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Bluebird Card Review 2017

The Verdict

With the lowest number of fees for a prepaid card, Bluebird deserves a spot in your wallet, if you're in the market

Unlike most other prepaid cards, Bluebird has only one unavoidable fee–to sign up–where many others charge multiple fees to spend and deposit your own money.

Don't jump for joy just yet.

You will pay a fee for using a non-network ATM, but that's almost universal for most cards.

A no-frills card in terms of fees, Bluebird offers many extras that make your life and money management easier — like direct deposit, mobile check capture, easy bill pay, and more.

It's ideal for people who want the security of carrying a card instead of cash, shop often or live close by Walmart, and abhor fees and fine print.

how do you pay when you shop

With a Bluebird by AMEX, you can spend your money anywhere that accepts American Express.

While it may look like and function similar to a credit card, since you're not getting any line of credit, you're not helping (or hurting) your credit score.

The Competition

The Bluebird's competition is the Kaiku Visa prepaid card

For those looking for an alternative to a traditional checking account, it's worth noting another notable option out there.

The Kaiku Visa prepaid card is the closest to boasting 'no fees' like the Bluebird by AMEX.

Here are a few ways that might make it a better option for many.

Easier cash deposits. Carrying wads of cash is not secure.

Cash ATM deposits are a game-changer for their simplicity and assurance your money goes directly into your account.

The Kaiku Visa prepaid card boasts ATM deposits at some Allpoint ATMs, Visa ReadyLink, or VisaReadyLink at MoneyGram, while the Bluebird by Amex only accepts cash deposits at Walmart MoneyCenters.

If you don't have a Walmart nearby, depositing cash into a Bluebird account will be a difficult task.

Check out the Walmart store locator to see if this is a deal breaker.

Widely accepted. Each time you swipe your card, a merchant pays the credit card company a fee.

Visa charges merchants 2-3% per transaction, while American Express charges around 3.5%.

For that reason, Visa is more widely accepted than American Express, making your Kaiku Visa prepaid card easier to use.

More ATM access.

Access to your money shouldn't cost you.

With the Kaiku Visa prepaid card, users have access to over 55,000 fee-free ATMs if you link direct deposit to your account and deposit more than $750 per month ($3 fee).

The Bluebird by AMEX doesn't have that sort of ATM network, so you'll end up paying a withdrawal fee at most ATMs.

How Bluebird by American Express compares to its top competitor

Bluebird Kaiku
How high of credit score do you need? No credit check No credit check
ATM Fees

$0 at MoneyPass ATMs

$2.50 out-of-network fee + ATM surcharge

$0 Allpoint ATMs

$3 out-of-network fee + ATM surcharge

Monthly fee? $0 $3, waived if you direct deposit $750 a month
Mobile check loading Yes Yes
Customer support fee $0 $0
Account cancellation fee $0 $0
Any restrictions? Accepted where American Express is accepted Accepted where Visa is accepted
Reload restrictions? Can't connect directly with checking account, must be a debit card Can't deposit cash at some all ATMs (only some AllPoint ATM locations)
Reload by direct deposit? Yes Yes

The Question Everyone is Asking

What kind of credit do I need to apply for Bluebird by Amex? Will I be charged fees for bad credit?

When you register for a Bluebird prepaid card, you will need to supply your social security number but no inquiry to your credit will be made.

This means that a both people with poor and excellent credit will qualify for the Bluebird by AMEX, and with the same terms and conditions.

There's no risk to the issuer. A prepaid card doesn't use any sort of credit.

American Express bears no risk for a customer opening a Bluebird account because they are not lending you any money.

Prepaid cards are similar to a debit card: you can deposit money a multitude of ways and then it's available for you to spend instead of cash.

The difference is a debit card must be connected to a checking or savings account.

There's also no risk to the consumer. Prepaid cards can't help your credit score, but they also can't hurt it.

It's this sort of easiness that's enabled Bluebird to thrive.

No fees or overdraft protection. You will never accumulate overdraft or insufficient fund fees if you go over your available amount.

In fact, there are no fees related to the status of your account.

