Schwab Investment Checking vs. Fidelity Cash Management

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I realized access to our money was pretty important.  Our local bank branch was down, and without power, for over 10 days.  Sure, there were other branches to visit and online banking to exploit — but when it came down to it — as Mark Twain sort of said, “If you’re going to put all your eggs in one basket, you better have a pretty good basket!” — I knew I had to build a better basket.

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Why I Canceled American Express Bluebird and Opened a Brokerage Account Instead

On October 9, 2012, I was high on the promise of American Express’ Bluebird prepaid card and “bank account.”  By November 2 of the same year, I had enough, as I mentioned in a comment on my original Bluebird review:

Bluebird is majorly sucking. On Oct. 31, during Halloween Sandy, we received an emergency email from Bluebird support that my wife’s account had been locked for “security reasons.” We decided to spend precious battery time in the middle of a power outage to call and find out what was happening. It turned out someone else was trying to login to her account and instead of locking THEM out, AMEX locked out my legitimate wife from her account! Madness! Terrible security. Why punish the innocent party by making them call in and go through a 15-minute security test when we aren’t the ones causing the login problems?

Just now, we received another freaking email from Bluebird about the same issue! My wife’s account is locked for security reasons! She hasn’t tried to login to her account for days! I’ve been trying to reach AMEX support for 30 minutes. Lines into the Philippines tech support center on this Sunday are clearly not working. What a hassle!

I’m thinking we will have to cancel our Bluebird account.

Today, I made good on my promise and canceled my Bluebird account over the phone — unlike AMEX Serve, Bluebird accounts cannot be canceled online — and the only reason I waited a few days to pancake Bluebird was because I first needed to zero out my balance with an Automated Clearing House (ACH) withdrawal to my bank account, and Bluebird, unfortunately, takes many days to process any ACH transaction.

Continue reading → Why I Canceled American Express Bluebird and Opened a Brokerage Account Instead

How to Impress American Express and the Credit Bureaus: Make Mid-Cycle Payments

As you may know, I’m in the American Express fold again after being absent for several years, and it’s good to be back.  There are several things I’ve forgotten, and had to relearn about having an AMEX Gold charge card, and I’ll share them with you now because you may find them valuable, if not hard-earned, nuggets of truth.

Continue reading → How to Impress American Express and the Credit Bureaus: Make Mid-Cycle Payments

American Express Member Since 89

Way back in ’89, I first became an American Express cardmember.  For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be in that charge card financial club, and when I became a graduate student at Columbia University in the City of New York, that yearning was finally realized.  Sure, an American Express card has expensive membership fees, and it’s a sort of snotty status symbol — but I was thrilled to have that card in my hand.

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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.

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The Mystery of the Missing American Express Card

I recently got a prepaid card from American Express — part of the Serve line, that allows you to send and receive money from friends on Facebook. I got it primarily because it promised in game rewards for a game I particularly like on Facebook. I wanted to see how well it worked and so I put a little money on it and went to Starbucks to get my wife Elizabeth a surprise drink.

The following day, I was surprised to receive a call from American Express Serve Customer Service. They told me that they had been notified that I had left my card at that Starbucks and when I looked in my wallet, it was of course not there. I’m not sure why I thought it might be there. I was extremely grateful that they reached out to me and I also thought it was fantastic that someone at the Starbucks store had called American Express to let them know that the card was there.

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Computer Glitch Makes AMEX Serve an EPIC FAIL!

Today is April Fool’s Day, but what I am about to share with you has nothing do to with getting fooled — it is all too real and too corporate to rake any fun.  When American Express recently announced their Serve payment service for exchanging money, I was happy to sign up, just as I had done with Square last November.  I gave AMEX my banking information, a credit card and other personal identifying information.  After confirming two deposits in my bank account, I decided to take the next test step and transfer $10 from my bank account to my Serve account.  Oh, the woe that is me!

Continue reading → Computer Glitch Makes AMEX Serve an EPIC FAIL!