So Pseudo

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Today we get to the crux of the matter.

If manufactured spending is alchemy, turning credit card spending into cash, then the transformational step is certainly the loading of your pseudo-checking account.

compy copy

where the magic happens…

So what is a pseudo checking account?

A pseudo checking account is a prepaid card that can be loaded by credit card in a number of ways. (We’ve already discussed using Visa gift cards, and reload cards,and we’ll get to the PayPal axis soon enough.)

Pseudo checking accounts were conceived of as a way to take advantage of err… As a way to bring the power of checking to the unbanked masses.

The idea is that those who do not have the resources to open bank accounts can simply register for a prepaid card and then use it to write checks and do online shopping. Sure, there are often a lot of little fees, but the fees are nowhere near as bad as at those check cashing places. (plus the prepaid cards drive their owners into establishments like Walmart and Target.)

The important thing, from a miles game player’s standpoint, is not the societal implications of such a product. The important thing is that the prepaid card can be used to transform credit card spending into cash equivalents (checks, money orders, and direct withdrawals to personal bank accounts.)  This is really raison d’etre for manufactured spending

There are countless pseudo-checking accounts, and I will write about a few of them here, though my list is not exhaustive.

The big three (Bluebird/Serve/Redbird) are all from American Express, and they are mutually exclusive. (You can only have one of these at a time per Social Security number.)

Bluebird :(The old standby.)

Amex-Bluebird-Card

Gestalt: This was a real game changer at one point: the first pseudo-checking account that allowed you to swipe reload the account with pin enabled Visa gift cards. Now it’s just sort of okay.

How to load: vanilla reloads (defunct), non-vanilla brand Visa card swipe reloads at Walmart. (swipe reloading means using your Visa gift card as a pin enabled debit card.)

How to liquidate: Use online bill pay to pay your bills, credit card and otherwise.  (This bill pay feature  is quite similar to using any bank’s online bill pay system, minus the recurring payments) , purchase money orders, or withdraw money directly to a linked bank account.)

Load limits: $1000 per day, $5000 per month- swipe reloads only.

Verdict: was a real trailblazer at one point but at this point it been eclipsed by newer developments.

Serve and Softbank Serve cards. (The big-box store avoidance card.)

front-of-the-serve-card

Gestalt: This is my go to card. No other card is quite so easy to load up with manufactured spending with lots non-big-box-store-reloading-options as well as automatic loading options.

How to load: reloadables (reloadit cards, moneypaks), automatic online reloads (with both debit and credit cards), and swipe reloads with Visa gift cards at Walmart (non-vanilla)

How to liquidate:  Use online bill pay to pay your bills, credit card and otherwise, purchase money orders, or withdraw money directly to a linked bank account.)

Load limits: $2500 a day via reload cards/swipe reloads, $5000 a month. Automatic on line loading of $1000/month via both debit card and credit card ($1500 each when enrolled in the softcard version of serve.)

Verdict: the most convenient card of all if you can find places to purchase reload cards with a credit card. This is a better option than bluebird by any metric, but not as cheap as Redbird…

Redbird (The cheapskate’s dream!)

REDbird_card_image1

Gestalt: this new kid on the block is a game changer! There is no cheaper way to manufacture spend if you have a Target handy.

How to load: You can load it fee free with your credit card at target! You can also swipe reload it with debit cards/Visa gift cards.

How to unload: Use online bill pay to pay your bills, credit card and otherwise, purchase money orders, or withdraw money directly to a linked bank account.

Load limits: $2500/day, $5000/month

For an excellent series on this new product (which I have not yet used.) please see here.

GoBank Card (The Pepsi to Bluebird’s Coke)

aff3ae329182337ddc0204a9fb589150

Gestalt: a useful adjunct to Bluebird/Redbird/Serve

How To Load: swipe reloads at Walmart, Moneypak reloads

How to unload:  Use online bill pay to pay your bills, credit card and otherwise, purchase money orders, or withdraw money directly to a linked bank account.)

Load limits: $2500/day, $5000/month

T-Mobile prepaid card (a nice free adjunct)

t-mobile-visa-prepaid-card

Gestalt: I’ve never used this product but a little bird told me that it is possible to manufacture spend for free with this card using reloadits

How to load: load for free using reloadit packs. (Other options not useful for manufactured spending.)