The Strengths

The Bluebird prepaid card is strong because it has multiple fee-free services

As an alternative to a debit card, the Bluebird prepaid card boasts a handful of strengths that make it stand out against its competitors.

Free of most fees. Customers have access to free ATM withdrawals at over 25,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide ($2.50 per transaction at out-of-network ATMs).

You won't pay any activation, annual membership, monthly account usage, mobile check capture, foreign transactions, account closure, or overdraft fees.

Convenient mobile check capture. The Bluebird by American Express app is available for download for iOS and Android devices.

google play vs apple app store

It's easy-to-use mobile check capture allows you to take a picture of your check and have access to the funds in up to 10 days.

Bluebird's Money in Minutes program allows you to pay to avoid the check processing time.

For immediate access to your deposit, you will pay a small fee (1% or 5% depending on the amount of the check) for instant access to your deposited money.

Check captures have limits though. You can only deposit $5,000 worth of checks in one day, and $10,000 in a month.

Free of foreign transaction fees. Use your card overseas where American Express is accepted free of foreign transaction fees, saving you 2-4% on items purchased outside of the U.S.

Useful in-app features. In addition to the mobile check capture feature, the Bluebird by American Express app has many other features.

Locate nearby MoneyPass ATM in-app, add money to your account from your bank account or debit card, set funds aside for financial goals with a SetAside account through Bluebird (recurring or manual), and pay your bills easily with in-app bill pay.

Saving for your honeymoon?

It's as easy as a tap of the finger to transfer funds to your honeymoon account, instantly.

what couples buy for their honeymoonExclusive American Express member perks. Your Bluebird by AMEX account grants you access to 24/7 customer service free of charge, and savings on entertainment — from shopping to dining.

Account holders also have access to advanced ticket sales for concerts and shows.

The Weaknesses

The Bluebird by American Express prepaid does nothing to help your credit score

Prepaid cards can help you monitor your spending and manage your money better, but they don't do anything to help increase your creditworthiness and sometimes aren't as convenient as a normal bank account.

No help for your credit. Although you need to supply your social security number, you won't have any inquiries on your credit score.

You will notice that your money isn't helping you better your creditworthiness.

You may want to purchase a home someday, buy a car, invest in products or companies.

Without accumulating points toward your credit like you would with personal interest-bearing credit cards, you aren't helping yourself achieve those goals with a prepaid card.

Not widely accepted. American Express is not as widely accepted by merchants worldwide as other card issuers.

Amex charges merchants a higher rate (2.89-3.5%) than Visa (.05-1.7%), for example, causing many to opt out of accepting American Express.

If your favorite coffee house doesn't accept American Express, guess what? Your Bluebird card won't buy you your morning latte.

how americans make their coffee

Limits on transactions. Your Bluebird account comes with limits to daily and monthly use.

Sure it's your money, but if you need more than $5,000 withdrawn in a single day, you're out of luck.

You also can't withdraw more than $10,000 per month.

Limit on deposits. Your Bluebird by AMEX can be used instead of using cash or a debit card, swiping just as you would for purchases.

Linking your prepaid card to your debit card will make transferring funds easy with your smartphone, and can help limit your spending to strictly what you have on your Bluebird, rather than what's available in your checking account.

If linking your accounts is the route you want to go, you should know that you will be restricted to transferring $200 in a single day and $1,000 total in a single month.

Want to swipe and reload at Walmart? There are limits on that, too.

You can only deposit $2,500 per day and $5,000 per month at your local Walmart. Mobile check capture is capped at $10,000 per month.

Who It's Made For

You should get the Bluebird by American Express prepaid card if you want to ditch traditional banking and avoid fees

If you are looking for a way to ditch your traditional checking account and debit card or just try something new, the Bluebird by American Express prepaid card is for you.

If you have a history of overdrafting your account or being charged insufficient fund fees, some banks might not allow you to open an account with them.

Bluebird does everything a debit card can do in terms of usage and purchase power.

