As the banking world moves increasingly online, there’s no shortage of alternatives to traditional checking accounts.
From mobile apps to cash management accounts to prepaid debit cards, you have plenty of options to conveniently store and spend your money.
This brings us to Bluebird by American Express, the reloadable prepaid card that lets you shop, pay bills, and deposit cash — without a checking account.
What is Bluebird by American Express?
Bluebird is a fintech company that’s owned by InComm, a financial institution based out of Atlanta.
On top of its prepaid debit card, Bluebird also offers an FDIC-insured bank account through its partnership with MetaBank.
In this post, I’ll focus on the Bluebird by American Express prepaid debit account so we can see how it stacks up against other prepaid debit options.
Bluebird by American Express Features
Bluebird Mobile App
With the Bluebird mobile banking app, you can monitor your balance, make mobile check deposits, and send and receive money from others with Bluebird accounts.
Unfortunately, Bluebird’s mobile platform isn’t its strong suit. With only a 3.1-star rating (out of 5) in the Google Play Store and a brutal 2.2-star (out of 5) rating in the App Store, there’s a lot of room for improvement here.
Free Cash Deposits
Plenty of online bank accounts offer cash deposits as an option, but nearly all of them come with a significant fee to do so.
With Bluebird, you can make cash reloads at any Walmart location for free.
Just head to the register or a Walmart MoneyCenter, and you can add funds up to $1,999 each day. Your deposit is reflected in your balance immediately, and there’s no fee whatsoever.
If you don’t have a Walmart nearby, you can also deposit cash with popular retailers like CVS and Walgreens.
However, there’s a fee of up to $3.95 for each deposit transaction at those locations.
Online Bill Pay
Whether it’s your car insurance, monthly rent, or utility bills, you can use your Bluebird card to pay online. Bill pay is free and easy to schedule in the “Money Out” section of your account.
Bluebird stores the merchant information after you pay a bill for the first time, so you don’t have to re-enter again.
Plus, Bluebird offers a Bill Pay Guarantee. As long as you enter the payment at least six days ahead of the bill’s due date, Bluebird will cover any late fees if the funds get held up.
Free ATM Access
Here’s a cool feature about Bluebird: It’s not a checking account, but you can still take out cash.
Bluebird is part of the MoneyPass network, so customers have fee-free ATM access at over 30,000 ATMs nationwide.
Early Direct Deposit
Most banks hold direct deposits until the funds officially clear. Following the trend of many other online banks, Bluebird cuts down on this lag time.
When you set up direct deposit with Bluebird, you can get access to your paycheck a few days early.
Exactly when you get paid depends on when your employers posts the funds, but Bluebird will issue them to your card as soon as they show up.
BlueBird2Walmart Cash Pickups
With BlueBird2Walmart Cash Pickups, you can easily transfer money to other Bluebird account holders.
The feature is offered through Bluebird’s partnership with Ria, a worldwide money transfer service.
Here’s how it works:
To execute a transfer, log into your account and head to the Money Out tab.
Then, choose your recipient, the amount, and their pickup location. Make a note of the reference number for the transaction because they’ll need it to collect.
The recipient can then pick up the funds at the selected Walmart location with an ID and the reference number. It only takes a few minutes for the funds to be available, and the service is accessible during normal Walmart store hours.
Cash pickups are available in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Unfortunately, there’s a small fee for each transfer, which goes up the more cash you’re sending. With that said, if you’re able to send funds for free through another provider — like with Zelle, Venmo, or PayPal — I recommend taking that route.
However, the main difference is that with Bluebird, the recipient gets cold hard cash, as opposed to electronic funds.
Since the Bluebird prepaid card is issued by Amex, users get access to the credit card issuer’s well-known cash back perks.
Just like with an American Express card, Bluebird comes with a wide variety of discount and cash back offers.
Most of the deals are on shopping and dining and will regularly rotate and update on a monthly basis. You might even get early access to concerts and other fun events.
Amex is well-regarded for taking care of its customers. With Bluebird, you get access to its 24-hour Roadside Assistance dispatch line.
Whenever you need a tow truck or a locksmith, the phone line is there to help you out. Access is free for cardholders.
However, you’ll have to pay for any goods or services that you receive.
Overall, the Bluebird prepaid debit card fee schedule is pretty sparse.
There are no monthly fees, annual fees, or minimum balance requirements. You also won’t have to worry about overdraft fees since your card will decline if you don’t have enough to cover a transaction. Card replacement is free if you opt for standard shipping.
If you use your card abroad, you won’t pay any foreign transaction fees.
This feature alone sets it apart from most debit cards and entry-level credit cards.
All that said, there are still a few costs to be aware of.
Here’s the full breakdown:
- Bluebird2Walmart Transfer Fee: Up to $16 per transfer
- Out of Network ATM fee: $2.50 per transaction
- Cash Pickup Fee: Up to $9 per pickup
- In-Store Activation Fee: $5 fee in-store activation fee
- Card Replacement Fee (expedited shipping): $20
- Cash Reload Fee (non-Walmart): up to $3.95 per reload
To sign up for a Bluebird card, your best bet is to head to bluebird.com. You can also get a card in a Walmart store, but you’ll pay a $5 fee. There’s no fee if you sign up online.