How to unload: money orders, evolve money, (bill pay not recommended)

For a nice write up of this product see here.

 

My personal approach is to use the softcard version of serve, loaded with moneypaks, Credit card, and PayPal debit cards. In the end (despite my cheapskate nature) I place a high value on not going to big box stores to get my manufactured spending done.

I unload the products primarily with bill pay and direct withdrawals to my checking account.

I also have a Gobank card for back up, but I almost never use this anymore.

I am intrigued by the T-Mobile product, and though I really have no use for it now, may consider experimenting with it in the future.

And really no matter what you value the most (cheapness, convenience, the ability to use a certain gift card or reload card) picking at least one of these pseudo-checking accounts is the crucial step in converting all of your non-credit card spending into credit card spending.

And there are many products which I did not mention here. If there is one that you like using, please share it below in the comments.

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9 Responses to “So Pseudo”

  1. Sebastian November 20, 2014 at 3:44 am #

    Alexi, I do have the softcard and I reach the max with online credit card loads but how do you earn points with debit cards? I have a PNC one and that one doesn’t earn me nothing…

    • Miles Dividend M.D. November 24, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

      Sebastian,

      This involves the “PayPal axis” which will be the subject of my next blog post. Stay tuned!

      AZ

  2. Stantheman November 25, 2014 at 2:53 am #

    what about evolve? Now takes discover and soon MasterCard/visa. Can load visa gift cards. Problem is that biller has to be on their list.

    • Miles Dividend M.D. November 25, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

      Stan The Man,

      I Love evolvemoney.com. I use it to prepay my student loans. I will cover this further in my upcoming non manufactured spending strategies post. Stay tuned.

      When evolve takes MC/Visa that will be huge, but their taking Discover really does nothing for me at this point. (1% cashback is not too exciting.)

      AZ

  3. AZW December 16, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    Hi AZ – I’m trying to jump aboard the MD plane! Brilliant stuff my friend. Reminds me a little bit of sampling all 31 flavors back in the day (inside joke!)

    So I’m concerned about loading my Serve acct directly from CC. None of my CCs (BofA, Chase, Discover) will let me set my cash advance limit to $0 and I definitely want to avoid a cash advance or overdraft fee if I make the transaction. Wouldn’t the CC companies consider a Serve load as a cash equivalent?

    • Miles Dividend M.D. December 16, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

      Alistair my friend,

      Welcome aboard! These days it would more likely be sampling 31 IPA’s

      In general no. I have never been charged a cash advance for loading my serve account, and I do it every month. I have used capital one, barclays, citi, and chase cards.

      checkout this wiki for the latest on serve credit card loads and who gets charged what:

      http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/manufactured-spending/1199432-serve-another-paypal-amazon-payments-2.html

      Worst case scenario, you pay a 3% cash advance once ($45 on 1500), and then bail. Small risk, large reward.

      AZ

  4. Robert January 28, 2015 at 5:36 am #

    Alexi,
    The Prepaid REDcard sounded too good to be true. In my case, it is. After reading this blog, I made a note to buy one when in Norman, OK where I was planning to visit in January. (They were being test-marked in Norman, but not anywhere in Texas where I live). So this week I went to the Super Target in Norman, and couldn’t find them anywhere. I asked customer service and they said they had them but ran out and aren’t getting anymore. I asked why not, and they said it was a trial and the company decided not to do a nationwide rollout and won’t be continuing the program. So, I am outta luck on that one. I’d love to find out that this sale associate was wrong, but I suspect what I was being told was accurate. They probably figured out it was indeed too good to (let) be true!

    • Miles Dividend M.D. February 6, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

      Robert,

      I think redcard is still going strong judging by flyertalk, and its continued coverage on frequent Miler. Keep on trying to get your hands on one.
      AZ

      • Robert February 6, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

        I went back to the same store again and talked to different people and got the same story. I don’t know if they just pulled them from Oklahoma, or what, but from what the first CSR told me, it sounded like they decided not to continue with the national rollout. If that proves not to be the case, I’ll be happy. Meanwhile, whoever was lucky enough to get one, enjoy! (I’m back in TX now so no cards here).

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