Is the American Express Bluebird a credit card? Not quite.
So, is Bluebird considered a checking account? Not that either.
Bluebird by American Express and Wal-Mart is a financial account with a prepaid card that you can use as a substitute for a bank account. “It’s essentially an Amex branded debit card,” says Anne P. Mitchell, a user of the card. It’s earned a reputation for offering the benefits of banking without all the fees.
Here’s everything you need to know about it including the features, benefits, costs, pros and cons, and more.
American Express Bluebird Features
Let’s start with the account functionality.
Funding the account
Here are the multiple ways to get money into the account:
- Set up direct deposit. There is a limit of $100,000 per year for all Bluebird accounts. See below for more details on how to set it up
- Add up to $2,000 per month from your bank account (processes within five business days)
- Transfer $200 per day and up to $1,000 per month from a debit account (processes immediately)
- Add up to $1,999 per day and $5,000 per month at Wal-Mart (free)
- Add up to $2,500 per day or $5,000 per month at thousands of other locations for a fee (i.e., CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, Dollar General, etc.)
- Deposit up to $5,000 with a check through the Mobile Check Capture feature in the mobile app (can be available in three to five minutes or 10 days, depending on the option you choose)
- Payroll direct deposit. See below for details on how to set this up
How to set up payroll direct deposit
Bluebird allows you to get your paycheck up to two days faster when you sign up for direct deposit (no fees). This is how you set it up:
1. Activate your Bluebird account and check your personalized card is also activated.
2. Confirm your employer’s payroll department offers direct deposit to a U.S. bank account.
3. Check the direct deposit won’t exceed the monthly limits of your card.
4. Remember that for federal tax refunds via direct deposit, the information on your refund, including your Social Security Number, must match the information Bluebird has on file. If you file your taxes jointly, ensure your Social Security Number is listed first on the tax return. Note: Bluebird has a limit of two tax refunds a year per account.
5. Log in to your online account or Bluebird Mobile App and click on “add funds.”
6. Select “set up direct deposit” to view your Bluebird Account number and bank routing number.
7. Print out and complete the Bluebird Direct Deposit Form.
8. Submit it to your employer. Note that some employers may require you to use their own forms.
The account can carry up to $100,000 balance.
Once funded, you can use the account to make purchases and pay bills.
- Make purchases (up to $15,000 per month) using the Bluebird Card wherever American Express is accepted (online and in-store)
- Pay bills to businesses and individuals online or using the mobile app (Pay up to $15,000 per month to registered payees or $5,000 to non-registered payees)
The only real difference between Bluebird and a bank account are the limits.
Next are the all-important questions, “How do I get cash from my American Express card?” and “How much can you withdraw from Bluebird?”
- Withdraw up to $750 at ATMs that accept American Express Cards (MoneyPass ATMs are free)
- Withdraw cash from your account (up to $2,500 per account) and pick it up at any Wal-Mart store through Ria (a money transfer service)
- Use a pre-authorized Bluebird Check
One notable feature that is missing is the ability to get cash back from merchants.
Also, transfer money in the following ways:
- Transfer up to $2,500 per month using Ria
- Transfer up to $15,000 per month out of Bluebird to a bank account
- Save money by moving it into a “Set Aside” account
- Receive/request up to $10,000 per month in person-to-person payments
- Send up to $2,500 per month in person-to-person payments
Note that Ria charges fees for money transfers.
Manage American Express Bluebird account
You manage a Bluebird account entirely online either on the website or mobile app; view transaction history, available balance, and statements up to two years old. You can also check your temporary American Express prepaid card balance.
Account holders can add up to four family members to their Bluebird account. The account holder will have control over how much each family account can spend and how they can spend it.
Mitchell says, “The advantage of Bluebird (at least for how I use it) is that you can have a ‘family account’ card created for a family member. You can reload that family member card directly from the phone app, anytime, anywhere. You can also reload it by going to any Wal-Mart and adding cash to the Bluebird account at Wal-Mart customer service.”
She adds, “This has been an incredibly useful setup for my son and I. He lives in another state, and I can provide him with spending money in a way that is convenient and painless. Because it’s essentially an Amex card, it is accepted in many places where his regular bank debit card isn’t. Also, it cannot be used to get cash, so it helps family members to be a bit more accountable and able to track their spending, rather than getting cash at an ATM and then using cash.”
