What Is The Bluebird Card?

American Express and Walmart have teamed up to offer a debit card with low fees and advanced capabilities.  It is targeted to the consumer who wants advanced banking services without paying high fees.  According to American Express and Walmart, this account is to help consumers with everyday finances and avoid high checking fees that average $259 annually.

Based upon the price list released by the two companies, the only fees listed were $2 to add money from a debit card and $2 for ATM withdrawals.  ATM withdrawals at MoneyPass ATMs are free if you are enrolled in direct deposit, and you pay $2 for out-of-network ATMs.

Features

It appears this card offers more features for free than any other prepaid debit card.  This is marketed as an alternative to a checking account, because there are no paper checks and is not offered by a financial institution.  It is offered through American Express’ non-bank travel service subsidiary instead of one of its two FDIC-insured banks.

You sign up by registering on the internet.  There are no overdraft fees, no annual or monthly fees, and no minimum balance. I have listed the features:

Card is replaced for free if it is lost or stolen.

You have access to cash from 22,000 Money Pass ATMs nationwide.

Deposits can be made by smartphone,

Mobile bill pay as well as mobile app functionally is available.

You can send payments to family or friend’s accounts.

Purchase Protection covers the item if damaged or stolen within 90 days from purchase.

Roadside Assistance is available such as jump starts, flat tire change and lockout service.

It the card is lost or stolen, you are not responsible for fraudulent charges.

This card is available at 4,000 Walmart stores online and Walmart could be considered the branch network for the card. It is not FDIC insured like bank accounts.  It will be subject o money transmittal regulations, which requires American Express to set aside the amount customers have in their accounts in assets.

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“Simply put, state money transmitter laws do not provide the same 100% guarantee that consumers’ funds will be returned to consumers quickly in the event of a failure down to the penny,” Michael Junk senior attorney for Consumers Union, said in a July 23 comment letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

This is an alternative account, with very little fees, with direct deposit.  You can get free checking at most credit unions with direct deposit and also with some banks.  If you want to build a banking relationship to get a car loan and mortgage in the future, this account doesn’t help you.

JRU on 60 Mins SetCredit Reporting Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.