AMEX Prepaid Twins: Bluebird and Blue Serve

There’s big money to be made in the transparent and low-fee prepaid card niche and American Express is going nuts in on this untapped market by partnering with WalMart on the newly revived Bluebird prepaid card:

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Oct. 8, 2012 – Walmart and American Express today announced the launch of Bluebird, an alternative to debit and checking accounts designed to help consumers better manage and control their everyday finances. Bluebird has been developed for the tens of millions of Americans who are looking for advanced capabilities such as deposits by smartphone and mobile bill pay, fee transparency, and no minimum balance, monthly, annual or overdraft fees. Bluebird puts the power back in the hands of consumers and will be available next week online at and in more than 4,000 Walmart stores.

I have had the white American Express Serve card since it was first announced in March 2011, and while I had a rocky start with that card, Serve has recently undergone a change and expansion in purpose and it now seems to be a more friendly card, albeit a carbon copy of Bluebird.

With no credit checks and no monthly or annual fees, Serve brings more people into the American Express family. Enjoy the benefits of your account that include:

Purchase Protection 1
Shop with your Serve® account and you can help protect eligible purchases against accidental damage or theft for up to 90 days from the date of purchase.

Roadside Assistance 2
When your car breaks down, we can send help your way for towing, winching, flat tires, battery boost, fuel delivery or emergency lock-out*.
*Available in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Entertainment Access 3
Enjoy access to presale tickets, reserved seats and behind the scenes experiences in certain cities when you use your Serve card from American Express.

I have the original white Serve card.  On October 1, I was sent a replacement “Blue Serve” card but nobody from American Express bothered to tell me my white card had been canceled after my blue card was shipped.

I only found out about the problem because my white Serve card stopped working with merchants, and when I called to find out what was happening, American Express finally told me a new blue card had been sent to me — oh, and that’s the official name of the new card:  “Blue Serve.”

When I asked why my white Serve had to be canceled without notification and I had to wait 7-10 business days for the replacement blue card, AMEX had no answer, because they agreed with me it was strange to kill one card before receiving another — especially when the consumer did not make the replacement request.  They also told me I should have been warned in email that a new card was on its way.  I told them I did not receive any email notification.

Then, this morning, this email notification from AMEX magically appeared in my Inbox:

Funny thing is that I HAD BEEN using my white Serve card and the $25 for $25 credit had already been used, and unwittingly, applied to my account way back on September 19, 2012, so my confidence that AMEX has their Serve shat together is waning.

However, I do like it that on Blue Serve they now place your name right on the card.  The lack of name identification on the White Serve was always curious when it came to claiming an emotional tie to your transactions.

I do like the idea of low-fee prepaid cards because, in world of identity and credit card theft, a prepaid card like Bluebird or Blue Serve can become a firewall between your real debit and credit cards.  Load up a Blue Serve card and use it for daily incidentals when you would normally use cash or your other direct cards, and you are protected from having to fiddle for change or wondering if some nefarious person is scanning your debit or credit card without your permission.

Sure, you might lose a few dollars on a prepaid card if it gets lost or stolen, but that’s much better than giving someone the keys to your checking or credit card kingdoms.  Blue Serve will become my daily carry card for all the derring do I daily do and I’ll feel safer for the effort.

You can also add up to four sub-accounts with Serve.  I like that a lot, because you can manage an entire family’s weekly allowance split among members.  You can also turn cards on and off and set daily limits for transferring funds and spending.  You can seamlessly “send money” to another family member, or any Serve card consumer.

Do you have a Serve card?  Will you get a Bluebird card?  Is there any difference whatsoever between the two cards?  I wonder why American Express wants to dilute the prepaid pool with two identical cards that are sort of separately branded, but not really.