To set up a new account, you need to be at least 18 years old, or 19 if you live in Nebraska or Alabama. You also need a valid email address and a Social Security Number.
This information is just used for verifying your identity, so don’t worry about a hard credit check affecting your credit score.
Once you open your account, you’ll receive your Bluebird card in the mail within a few business days.
You can then load funds through cash deposits or mobile check capture, and start using it right away.
Bluebird doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus or any promotions, but you can still cash in by registering for Amex offers.
To get access to the offers, all you need to do is verify your email and activate your card. From there, you can browse through offers online or in the app and add them to your card to redeem them later.
Most offers come with an expiration date, so be sure to take advantage of them when you can.
Once you’ve added an offer, your card will automatically reflect them in your statement balance, so there’s no need to keep track of receipts.
When it comes to security, Bluebird once again reaps the benefits of its association with American Express.
Massive financial institutions almost always provide the most secure platforms, and this one is no exception.
When you use your Bluebird card, all of your transactions are covered by Amex Fraud Protection. If you lose your card or it’s stolen, you can place a temporary 7-day freeze or request a new one for free.
Plus, even though it isn’t a true checking account, funds on your card are still protected by FDIC insurance. When you reload your card, the funds are placed in a custodial account with a member-FDIC bank, so all of your money is protected up to $250,000.
If you need help with your account, bluebird.com is full of a wide range of FAQs to give you a hand.
Bluebird, of course, doesn’t have any in-person branches, but you can also get some assistance at Walmart MoneyCenters.
If you need to speak to someone, you can reach out any time — The US phone number is 1-877-486-5990 and is available 24/7.
Unfortunately, current Bluebird customers have run into some issues when it comes to the platform’s level of service offered. The reviews are somewhat limited, but Bluebird currently holds a rating of just 1.3 stars (out of 5) on Trustpilot.
Pros & Cons
- No fees on most everyday transactions
- Free cash reloads
- Backed by Amex
- Get paid early with direct deposit
- Poor mobile app ratings
- No savings account
- High fees on money transfers
Alternatives to Bluebird
MOVO On-Demand is a digital platform that offers contactless, virtual cash cards. MOVO is mobile-based, and you can easily use your card wherever Mastercard is accepted.
There’s no activation fee, and MOVO easily connects with payment apps like Apple Pay and Venmo. To load money onto your card, link with a bank account or head to a participating retailer.
If you’re looking for an easy prepaid card for each of your family members, Greenlight is a solid option.
The app is full of educational resources to encourage financial learning and has plenty of tools for the whole family.
A standard family account is $4.95 per month and comes with connected debit cards for up to five kids.
Greenlight cards are issued by Mastercard and backed by the FDIC.
Walmart Money Card
The Walmart Money Card is a prepaid debit card that earns 3% back on Walmart purchases, up to $75 per year.
There’s no monthly fee, and it even comes with a linked savings account with a 2.00% APY on balances up to $1,000.
Plus, if you enroll for a card by the end of January 2022, you’ll get a $20 sign-up bonus when you make two qualifying direct deposits.
Is Bluebird by American Express good?
It depends on your situation. Bluebird has some cool features — most notably that it’s low-cost and easy to use.
However, Bluebird isn’t for everyone. If you’re happy with your checking account or online bank account, you probably don’t need it.
What bank is Bluebird by American Express?
Bluebird prepaid accounts are currently backed by American Express National Bank.
All of the funds you add are placed in a custodial account by the bank, which is covered by FDIC insurance.
Does Bluebird build credit?
No. Bluebird is a prepaid debit account, not a credit card. Therefore, you won’t have the chance to build your credit score while you’re using it for everyday transactions.
That said, if you use your Bluebird card for bill pay, there are services, like LevelCredit, that will report your recurring payments in exchange for a monthly fee.
What is the limit on a Bluebird card?
There are several limits that you need to consider before using a Bluebird prepaid card.
Here’s the full breakdown:
- Total balance limit across all Bluebird accounts: $100,000
- Direct deposit limit: $100,000 per year
- Cash deposit limit: $2,500 per day ($1,999 at Walmart), $5,000 per month
- Retail or online purchase limit: $15,000 per month
- ATM withdrawal limit: $750 per day
- Money transfer limit: $2,500 per day
Is Bluebird Right For You?
One thing’s clear — there’s no single way to handle everyday expenses anymore.
Checking accounts are still a must-have, but with so many options, you can pick and choose the best banking option for your lifestyle.
With Bluebird, there’s plenty to like. You’ll rarely need to worry about fees, and the card mirrors most of the features of major checking accounts.
Plus, you’ll get access to tempting Amex offers without having to pay credit card fees.
Overall, Bluebird seems to make the most sense for people who are easing into the banking world or who tend to handle a lot of cash.
On the flip side, there are some limitations and fees to watch out for, and there’s no opportunity to grow your money with interest.
Weigh the pros and cons, and think about what you need out of a debit account.
From there, you should be able to find the best card for you. And remember, your bank should be working for you and not the other way around.