Plus, you don't get assessed pesky maintenance fees (all while being FDIC insured),

Answer these questions to find out if the Bluebird by American Express prepaid card will help you and your money:

  • Do you want to practice stricter budgeting and money management?
  • Do you want a way to easily pay your kids allowance and teach them how to manage their money?
  • Are you a regular Walmart customer or live within driving distance to a store?
  • Are you an international traveler on a budget?
  • Do you hate paying monthly or annual account management fees to your bank?
  • Are you tired of paying interest on your credit card spending?

If you've answered yes to any of the questions above, the Bluebird by American Express prepaid card could be the card for you.

With no inquiries on your credit score because it's prepaid and only uses the money you have, opening an account is safe, easy, and free.

About the Company

American Express and Walmart created the largest cash reload network in the United States

In 2014, American Express and Walmart released the news of their new partnership, promoting prepaid cards with free cash reloads.

The launch of the American Express Serve prepaid card created the largest free cash reload network in the United States, with over 19,500 participating stores (Walmart, CVS, 7-Eleven).

The launch of Bluebird and Serve was done to expand Amex's customer base to lower-income Americans, like those who are unbanked or underbanked (some 70 million people).

Together, Bluebird and Serve helped Amex expand its products to meet Walmart shoppers' needs while offering an affordable way to help consumers manage and move their income.

"Bluebird is a great option for the "unhappily banked" who are looking for a true alternative to the fees and hidden charges often associated with debit and checking." said Dan Schulman, group president of Enterprise Growth at American Express.

Documentary filmmaker, Todd Krolczyk, partnered with American Express to create an advertising campaign that showcased Americans underserved by traditional banks.

This documentary-style campaign told personal stories of Americans in various financial situations that lead the individual to prefer a prepaid card.

How The Card Works

Here's how the Bluebird by American Express prepaid card works

Apply for the Bluebird prepaid card, link your account, load it up with money, and start using your money your way.

Benefits

From fee-free spending to savvy money management tools, the Bluebird prepaid card can help anyone!

Whether you're single or have a family of four, you can use your money your way and get the most out of your Bluebird by AMEX with little to no costs and risks.

Transfer money with Bluebird2Walmart Money Transfer. Bluebird partners with Walmart exclusively.

walmart's net sales worldwide

Does someone you know need money in a pinch?

Are they thousands of miles away?

The Bluebird2Walmart Money Transfer allows you to transfer money to any Walmart location for pickup by anyone 18 or older.

Simply log-on to your account online, in the app, or in-store, and submit the money transfer request.

The recipient doesn't have to have a Bluebird account but will need a valid ID and a reference number for the transfer.

You can transfer up to $2,500 a day for $16, with smaller fees for smaller transfer amounts (ranging from $4-$16).

The fee will be taken out of the transfer at pick-up.

Earn and accumulate Walmart Buck$. Walmart Buck$ is real money put onto your Bluebird by AMEX card that you can use on Walmart purchases.

You can earn Walmart Buck$ through a program called Savings Catcher.

By shopping at participating Walmart locations, you can earn money on items that competitor stores advertise for cheaper.

Walmart will then pay you the difference on your Bluebird by AMEX card in the form of Walmart Buck$.

You can only redeem this cash-back on future Walmart purchases in-store.

For example, if you purchase a 36-pack of toilet paper for $17.99 at Walmart, and Target advertises the same brand for $16.99, you will earn $1 in Walmart Buck$ back onto your Bluebird card.

Pay bills online and in-app. Some monthly bills can't be paid with credit cards.

Whether it's your mortgage, rent, or car payment—these bills don't pay themselves.

types of payments made via mobile in june 2016

With Bluebird, you can schedule monthly bill payment in the app or online and save the hassle of mailing printed checks at no additional fee.

Need just one printed check?

You can request a single check instead of paying for a book of personalized checks.

By requesting a verified check, Bluebird will print it and mail it to you in 7-10 business days.

Pay by check, if you want to. If you prefer to write checks, you can do that too.

Bluebird can operate in the same way as a checking account without the potential monthly account fees.

Simply order checks in orders of 50 or 100 (paying $19.95 or $26.95 respectively), and use your account as you would your checking account for no additional fee other than the cost of the checks.

