Walmart and American Express have teamed up to offer a prepaid card named Bluebird. The Bluebird Card, and its attached account, are considered a stored-value account. Money added to the account can be held or spent at the account holders discretion. This card offers an alternative to a checking account or debit card.
To get a Bluebird Card you must first set up an account. This can be done two ways: go to the website, bluebird.com, or buy the application kit at Walmart stores. The kit at Walmart costs five dollars while online is free. Either way, you will need to set up an account online to manage your account. A personal identification number (PIN) number and password needs to be chosen after account set up. A card will be mailed to you once you have an account. You must be at least eighteen years old and live in the United States. Sub-accounts can be set up for someone over thirteen years of age. No accounts are allowed in Vermont. Use of the card is limited until your email address and account has been verified.
The Bluebird Card has very few fees. There are no monthly or annual fees. There is a two dollar fee to transfer funds from a debit card. There is also a two dollar fee for using an out-of-network ATM when you have direct deposit with your account. A two dollar fee also applies to in-network or out-of-network ATMs if you do not have direct deposit on the account.
Although this card is an alternative to a checking account, no interest is paid. The account is not protected by FDIC insurance. You can link your account to a checking or savings account at a bank. A debit card can also be linked to your Bluebird account. Funds can be added to the Bluebird account by transferring funds from a linked checking, or savings, bank account or by transferring funds from a linked debit card. Funds may also be added by direct deposit from your employer, by depositing cash to the card at a participating retailer or by using a smartphone to electronically capture an image of a check to deposit.
There are limits on ATM withdrawals. You may make up to three ATM withdrawals in one day. ATM withdrawals in one day are limited to no more than five hundred dollars. ATM withdrawals are also limited to no more than two thousand dollars in a month.
The card can be used anywhere American Express is accepted including online and outside the United States. It remains to be seen whether it replaces bank accounts or helps the unbanked. One question would be whether the unbanked has access to either smartphones or the internet. However, the ATM fees could quickly add up if you use cash a lot without having direct deposit. Also, account balances would be best kept at a low level since no FDIC insurance is offered. You can find more information at bluebird.com.
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