Going Bankless: One Person’s Journey


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Shirley Pulawski is a freelance journalist who is documenting the process of going bankless and transitioning to other services for MyBankTracker

After years of having just about everything you could imagine tied to one bank account, I moved to an area without a local branch. For several other reasons, I realized it was time to phase out the account and find another way to do my banking.

After moving to two cities with different banks, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to open another regular checking account at a bank with a local office. I travel for work, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to get an account with a bank with a national presence. I decided to take a look at some other products and try something out before completely ending my relationship with my old bank.

The possibilities

I know my needs: the account has to be portable, have checks available for certain things, and have no or low costs for my most common transaction types. I also have to be able to use direct deposit from work, and not have big transaction limits.

I did some research, and the Bluebird ® by American Express seemed to fit all of those needs. Now, American Express has a reputation for not being accepted in a lot of places, but I checked out my commonly-used online accounts like Amazon, eBay, PayPal (importantly), and others, and it looked like I was clear.

I asked around to see if any friends had problems when they’ve carried American Express. Like many cards, I might run into some troubles overseas or at some small retailers, but it looked like the Bluebird card would suit my purposes. Since it cost nothing to try it out, I entered some basic information; name, address, phone and social security numbers, and in less than a week, I had my card.

I didn’t do much with it when I first got it, because change is hard, and I have a lot of linked accounts to transition, plus I’ve been busy. I did manage to find a simple form on the Bluebird website to print out and take to my payroll department at my brick-and-mortar job.

After a couple of weeks, I got around to adding my soon-to-be phased out checking account to it, so that I could add the funds from it when I was ready to be done with the bank account. The verification process was just like the way PayPal verifies a checking account — two deposits of a few cents each were made, and I reported back to Bluebird and provided the exact amounts.

Learning about living

Next, I needed to work with my editor to figure out how to get my freelance contract payments from the lovely folks at MyBankTracker. This is where things got more complicated.

My editor, Claire Tak, and I discussed several possibilities for my upcoming payment, and I decided to send her a request to her for the amount I was expecting. Whether or not this was the method she decide to use, it made sense to find out what that looks like on the receiver’s end. Unlike me, Claire had to provide some more information than I did, including her driver’s license number, and she had to wait through a verification period.

It took quite a few days, but Claire got the notification right after we discussed doing what we had been doing up to that point; she sends a monthly check for my work directly to my bank, with “For deposit only” followed by my bank account number written in the endorsement area.

Claire also discovered that she had inadvertently signed up for Bluebird account in the process, but that doesn’t surprise me, as most companies like to up their enrollment numbers when possible.

Tomorrow is another business day, so we’ll find out what hoops Claire will have to jump through next to get my freelance pay to me. Hopefully, these hoops are temporary, and sending money with Bluebird will eventually become as easy as with PayPal.

Once I have some money in my account, I will share all of the details about navigating paying bills, rent, and buying things in the rest of this “going bankless” series.

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Shirley is a staff writer for MyBankTracker who covers personal finance trends, money habits, mortgages and foreclosures.

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