By Willy Staley  Tue Mar 6, 2012

Amex Rolls Out ‘bluebird,’ a Cuter Prepaid Card

(UPDATE: American Express has discontinued this bluebird card and it has been relaunched as Bluebird.)

Perhaps it’s a snooty thought, but it’s hard to imagine a Walmart cashier handling that many American Express cards. They’re two different worlds, financially speaking. That’s all about to change, as the credit-card provider rolls out a new over-the-counter prepaid product at select Walmart locations, according to MarketWatch. This is quite a departure for American Express, which has traditionally employed a rather exclusive business model, lending only to prime borrowers — is there a retail outlet more run-of-the-mill than Walmart?

The card, called bluebird, has more or less the same cardholder agreement as Amex’s other prepaid card, but with much younger. slicker branding. The card has no monthly fee, nor does it have fees for making payments. Users are allowed one free ATM withdrawal per month, after which point withdrawals cost $2 — the card’s only fee.

Customers can sign up for the card online at bluebird’s website or they can purchase them over the counter at Walmart. MarketWatch reported that 180 stores will be carrying them on the West Coast, but our own state-by-state search of the bluebird website turned up far fewer stores in more diverse areas of the country. The website shows just 15 stores selling bluebird cards in states all over the nation, all west of the Mississippi save for one: California, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, Kansas, Hawaii, Wisconsin and North Dakota.

It is sold exclusively at Walmart for now, as are the Feeder Packs for reloading the card with cash, which cost just $1 more than the load amount. It works everywhere American Express is accepted, except for casinos.

The prepaid card, or at least the marketing surrounding it, also has a larger goal: project bluebird. American Express wants to know what you think of the future of money: “The more we know about what you want, the better bluebird can get for everyone,” reads the ad copy. Anyone looking to share their opinions on money is invited to give American Express their email address.

American Express already has a prepaid card, but selling them over the counter at Walmart gives the company an opportunity to broaden their customer base. Perhaps wisely, they have branded their prepaid card quite differently from their charge cards, which feature a Roman warrior. Bluebird is a bit less powerful, after all.

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  • LFoote

    AmEx ‘Bluebird’ card is a waste.  After putting $100 on a card we waited nearly two months to get it.  Then, the first time it was used to purchase $20 gas, AmEx pulled out the remaining $80 on the card as ‘security against fraudulent use.’  We were then unable to use it.  There was NO fraud.  After we called and complained they said it would take about a week to 10 days to ‘refund’ our $80.  We kept complaining and finally got the $80 put back on in a few days.  This is nothing more than a way to hold onto your money for weeks while you wait for them to sort out the mess under bogus claims.  Never again!

    • JLegg

      LFoote: I’m not sure American Express screwed you over like you think it did–at least, not on your gas purchase.

      It sounds as if you used the pay-at-the-pump option to buy gas, which puts an ‘authorization hold’ on practically any credit or debit card. Since they can’t know what your final pump amount is (you could choose to stop at $20 for your small car, then $45 for a friend’s SUV on a whim) , they’ll take set amount to assure that you’ll pay *something* for whatever amount you pump, eventually putting back the difference. The same thing would have happened if you had Visa or MasterCard-backed plastic.

      As ‘inconvenient’ as it may be to walk inside and prepay the cashier with the exact dollar amount of gas you want, that’s the only other way to avoid such holds.

      More on authorization holds: http://goo.gl/6RSCp

    • http://www.facebook.com/sunk818 sunk818

      Your concern is valid. I’m just not sure AmEx Bluebird is to blame. You often encounter the same issue with debit cards in general. So, if you “never again”, that possibly means you “never again” on any debit card.

      I don’t know why you think it is a waste. Many of us having been purchasing Vanilla Reloadable cards and using them to load on to the BlueBird. We essentially have a way to use our credit cards now to pay for things like rent which is traditionally only accepted in the form of cash or check. Imagine getting points on paying rent… ? Now explain to me why Bluebird is a waste?

  • Gwen

    I purchased the Amex Bluebird card & I love it. I have not had any problems with the money not being available when I load it or transferring from a savings account. Majority of your service stations will hold a certain amount when you use your card at the pump. If you use a debit option normally a hold is not applied only if it is used as a credit card.

  • iris

    Bluebird amex card is a big hassle, i tried using it outside the US it did not work, after many attempts calling customer service to ask questions, they all were lost, providing incorrect answers, adding more frustration i requested a direct deposit from my employer and the money desappear, kept on calling amex and all i get is the run around, they still have 417. that belong to me, is a nightmare…

  • scott

    Ii have had nothing but problems. i have an account balance right now of over $1300.00 that says available and cannot access one dollar. Called customer service to be put on hold for 20 minutes to be told to call another department. Still holding, what a joike!!!!

  • Michael

    I would not advise any one to open an account with this bluebird card. They have strong stipulations on their accounts and would not allow you to do much with your own money. When your money is in the account it is in it until they feel you should have access to it. I have added into the account $8,000 over the last month. I can only use it as a credit card, can not withdraw but so much and can not send but so much each month. Everybody do not accept American Express cards. And when I call the company I get talked down on as if I was trying to go over in my account. So everyone do not deal with this card.

  • toby

    BLUEBIRD MOBILE APP REQUIRES ONE TO AGREE TO LET AMERICAN EXPRESS AND BLUEBIRD THE ABILITY TO TAKE PICTURES AND VIDEOS ON YOUR PHONE… AND TO MAKE CALLS… AND TO USE YOUR ACCOUNTS, ALL YOUR ACCOUNTS.
    GO TO PLAYSTORE AND LOOK UP AX BLUEBIRD AND READ REQUIRED PERMISSIONS.