Is The American Express Bluebird Prepaid Card Right For You?
A prepaid debit card is a convenient way to make purchases or pay bills, but many of them come with high fees. American Express partners with Walmart to offer the Bluebird card, which gives you easy access to your cash without all the extra cost.
You can use your Bluebird card virtually anywhere American Express is accepted, and you have free ATM access at more than 24,000 MoneyPass locations worldwide. Sending and receiving money is hassle-free, and you can even enroll in direct deposit to get your paycheck up to two days faster.
Besides that, your Bluebird by American Express account comes with some built-in features that are designed to make managing your finances a breeze.
Main Features of the Bluebird by American Express Card
The Bluebird card isn’t a checking account, but it has many of the same features. The biggest difference between the two is the fee structure, and we’ve outlined the best reasons to consider a Bluebird account below:
- No monthly fee - American Express doesn’t charge any monthly maintenance fees for Bluebird members.
- No activation fee - Activating a new Bluebird account is always 100% fee-free.
- No foreign transaction fee - If you’re using your card to make an international purchase, you don’t have to worry about paying an extra fee to complete the transaction.
- Simple account management - The Bluebird mobile app allows you to track your card balance, pay bills and add money to your account on the go.
- Mobile check deposit - Adding money to your Bluebird card is a snap with mobile check deposit. All you have to do is download the Bluebird mobile app, take a picture of the check with your smartphone and voila--you’re done.
- Bill pay - You can use your Bluebird card to pay your bills each month with no added fee. Bluebird checks are also available free of charge.
- Direct deposit - If your employer offers direct deposit, you can have your paycheck added to your Bluebird card automatically every payday. Best of all, there’s no charge to set it up.
- Family account access - Once you’ve got a Bluebird account, you can link up to four more cards for your family members. You can set limits on spending and ATM access, which is great if you have teens on the account.
American Express Serve® vs. Bluebird
|Bluebird by American Express||American Express Serve®|
|Card Price||$0 Online Up to $5 in retail||$0 Online Up to $3.95 in retail locations|
|Monthly Fee (No fee in TX, NY, VT)||$0||$1 - or - $0 when you Direct Deposit $500+x|
|Cash Reloads||$0 (cash reloads only available at Walmart)||Up to $3.95 (fee varies by retailer)|
|Mobile Check Deposit||$0||$0|
|Add Money from a Bank Account||$0||$0|
|ATM Withdrawals||$0 at MoneyPass® ATMs $2.50 at non-MoneyPass ATMs.‡ ATM operator fees may apply.||$0 at MoneyPass® ATMs $2.50 at non-MoneyPass ATMs.‡ ATM operator fees may apply.|
|Online Bill Pay||$0||$0|
|Send and Receive Money||$0||$0|
|Set Aside Money in Reserve||-||$0|
|24/7 Customer Service||-||$0|
|Purchase Protection† on Eligible Purchases||-||$0|
|Foreign Transactions||$0||2.7% after conversion to US Dollars|
Getting Started With Bluebird by American Express
There are a three different ways to open a Bluebird prepaid debit card account. First, you can purchase a Bluebird Account Set Up Kit at your local Walmart store. The kit costs $5, and it includes a temporary card that you can start using right away. To complete the activation, you’ll just have to register for an account at Bluebird.com, which is free.
You can add up to $500 to your temporary card, and you’ll receive your permanent card within seven to 10 business days after you register online. If you want to bypass the $5 Set Up Kit fee, you can visit Bluebird.com or download the Bluebird mobile app to register for a new account. The only downside is that you’ll have to wait for your permanent card to be mailed.
Adding Money to Your Bluebird Account
You’ve got several ways to add money to your Bluebird card, and American Express doesn’t charge any fees to do so. Altogether, you can add up to $100,000 a year to your Bluebird account using these methods:
The most convenient way to add money to your Bluebird card is through direct deposit. You can set up direct deposit for your paycheck or any federal payments you receive as long as you’ve activated your permanent card. Federal payments that can be added via direct deposit include:
- Tax refunds
- Social Security benefits
- Civil service retirement benefits
- VA benefits
- Worker’s compensation
Depending on how your employer’s payroll system works, you can get paid up to two days faster when you sign up for direct deposit. Just keep in mind that it can take up to two pay cycles for the direct deposit to kick in.
