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This article was last updated Jan 20, 2020. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
If you’re looking for a way to manage your money without a bank account or credit card, one option is the Bluebird by American Express. While many prepaid debit cards charge a monthly fee, this card does not. Plus, American Express partners with Walmart to allow you to load funds onto your card at virtually any Walmart checkout register for no fee.
Be aware that because this is a prepaid debit card, which uses funds that you load onto it, the Bluebird by American Express will not help you build your credit score. We’ll break down where this card stands out, where it falls short and whether it’s a good fit for your wallet.
- Bluebird by American Express pros
- Additional benefits
- Bluebird by American Express cons
- Compare it with the Walmart MoneyCard®
- The bottom line
Bluebird by American Express pros
No monthly fee. Other prepaid cards may charge a monthly fee of about $5 to $7. Some will waive the fee if you load a certain amount of money onto the card each month. The Bluebird by American Express does not come with a monthly fee.
Load funds for free at Walmart. You can add funds to your card using cash or debit at virtually any Walmart checkout register for no fee. The money will be available in your Bluebird by American Express account immediately. The fee to load funds onto your card at participating retailers other than Walmart can be up to $3.95.
No fee to withdraw cash at MoneyPass ATMs. There are more than 30,000 MoneyPass ATM locations in the United States and Puerto Rico. When you use your Bluebird by American Express at these machines, there’s no fee for doing so. Otherwise, there will be a $2.50 fee plus any ATM operator fees.
Mobile check capture. Use the Bluebird Mobile App and you can cash your checks to your Bluebird by American Express account. There’s a $20 check minimum to use this feature. The free option makes your money available in 10 days, and there’s also an option to access your money the same day for a fee. It will be a 1% fee on payroll or government checks with preprinted signatures, or a 5% fee on other checks. There’s a $5 minimum fee.
You can earmark money for future needs. Bluebird by American Express allows you to use SetAside accounts to separate funds you’d like to earmark for a specific purpose from the rest of your money. This could help you save for expenses, such as a vacation or holiday shopping.
You can get additional cards for family members. If you want to use Bluebird by American Express to manage family spending, you’ll like that you can give up to four cards to anyone you choose (as long as they’re 13 or older) and then set limits on spending, ATM access and more.
Card membership benefits from American Express. Those benefits include:
- Purchase protection
- Fraud protection
- Amex Offers
- 24/7 customer service
- Roadside assistance
- Emergency assistance
- American Express Experiences
Bluebird by American Express cons
Fees. Prepaid debit cards tend to charge a lot of fees. Bluebird by American Express lets you avoid some of the fees competing prepaid cards may charge, but it is not fee-free. Here’s the breakdown of the fees you can expect:
- Card price: $0 online, up to $5 at retail locations
- Add funds at other participating retail locations: up to $3.95
- Mobile check capture: $0, or up to 5% of the check for same-day access
- Withdrawal at other ATMs: $2.50 (ATM operator fees may also apply)
- Cash pickup: $3 to $9 depending on the withdrawal amount
- Buying checks: $19.95 plus shipping and taxes
- Bluebird2Walmart money transfer: $4 to $16, depending on the transfer amount
Compare it with the Walmart MoneyCard®
Another strong prepaid debit card is the Walmart MoneyCard®. Here’s how the two stack up:
|Bluebird by American Express||Walmart MoneyCard®|
|Card opening fee||Up to $5 in retail locations. $0 online.||$1|
|Monthly fee||$0||$5 per month, waived if you loaded $1,000 or more in the previous month.|
|Reload fee||Up to $3.95 at participating retail locations. Free at virtually any Walmart checkout register.||Up to $5.95.|
|ATM withdrawal fee||$0 at MoneyPass ATMs. $2.50 at other ATMs (you may also be charged a fee by the ATM operator).||$2.50 (you may also be charged a fee by the ATM operator). Withdraw cash at Walmart MoneyCenters and customer service desks without a fee.|
One advantage of the Walmart MoneyCard® is that it offers cash back, which Bluebird by American Express does not. However, be aware that your cash back will be capped at $75 per reward year, and that you’ll only earn the 3% rate at Walmart.com — not at physical stores.
While Bluebird by American Express does not offer cash back, it stands out in that it charges no monthly fee. You don’t have to worry about earning enough in rewards to outweigh a monthly fee or loading enough onto the card each month to get the fee waived.
Is the Bluebird by American Express worth it?
Prepaid cards are now better protected than they used to be, thanks to a rule enacted in 2019 by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau — but if your card is used fraudulently or you have to dispute a transaction with a merchant, you would lose your funds until they’re refunded to you. With a credit card, however, you haven’t used your own money until you’ve paid your monthly credit card bill. That provides an extra layer of security.
If you’ve decided a prepaid card is the money management tool you need right now, the Bluebird by American Express is a very good choice. It offers helpful tools, such as mobile check capture and SetAside accounts where you can plan ahead for future expenses, and you can carry it without worrying about a monthly fee. And, if you’re looking at this card as a way to manage family spending, the option to get additional cards and set spending and ATM access limits makes it a convenient way to keep your family’s budget on track.
The information related to the Bluebird by American Express has been independently collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.