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Earlybird Advance FAQs

What is an Earlybird Advance?

The Earlybird Advance is our way of helping members put some money in their pocket while they wait for their tax refund. It’s a no-fee, no-interest refund advance loan from our partner MetaBank®, delivered on an American Express Serve® Card.

The Earlybird Advance is not your refund. It’s a loan that gets paid back automatically when the IRS issues your refund. But even though it’s a loan, an Earlybird Advance won’t affect your credit scores or show up on your reports.

 

When is the Earlybird Advance available?

The Earlybird Advance is a limited time offer, and you can apply starting in mid January. In order to apply, you must file with Credit Karma Tax, and have a federal refund coming your way. 

 

What’s the difference between the Earlybird Advance and other refund advance loans?

Other tax preparation services may offer a refund advance loan with no interest or fees, but they will likely charge preparation fees to file your taxes or process the loan. These fees take a cut out of your expected refund.

Because filing with Credit Karma Tax is always free (including state filing), if you get an Earlybird Advance, you’ll get your whole refund amount.

What’s more, some refund advance programs require that you apply in person, or make an office appointment. With the Earlybird Advance, you can apply online as you’re filing your taxes. The whole application takes less than 2 minutes.

 

When do I apply for the Earlybird Advance?

You apply for the Earlybird Advance while you’re filing with Credit Karma Tax. There are no office visits, paperwork, or appointments needed.

After we calculate your refund, we’ll ask how -- or when -- you want to receive your money. You can choose to apply for an Earlybird Advance loan as the method to receive your money.

 

Why don’t I have the option to apply for the Earlybird Advance?

The Earlybird Advance program is a limited time program and only available to Credit Karma Tax™ members that are receiving a federal refund.

 

How can you offer this at no cost?

We’ve worked very closely with MetaBank and American Express to offer a program that helps our members, but doesn’t cost them anything.

More than 75 million people like you trust Credit Karma for free credit scores and reports. As we get to know you, we show personalized offers (like credit cards or other financial products) that could help you build credit or save money. If you take an offer, the bank or lender usually pays us.

Now we’ve brought that same model to Credit Karma Tax. You can file your taxes for free and get offers to special programs like the Earlybird Advance.

The Earlybird Advance is our way of helping members who can’t wait weeks for their refund — that’s it.

 

How much money can I get?

The Earlybird Advance comes in 3 amounts: $500, $750, or $1,000. The amount you’re pre-qualified for is determined when you apply. Approval of the loan is based on the amount of your expected refund and underwriting criteria by MetaBank.

 

Can I get a bigger Earlybird Advance?

The Earlybird Advance is offered in 3 amounts ($500, $750, $1,000). You can’t change the loan amount you’re approved for; it’s calculated based on 2 things:
1. The amount of your federal refund
2. MetaBank’s eligibility and underwriting criteria

 

Will the Earlybird Advance speed up my refund?

Nope. The Earlybird Advance is not the same as your tax refund, and it won’t speed up the IRS.

 

How much does the Earlybird Advance cost?

There are no fees or interest charges associated with the Earlybird Advance loan from MetaBank, but you might run into some fees with your Serve Card, depending on the way you use it.

  • here’s what you should know about that:
  • the Serve Card has no monthly maintenance fees.
  • the Serve Card has no fees for purchases (in-store or online).
  • you can withdraw money from the ATM with your Serve Card.
  • get free cash withdrawals at over 24,000 MoneyPass® ATMs nationwide.
  • there’s a daily limit of $750 for ATM cash withdrawals. You can withdraw up to $2,900 using Cash Pickup Powered by Ria® at any Walmart store in the U.S. or Puerto Rico for a small fee.
  • if you use a non-MoneyPass ATM, you’ll be charged a $3.50 fee (plus any ATM owner/operator fees).

 

Can I have my loan transferred directly to my bank account?

The only way to receive your Earlybird Advance is on a Serve Card. For more info, see Why are you putting it on a Serve Card?

 

Can I get an Earlybird Advance for my state refund?

Nope. Earlybird Advance loans are only available for your federal tax refund.

 

Do I have to go into an office to get the Earlybird Advance?

You can apply for an Earlybird Advance right from your computer or mobile device as you file your taxes with Credit Karma Tax.

If you’re researching other refund advance programs, be aware that some companies require in-office visits, and they may charge processing fees. The Earlybird Advance loan is all online, at no cost to you.

 

Will I be approved?

Applying for the Earlybird Advance won’t affect your credit scores.