Bank Account/Debit Card Transfer
If you have a checking or savings account, you can add money to your Bluebird account via wire transfer. Be aware, however, that your bank may charge a fee for that service. It can also take a few days for a transfer to complete so this is probably not your best bet if you need the money fast. You’re limited to $2,000 in checking or savings account transfers each month.
Using a debit card that’s linked to your checking account is likely to be the better choice if you want to avoid a fee. To add money using a debit card, you can either link it to your Bluebird account online or through the Bluebird mobile app or refill at the register next time you’re at Walmart.
Any time you add funds using a debit card, they’re available in your Bluebird account immediately. You can add up to $1,000 a month using a debit card.
There are two ways to add money to your Bluebird account by check: either mail it in or use mobile check deposit. If you’re using the Bluebird mobile app, you can deposit up to $2,000 per day and up to $10,000 per month. If you have a check for more than $2,000, you’ll need to send it snail mail.
You can also add money to your card at the register using cash. The minimum deposit is $1, and the maximum is $1,999. The most you can add in cash per day in a Walmart store is $2,500, and you can’t load more than $5,000 in cash to the card each month.
Spending With Your Bluebird Card
As mentioned earlier, the Bluebird card can be used just about anywhere American Express is accepted. You can spend up to $100,000 per year with the card, and each transaction type has its own spending limit.
- Merchant transactions - Up to $15,000 per month
- Bill payments - Up to $15,000 per month
- Send money to friends and family - Up to $2,500 per month
- ATM withdrawals - $750 per day
- Walmart cash withdrawal - Up to $900 per day; Up to $2,900 for tax refunds received via direct deposit
For bill payments, send money transactions, ATM withdrawals and cash withdrawals at Walmart stores, you’re limited to $15,000 in combined spending per month.
Other Card Highlights
There are a few more things you need to know about the Bluebird card. To wrap things up, here’s the dish on the rest of the card’s fees and perks.
The Bluebird American Express card is virtually fee-free, with a couple of exceptions. There’s a $2.50 surcharge that applies if you use the card to make a withdrawal at a non-MoneyPass ATM. If you’re doing a cash pickup at a Walmart store, you’ll pay between $3 and $9, depending on how much you’re withdrawing.
Money Management Tools
In addition to the Bluebird mobile app, you can also manage your account more effectively with the Insights feature. This allows you to categorize and track your spending to help make budgeting a little easier.
If you’re trying to save money for a specific goal, like a summer vacation, you can create SetAside accounts linked to your Bluebird card. You can set up automatic or one-time transfers to these accounts online or through the Bluebird mobile app at no charge.
The Bluebird card protects you in more ways than one. For example, you’re covered if someone steals your card and uses it to make fraudulent purchases. If you buy something, it’s protected against theft or damage for the first 90 days.
Bluebird members have complimentary access to the American Express roadside assistance hotline, which can come in handy if your car breaks down. If you’re traveling more than 100 miles from home, you can dial into the Global Assist hotline should something go wrong.
Shopping and Entertainment Discounts
When you open a Bluebird account, you’ll have access to Amex Offers. This program allows you to save when you shop selected brands or dine at participating merchants, either in the form of an upfront discount or an account credit. You can also take advantage of deals on tickets to the hottest sporting, music and entertainment events.
Bluebird from American Express and Walmart is a must-have if you’re looking for a debit card that functions like a checking account without all the added fees. Compared to other prepaid cards on the market, this one is hands-down one of the best deals around based on the cost.
If we had to point out a potential downside, it’s that American Express may not be accepted at every merchant. If you’re worried about getting declined, you may want to consider a prepaid debit card issued by Visa or MasterCard instead.