Spend your money how you please. Rather than spending money on pesky fees or worrying about spending on an interest-bearing account, you can use Bluebird to spend 100% your way.

You don't risk overdraft fees because you only spend what you have and can maintain a stricter budget by doing so.

Spend money internationally without added cost. While overseas, no one wants to worry about paying a 1-5% surcharge for international transactions.

With Bluebird, you don't have to worry about this added cost.

You face no international exchange rate charges.

Plus, your Bluebird card is secure, unlike cash in your wallet.

Teach your kids how to spend and save. Prepaid cards restrict your kids' spending to what is loaded on the card.

Deposit their allowance directly from your debit account or your Bluebird account.

They can learn proper card use, budgeting, and savings strategies so they can buy the things they want themselves.

Monitor and restrict their spending, and avoid any credit card spending sprees they might have on your dime.

Share your account with added users. Whether you want to share an account with your spouse or children, Bluebird grants you up to four additional users per account.

Transfer money easily between those you share your account with, and as the main authorized user, you can restrict ATM access (and amounts) and set spending limits.

Fees

If you use the Bluebird by American Express in certain ways, it can be fee-free, which puts it in the top tier of prepaid cards on the market.

Should you use some of the extra features on the card, you will incur fees.

Card price from retail locations. Signing up online or in the app is free, but if you purchase a card at a retail location, such as Walmart, it will cost you $5 and you will need to register it online, in-app, or by phone.

ATM usage fees. ATM access is free at over 24,000 MoneyPass ATMs nationwide.

All other ATMs will cost $2.50 from American Express plus any fee assessed by the ATM provider.

Out-of-network withdrawals will end up costing you $5 or more.

Money in minutes. By using the mobile check capture, it will take up to 10 days for the funds to be available in your account free of cost.

With the money in minutes feature, you can use the mobile check capture and access your money instantly for a fee of 1% or 5% of the check (depending on the amount) and a $5 minimum fee accessed.

Pay for preauthorized checks. If you want to use your Bluebird prepaid card to pay for bills and other purchases with a check, you can have a declared amount of preauthorized checks mailed to you for a fee of $19.95.

Purchase personal checks. If you would like personal checks you can order them in 50 or 100 books, for $19.95 and $26.95 plus shipping.

the decline of paper checks in the US

Pick up cash at Walmart. Amex and Walmart have a program called Cash Pickup.

It allows any Bluebird user to withdraw cash in your app to pick up from any Walmart store, in minutes.

You will be charged a fee ($3-$9) for Cash Pickup ranging from $1-$2,900, which will be deducted from your account balance.

What People Love About It

People love Bluebird because of its numerous free services

In a world where you can be nickel and dimed for everything under the sun, saving money on securing and spending your own money is a treat for all Bluebird users.

Fee-free transfers. Kay, a Bluebird account holder, reports that it's a "great secondhand resource" for her.

She is able to transfer money to her son's account in a pinch—free of fees and downtime, unlike with her other bank.

In terms of fees alone, Bluebird is one of the best for those in the market for a prepaid card.

Saving is easier. Some users report that the Bluebird prepaid card makes saving for big financial goals easier for them.

"…If I throw money into a local bank savings account, it's just too easy for me to go and withdraw it," writes Christopher on CreditCardForum.com. "I just transfer my funds from my checking each month and let Bluebird savings build up."

Control your expenses. By limiting the number of withdrawals and deposits to your Bluebird account, you can limit your spending and monitor your finances better.

If there is fraudulent activity, it is kept to a minimum because someone can't swipe your account clean in a single day thanks to these limits.

Amex offers purchase protection, so if you do find your account compromised, you can get your money back.

Parents are able to control their children's spending. They can limit or restrict their ATM access while giving them the freedom to spend and swipe in a controlled environment.

Parents can use the Bluebird card as a learning tool for their children.

Biggest Consumer Complaints

Bluebird customers complain about inferior customer service

Beware.

Many consumers report their Bluebird card being tied up for fraudulent activity and customer representatives making the situation worse rather than better.

