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Sunday, March 31, 2013

AMEX Bluebird Update - Is Bluebird DEAD?


This is the third in the series about Bluebird cards from American Express.  I first wrote about Bluebird in November, calling it the new Killer App.  Several weeks later, I wrote an update about Bluebird entitled "Is Bluebird Worth It Now? To summarize those two articles for those of you not familiar with Bluebird, it is both a debit card and a checking account.  The initial miles and points strategy used with Bluebird was to fund your Bluebird account by purchasing prepaid Vanilla Reload cards from Office Depot and CVS with a miles or points earning credit card . 

Within the first few weeks of issuance of Bluebird, Office Depot discontinued selling vanilla Reload Cards and Walgreens stopped taking credit cards for the purchase of them. That still left CVS in the game and as long as you had a credit card that earned bonus points or miles for pharmacy purchases, you could still rack up tens of thousands of points simply by funding your Bluebird account.  With the money in the bluebird account, you could then pay bills with money that had earned miles or points.  This was a great thing.  I was now paying things like car payments, mortgages, utility bills, etc with money that earned Hilton points. I was buying Vanilla cards at CVS with a Hilton AMEX.  Each dollar spent at CVS was earning 6 Hilton points.  In 6 months time my wife and I had racked up over 300,000 Hilton points from a combination of strategies.  Some involved sign up bonuses, while others involved transfers from other programs like Hawaiian Airlines.

I recently booked a trip for 8 nights in French Polynesia for the Fall of 2014.  We will be spending 4 nights in Moorea and 4 nights in Bora Bora.  All thanks to Bluebird.

Unfortunately, there are several things coming together in the perfect storm that may ultimately kill the Killer App.  First of all, as of your first billing cycle in May the Hilton AMEX will no longer be paying out 6 points/$ at pharmacies.  Secondly, as of March 28 Hilton massively devalued their points currency.  Thirdly, Vanilla Reloads are getting very difficult to find in some areas of the country. 

So where does that leave us now with Bluebird?  The reload cards used to fund the account are hard to find, the primary points earning card will no longer be paying a bonus on pharmacy purchases and now Hilton has devalued their currency.  Is Bluebird Dead?

I think there is value in Bluebird for some people.  If you have a Starwood AMEX card or If you are someone who likes to apply for multiple credit cards per year and have difficulty manufacturing spending to meet minimum spending requirements, then Bluebird is still a great option.  You can apply for many cards at once and have no fear that you cannot meet the spending requirements as long as you have cash to pay the credit card bills at the end of the month.  Remember the value of miles and points is quickly negated if you are paying interest on your credit cards at the end of the month. As Starpoints are considered worth 2.5 cents each by many bloggers, paying $3.95 for the 500 Starpoints still seems worth it to me.

So to sum it up, yes there is still some value in Bluebird, but it is on life support for earning miles and points.  The only thing that would put a stake in its heart would be if CVS stops taking credit cards for the payment of Vanilla Reloads.

About The Points Doctor

The Points Doctor is Bruce J. Wilderman DDS of Artistic Expressions Dentistry.Dr. Wilderman has a practice limited to Cosmetic Dentistry, serving patients of the Philadelphia Area since 1986.He and wife of 30 years enjoy traveling the world for little or no money with the points and miles they have earned from the credit card companies. Dr. Wilderman would love to teach you how to do the same. You may reach him at ThePointsDoctor@comcast.net

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