or another wallet service. That being said, I don’t see any literature about Serve connections to other mobile wallets, though I’m sure someone has tried it.

  2. If you sign up for Isis and register your serve card via Isis mobile wallet you get a $50 credit for free. You will get a serve card in the mail a few days later. Just FYI for anyone interested. I know it works for Verizon. Not sure about other carriers.

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