Other complaints range from lost cards taking 10 days to be replaced, to customer representatives entering the wrong information and supplying customers with incorrect reference numbers.

Lisa Pruitt, a Bluebird prepaid card holder, reports rude customer service and denial of her fraudulent claims.

Key Digital Services

The Bluebird by American Express prepaid card's app is great because it makes saving easy

\Bluebird by American Express has a popular app where helpful financial tools are at your fingertips.

Depending on your phone, visit the Apple App Store or Google Play Store to download the app.

You can also find similar tools and info on the Bluebird website.

Save for your goals. Bluebird offers a secure savings account linked to your Bluebird account, called SetAside.

Do you want to go on a trip?

Buy a new road bike?

Save for a new car?

With the Bluebird app, you can save and track goals instantly.

By setting up recurring transfers to a SetAside account, you can watch your money accumulate and meet your goals in real time.

Have extra money from your recent paycheck?

Transfer it to your SetAside account for a one-time transfer.

The downside is your SetAside savings account won't accrue interest like a traditional savings account.

Pay your bills in seconds. First add your payee accounts, like the electric company, student loan provider, or even existing credit card balances.

Simply select the bill pay option and transfer money directly to the payee account you wish to settle.

Transfer and request funds between accounts. Both the app and online account allow you to request or transfer funds to existing Bluebird accounts.

You can also transfer funds between your own accounts directly from any existing debit card linked to your checking account for free.

How To Sign Up

Go to Bluebird's website if you want the Bluebird by American Express prepaid card

There are a few ways to sign up for the card but the easiest is by downloading the app directly to your device through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

You'll be prompted to sign-up and it's easy.

You just need to provide your name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and an email address to receive necessary updates on your account.

There is no downtime since Amex doesn't do a credit check.

You just create a username, password, personal pin and your account is ready to go.

The application process is the same if you sign-up online at www.Bluebird.com.

You also have the option of purchasing a card for $5 at Walmart, but you will need to call and register your card in order for you to have account access and the full benefits of the Bluebird by AMEX.

If you apply online, you will avoid a fee associated with obtaining a Bluebird card.

How To Close Your Account

The easiest way to close your account for the Bluebird by American Express prepaid card is to call customer service

Prior to closing your account, you need to do the following: empty your account and cancel any recurring/automatic payments linked to your card.

After your account is drained, call customer service at 1 (877) 486-5990.

FAQ

Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Bluebird by American Express prepaid card

Still wondering if the card is right for you?

We have the answers to all your top questions.

  • How can I add money to my card?

    You can add cash for free at participating Walmart locations.

    You can deposit money with direct deposit, checks by using the mobile check capture in the app, and debit transfers at Walmart or in the app.

  • What is the Bluebird2Walmart money transfer?

    The Bluebird2Walmart Money Transfer allows you to transfer money via any Walmart to a recipient 18 years or older.

    With a valid ID and a reference number, they can pick up the money (up to $2,500 in a day) for a small fee of $4-$16 depending on the amount.

  • How do I earn Walmart Buck$?

    You can earn Walmart Buck$ through a program called Savings Catcher.

    By shopping at participating Walmart locations, you can earn money on items that competitor stores advertise for cheaper.

    Walmart will then pay you the difference on your Bluebird by American Express card in the form of Walmart Buck$.

  • Where and how can I redeem my Walmart Buck$?

    Walmart Buck$ can be redeemed in-store at Walmart or online at Walmart.com. However, you can only earn Walmart Buck$ in-store.

    Any savings through the SavingsCatcher program can be transferred to your Bluebird by American Express card and applied toward future purchases by simply swiping your card when you make a purchase.

    You can also redeem them in the form of Walmart Rewards eGift Cards.

    You can check your Walmart Buck$ balance by logging into your Bluebird by AMEX account online or in the app.

  • Is there an expiry date to my reward points?

    No, but they become void if you cancel your Bluebird account.

  • How can I cancel my card?

    Call customer service at 1 (877) 486-5990.

  • Do I get the same benefits on this card as on other American Express cards?

    As a Bluebird customer, you receive benefits from American Express.