American Express Bluebird Benefits
Bluebird members also get the following benefits:
- Amex Offers: A program that offers discounts on select brands or statement credits
- Insights: A tool to manage personal finances
- Purchase protection: Protects purchases against accidental damage or theft for up to 90 days
- Roadside Hotline: Call and get connected with a third-party service that can help
- American Express Experiences: Gain access to tickets for special events
Now, let’s break down what the costs are exactly.
How much does a Bluebird Account cost?
Here are all the account features that are free with Bluebird:
- Opening the account online
- Monthly services
- Yearly services
- Direct deposit
- Adding funds from a debit card
- Adding cash at Wal-Mart
- Using the Mobile Check Capture and opting for “Money in 10 days.”
- Withdrawing cash at MoneyPass ATMs
- Online transactions
- Merchant transactions
- Bluebird Check transactions
- Sending money between Bluebird accounts
- Transferring money to a “Set Aside” account
- Replacement cards
- Foreign Transactions
- Getting information about your account
And here are the features that come with a cost:
- Buying the $5 setup package at Wal-Mart
- Adding cash to your account at participating retail locations besides Wal-Mart costs up to $3.95
- Using Mobile Check Capture and requesting “Money in Minutes” costs from 1 to 5% of the check amount
- Withdrawing cash from out-of-network ATMs will cost $2.50 per withdrawal plus fees from ATM operators
- Cash pick-up through Ria will cost from $3 to $9, depending on the amount
Where there are costs, they are relatively low, and you can avoid them by opting for the free features.
How do you get a Bluebird account?
To open a Bluebird account, you can go to a Wal-Mart store near you and buy a $5 setup kit, register online at bluebird.com, or download the app and register. At Wal-Mart, you will receive a temporary card that you can use right away. When you register online through the website or mobile app, Bluebird will mail your permanent card to your address.
Here’s how to open an account online for free.
Visit the website and click “Open an Account.”
Provide your name, email address, and physical address.
Enter your phone number and create a username and password.
Provide your birth date and social security number, and create an ATM pin number.
Choose a security question and provide the answer. Then, read all of the legal terms and click “Agree and Submit.”
Although you provide your SSN, Bluebird will not check your credit. It is only used to verify your identity. After you register, your card will be sent in the mail.
Eligibility for Bluebird
You must meet the following requirements to qualify for a Bluebird by American Express card:
- Be 18 years of age or older
- Live in the U.S.
- Have a social security number
For family accounts, family members must be at least 13 years of age and live in the U.S.
American Express Bluebird Security
Bluebird places all funds into custodial accounts at banks insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). If a bank goes bankrupt, the FDIC covers up to $250,000 per depositor. Note that this only applies to funds you deposit onto a permanent card, and it takes one business day for funds to get into the custodial account.
Bluebird cards are also protected against fraudulent purchases.
American Express Bluebird Customer service
Bluebird account holders get access to 24/7 live customer service through American Express. The Bluebird customer service number for callers within the US is 1(877) 486-5990, and for international callers, it’s 1(801) 449-4016.
Is American Express Bluebird the best financial account for you?
This account has many unique advantages. You can open it without a credit check, it comes with very few fees, it has the security you need, and membership benefits many people want.
If you make less than $100,000 per year and are okay with the other limits, this account will likely be an excellent fit for you. While there’s no cash back option, you can pull cash out of ATMs, and there are over 25,000 in-network ATMs as of this writing.
For those whose financial needs exceed the limits, this may work well as a supplement to another account or may not fit your needs.
Compare the pros and cons to make a better decision.
- Easy to get an account
- Has the features of a bank account
- Low costs
- Many membership benefits
- 24/7 live customer service
- Good security
- Family account is good for sharing money with family members
- American Express is accepted fewer places than Visa or MasterCard
- No cash back is available when making purchases
- Fees for using ATMs out-of-network
- Fees for money transfers
- Maximum account limit of $100,000
- Maximum of $100,000 in direct deposits each year
- Limits on other transactions types may be too low
Now you have all the information you need to evaluate if a Bluebird account is right for you. However, as with any financial decision, it’s smart to compare a few options before making a decision.