To be eligible to apply for the Earlybird Advance, you must:

  • file your taxes with Credit Karma Tax,
  • have a tax refund of $750 or more coming your way from the IRS,
  • be at least 18 years old (and your spouse if you are filing jointly),
  • have income from a W-2, 1099-R, Schedule C or Schedule CEZ,
  • not reside in Maine (unfortunately, Credit Karma Tax cannot offer the program in Maine this year),
  • not be filing on behalf of a deceased taxpayer (this includes your spouse if filing jointly), and
  • not have Form 1310 (Statement of Person Claiming Refund Due a Deceased Taxpayer) on your return

You’ll submit 2 applications. One for the Serve Card, and another for the loan from MetaBank.

To be approved for the Serve Card, you must:

  • have 4 or fewer Serve Card accounts,
  • pass the standard identity verification, and
  • meet American Express’ eligibility criteria.

To pre-qualify for the loan from MetaBank, you must also:

  • meet MetaBank’s eligibility and underwriting criteria

MetaBank will look at information on your credit file and tax return to decide if you pre-qualify for the loan and how much money you could get ($500, $750, or $1,000). Final approval of the loan happens after the IRS accepts your tax return.

How long does it take to get approved?

We’ll tell you if you pre-qualify for the Earlybird Advance immediately after you apply on Credit Karma Tax — that’s the first step of getting approved.

Then, after you finish filing your taxes and the IRS accepts your return, MetaBank® will be able to make a final approval decision. (It usually takes the IRS 24-72 hours to process your return.)

 

Will applying for the Earlybird Advance affect my credit scores?

Nope! MetaBank will review your credit as part of your application, but the review is considered a “soft inquiry” and will not impact your credit scores.

 

If I am denied for the Serve Card, can I still apply for the loan?

No, if you are not approved for a Serve Card, you cannot apply for the Earlybird Advance.

 

Why was I denied?

If you are not approved for the loan, you’ll get a letter from MetaBank called a “Notice of Adverse Action.” Lenders are required to send these to explain why you weren’t approved for a loan.

 

I was not approved. How can I get my refund?

If you are not approved for an Earlybird Advance (or change your mind before you file), you’ll be shown your other refund options to pick from.

  1. Direct deposit into a bank account
  2. Receive a check in the mail
  3. Load in onto a Serve Card (if you’re approved)

 

What is a Notice of Adverse Action?

If you are not approved for an Earlybird Advance loan, you’ll get a letter from MetaBank called a “Notice of Adverse Action.” Lenders are required to send these to explain why you weren’t approved for a loan.

 

Can my spouse and I both apply?

It depends. If you’re married and filing separately, you can both apply for an Earlybird Advance. But if you’re filing jointly, only the primary filer can apply for an Earlybird Advance.

 

How long will it take to get the money?

If approved, the loan from MetaBank will be put on your Serve Card the day after the IRS accepts your tax return. Your new Serve Card is usually delivered in 4-6 business days within the contiguous U.S. (or up to 10 business days if you live in Alaska or Hawaii) from the time you are approved for the Card.

When the IRS issues your refund, they’ll send it directly to MetaBank to automatically pay back the loan. After the loan is paid back, the rest of the money from your refund will go directly onto your Serve Card.

 

How do I pay the Earlybird Advance loan back?

When the IRS issues your refund, they’ll send it directly to MetaBank to automatically pay back the loan. After the loan is paid back, the rest of the money from your refund will go directly onto your Serve Card.

 

What if I owe the IRS? Can I still apply for an Earlybird Advance?

Sorry, but the Earlybird Advance is only available to people who are expecting a refund from the IRS.

 

What is a Serve Card?

The Serve Card is a prepaid debit account, available to U.S. residents who are over 18 years old (or 19 in certain states). Serve Cards can be used virtually anywhere American Express cards are accepted worldwide, subject to verification. Other eligibility and restrictions apply. For complete details, check out the American Express Consumer User Agreements Applicable for Serve Prepaid Debit Accounts.

 

Why are you putting the Earlybird Advance on a Serve Card?

Putting your loan on a Serve Card is a free, fast, and safe way to get money in your hands. Once you get your Card, you can start using it immediately, including for ATM withdrawals.

When the IRS processes your tax refund, the remaining amount that you’re owed will also be put onto your Serve Card up to 2 days faster than standard direct deposit to a bank account. (Faster access as compared to standard tax refund electronic deposit and is subject to the IRS submitting your refund information to MetaBank before the release date).

 

How can I use the money on my Serve Card?

Purchases
Use your card in-store and online at millions of merchants that accept American Express cards worldwide.

ATM withdrawals
Use your Serve Card at an ATM to get cash. Get free withdrawals at over 24,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide. If you use a non-MoneyPass ATM, you’ll be charged a $3.50 fee. There’s a daily limit of $750 for cash withdrawals.

Cash Pickup Powered by Ria
Withdraw up to $2,900 using Cash Pickup Powered by Ria at any Walmart store in the U.S. or Puerto Rico for a small fee ($3.49-$9.49 depending on the amount of your withdrawal).