    You'll have fraud protection, purchase protection, roadside assistance hotline (you will be responsible for the cost of service), shopping and restaurant discounts, and entertainment deals such as early ticket purchase by using your Amex card.

  • What can I use my Bluebird card for?

    You can use your Bluebird card like any other bank card. You can use it to pay bills, save, transfer, and spend.

  • Where and what stores can I use my prepaid card?

    Anywhere that accepts American Express.

  • How can I check my credit card balance?

    You can receive scheduled account balance alerts on a regular basis, check your balance online or in the app, or enable text notifications.

  • How do I withdraw cash from my prepaid card?

    Withdraw cash from Walmart for a fee of $3-9 depending on the amount, limited to $2,900.

    You can request a Cash Pickup from Walmart online or on your smartphone.

    Withdraw cash for free at any MoneyPass ATM.

    Withdraw at an out-of-network ATM for a fee of $2.50 from Amex plus a surcharge from the ATM operator.

  • Can I get a cash advance and are there any related fees?

    Since Bluebird is a prepaid card you can't get cash advances and are only allowed to withdraw from your available funds.

  • Can I pay for Bluebird with a gift card, a different credit card, or PayPal?

    Unfortunately, you cannot use Visa or Mastercard gift cards to reload your Bluebird by American Express prepaid card.

    PayPal has a low success rate working with virtual accounts like Bluebird because they are competitors.

  • Can I use my Bluebird card without the card?

    You must have your card present in order to use it for purchases. You can use it for online, mail-order, or phone purchases with merchants that accept American Express cards.

  • How do I add an authorized user to my card?

    Step 1: Log into your Bluebird account and go to 'Family Accounts'

    Step 2: Click 'Create a family account'

    Step 3: Create a temporary username and password for added family members to log in and register

    Step 4: Upon receiving a new card in the mail, the new authorized user will need to activate the card

  • Are there any upgrades on Bluebird by American Express?

    No.

  • How soon can I use my Bluebird prepaid card once I receive it?

    After you register it and ensure it's loaded with funds, you can use it immediately

  • How do I contact credit card services or report my card stolen?

    Call 1-877-486-5990.

  • Will Bluebird affect my creditworthiness?

    Bluebird is a prepaid card so you will have no credit inquiry. It will not affect your credit score in any way because your Bluebird account has nothing to do with credit.

  • Is there an expiration date on the card?

    Yes, there is a 'valid thru' month and year on the front of the card.

  • Can I have two prepaid cards from Bluebird at the same time?

    Yes, you can have up to 5.

  • Can I transfer money from my Bluebird prepaid card to another?

    Yes. You can transfer money to linked debit cards for free. You can transfer money as payment toward credit card balances for free.

  • Is it hard to get a Bluebird credit card?

    No. You must be 18 or older (some exclusions apply), have a valid email address, social security number, telephone number, and United States address.

  • What happens if I don't have enough money in my Bluebird account?

    The difference with Bluebird and some debit cards is that you'll be denied at the register (or online) if you don't have any money in your account.

  • How long does it take to receive the card once I have been approved for it?

    You will receive your card in 7-10 days.

  • What do I do if my card or identity is hacked?

    If this happens to you, unlink your debit cards immediately and avoid any unauthorized transfers between your accounts.

    Since Bluebird has fraud alert, you will be able to file a fraud report with them and hopefully get your money back.

Is Bluebird by American Express the prepaid card for you?

If you want to manage your money better, maintain a stricter budget, save for a rainy day, or cut up your credit cards because you're in a credit hole—the Bluebird by AMEX might be the one for you.

Bluebird by American Express offers many extras that can make your life and money management easier and more convenient.

It's ideal for families teaching kids money management, anyone wanting to save, those traveling and wanting to stick to a budget, and those that want to save on their current bank fees.

With a Bluebird prepaid card, you control how you spend your money without risk and cost of overdraft fees.

After all, you can't spend what's not on the card.

Do you use the Bluebird by American Express?

How has the card worked out for you?

Any great tips (or nightmares) to share with the rest of us?

Let us know in the comments below.


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