Remember earlier this year when Suze Orman said she was going to revolutionize the prepaid card scene…and her card sucked?
Well, now it seems someone has actually revolutionized the prepaid card scene. That someone would be American Express, in cooperation with WalMart. These two giants have joined forces to bring us Bluebird, a prepaid debit card that’s going to put the others out of business.
Like all prepaid debit cards, this one is aimed at the ‘unbanked’. But those interested in earning rewards on your spending (even your mortgage!) should pay attention here too.
How Bluebird Works
Bluebird is like many prepaid debit cards in that you have several options to load money onto the card, and you can use the card in many ways, like shopping at WalMart (they hope) and paying bills online. The game-changing feature here is that Bluebird doesn’t come with a bunch of fees.
Bluebird has no annual or monthly fee, no fees for loading money by direct deposit or bank account, and no fees for MoneyPass ATM usage if you are doing direct deposit.
Bluebird Fees and Fine Print
What fees does Bluebird have? $2 for loading money from a debit card (which would make no sense because users typically don’t have a traditional bank debit card) and $2 for out-of-network ATM usage. Also, if you activate the card at WalMart, you’ll pay $5 to get started. Activate online and avoid this charge. Be sure to review the Bluebird fee disclosures yourself.
Note that Bluebird is not a FDIC insured account. Bluebird is now FDIC Insured. Restrictions apply.
Great for the Unbanked
Okay, let’s cut right to it. Prepaid debit cards are not meant for people who can get a no-fee checking account and accompanying debit and credit card. Bluebird, and other prepaid cards exist because of the unbanked – those people who either because of bad credit or choice, do not have a checking account. If you are in this group, then by all means please check out Bluebird and see if it’s a good fit for you. Dump those other prepaid cards with the monthly fees and get with the program. I like prepaid cards for teens and college age children as well.
Bluebird recently added physical checks to their offering. For a limited time (till August 2013) you can order a free book of “pre-authorized” checks. After that date, the checkbook will cost $26.
I have seen some complaints about Bluebird from early adopters. There is apparently a long float between the time you load money on the card by direct deposit and check. This has resulted in a disappointing experience by those users who apparently didn’t have as much of a wait time with other prepaid cards. Be sure to understand the terms and take it slow switching all of your finances over to Bluebird.
Here are some of the more interesting features of this Bluebird account and card:
- Digital Check Deposit – You can add money to your Bluebird account by taking a picture of your check with an iPhone or Android device and using the Bluebird app to upload your picture.
- 22,000 MoneyPass ATMs – With Bluebird you have access to your funds through a big network of ATMs. Remember, to avoid the $2 fee for withdrawal, you’ll need to have direct deposit setup.
- Create Sub-Accounts for Kids – Each sub-account user gets their own card and access levels based on your personalized settings. Use this feature to pay your teenager their allowance.
Using Bluebird to Earn More Credit Card Rewards
Those into maximizing their credit card rewards have already picked up on a way to use Bluebird to their advantage. Since you can use your Bluebird account (for free) to pay your bills, and because you can (for free) load your Bluebird account with Vanilla prepaid reload cards, and because you can (for free) buy Vanilla prepaid reload cards at certain retailers with your cash back credit card, you can earn cash back credit card rewards for paying your mortgage. There ya go. Read more about these Bluebird maneuvers at one of my favorite credit card hacking sites, NoobTraveler.com.
Applying for a Bluebird Account
When you apply for a Bluebird account online (without first getting your card at WalMart), you are required to complete two screens of data. Screen one contains fields for name, address, email, and phone number. Screen two requires you to create a new user name, password, PIN, and security question, and also provide your SSN and date of birth. There is no hard credit inquiry. Since this is a prepaid card, there should be no reason for your application to be rejected. Once you are approved, your Bluebird card will be sent by mail.
So what do you think of Bluebird? If you are a user already, what can you share about your experience? And for everyone else, are you as positive as I am about this card? Do you see it as good for the unbanked (until they can get into the traditional system)?