Bill payments
You can pay bills using your card directly at a retailer or service provider, or by using American Express Serve’s Online Bill Pay.

 

Can I have my Serve Card delivered to a PO Box?

No, you must provide a physical address to ship your Serve Card to.

 

I already have a Serve Card. Can I just use that?

No. If you’re approved for an Earlybird Advance, you’ll receive the loan on a new Serve Card. Note that if you already have 5 Serve accounts, you’re not eligible for the Earlybird Advance.

 

When do I receive the rest of my tax refund?

The IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days. When they do, they’ll automatically send it to MetaBank to pay back your loan. After the loan is paid back, the rest of the money from your refund will go directly onto your Serve Card (typically 1 - 2 days after the IRS issues your refund).

 

Can I cancel the Earlybird Advance?

After you finish filing your taxes and get your final approval for the loan (which happens when the IRS accepts your tax return) you have up to 3 days to cancel.

To cancel your loan, contact our member support team and write “Earlybird Void” in the subject line of your request.

 

Are there monthly or ATM fees for using the Serve Card?

The only fee you’ll see for the Serve Card is a $3.50 fee (plus any ATM owner/operator fees) for using a non-MoneyPass ATM. But the good news is that you can make free cash withdrawals at over 24,000 MoneyPass® ATMs nationwide.

For more info, visit the American Express Serve® website.

 

Can I get cash with my Serve Card?

You can withdraw cash from your Serve Card account for free at over 24,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide. If you go to a non-MoneyPass ATM, there’s a $3.50 fee (plus any ATM owner/operator fees).

You can only withdraw $750 from your account per day, so if you have a hefty refund and you want to make it rain, you might need to withdraw those dollar-dollar bills over multiple days.

Make sure you set up your Serve Account online to set or reset your PIN.

Visit the American Express Serve website for more info about account limits.

 

How do I find my Serve Account and routing information?

Log in to your American Express Serve® Account to view your account and routing numbers. This info is only available after you’ve activated your Serve Card (after you get it in the mail).

 

Where is my Serve Card?

Remember, it can take up to 10 business days to receive your card in the mail. If it’s been longer than that, or if you think your card was sent to the wrong address, you can request a replacement card online.

  1. Log into your Serve Account on American Express’s website.
  2. Hit Settings and then Request Replacement Card.
  3. Complete the form.
  4. Choose a shipping preference.
    a. Free – Standard Shipping. Card will arrive in 7-10 business days.
    b. $20.00 – Expedited Shipping. Card will arrive in 3-4 business days. Not available to customers in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

What should I do if my Serve Card is lost, stolen, or damaged?

You can request a replacement Serve Card online.

  1. Log into your Serve Account on American Express’s website.
  2. Hit Settings and then Request Replacement Card.
  3. Complete the form.
  4. Choose a shipping preference.
    a. Free – Standard Shipping. Card will arrive in 7-10 business days.
    b. $20.00 – Expedited Shipping. Card will arrive in 3-4 business days. Not available to customers in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, or the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

How can I contact American Express about my Serve Card?

You can contact the American Express Serve Customer Service team 24/7.

  • Toll Free: 800-954-0559
  • International Collect: 801-449-4019
  • Online Account Management: www.serve.com
  • Address:
    • American Express Customer Relations
      4315 S 2700 W
      Salt Lake City, UT 84184-0440

 

An Earlybird Advance is an optional tax-refund loan from MetaBank® (not the actual tax refund). Loan amount will be deducted from tax refunds and reduce the refund amount that is paid directly to the taxpayer. Tax returns may be filed electronically without applying. Loans offered in amounts of $500, $750, or $1,000. Availability subject to satisfaction of identity verification, eligibility criteria, and underwriting standards. If approved, loan funds issued on a prepaid Serve® card provided by American Express that will be mailed to taxpayer. No monthly fees to use the prepaid card but other fees including out-of-network ATM fees may apply. Learn more about the card fees on the American Express Serve website. After loan repayment, any remaining tax refund proceeds will be issued on the American Express Serve® Card. This is a limited-time offer subject to change without notice at any time, and it’s not available in Maine.

The American Express Serve® Card is available to U.S. residents who are over 18 years old only (or 19 in certain states) and for use virtually anywhere American Express® Cards are accepted worldwide, subject to verification. Other eligibility and restrictions apply. For complete details, check out the Consumer User Agreements Applicable for Serve Prepaid Debit Accounts. American Express Serve Service and Card are provided and issued by American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., 200 Vesey Street, New York, N.Y. 10285. American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. is licensed to engage in the transmission of money on behalf of the public

 

 

Still have questions? Contact member support

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