Back in July I mentioned my intention to load my Serve card at Family Dollar for the time being, using easily-acquired OneVanilla prepaid Visa debit cards, and just last month shared my local store manager's theory about the kinds of limits Family Dollar registers impose on Serve loads.
"However, using Family Dollar raises its own issues; in particular, you can generally only load a Serve card once per day, per store location. Since I only have one convenient Family Dollar location, that means loading $5,000 in OneVanilla cards over ten days, compared to the 2 days possible at Walmart registers ($2,500 per day)." (emphasis added)
While it's true that I have only one convenient Family Dollar location, it's not precisely true that I have only one local location.
Multiple same-day Serve loads are possible at different Family Dollar locations
A reader had privately e-mailed me to let me know he was able to load his Serve card multiple times on the same day at different Family Dollar locations, so this morning I set off to cruise around the suburbs and collect my own datapoints.
I ended up visiting 3 Family Dollar locations: my own local, convenient location, and two suburban locations:
- My $500 load went through as usual at my local store;
- the first suburban location's card readers and PIN pads were out of order;
- and the second suburban location allowed me to complete a second, $500 load.
My working hypothesis for now is that you can load up to $2,500 per day (Serve's daily cash load limit, per the Serve website), by visiting 5 different Family Dollar store locations.
Family Dollar loads have their drawbacks
Those with access to more store locations will benefit most from this fact, and not just because you need access to 5 stores in order to complete 5, $500 loads.
In addition to the one-load-per-store-per-day limitation, Family Dollar registers also have an overreactive fraud detection algorithm, such that you might be unable to load your Serve card at any given store even once, depending on that store location's previous daily load activity, as I described here.
And of course, as my experience today showed, Family Dollar stores are not necessarily reliable partners; both technical difficulties and undertrained personnel can make life more frustrating that you'd like.
I know there are metropolitan areas with dozens of Family Dollar locations, and for residents of those areas the possibility of multiple, same-day Serve loads using OneVanilla cards is yet another advantage of Serve over Bluebird.
As Serve becomes ever more useful than Bluebird, it seems to me that it must be a matter of time until Bluebird cards are discontinued and Serve remains as American Express's flagship prepaid card product.