Using the “Bluebird” American Express Card

So a month ago I told you all about the Bluebird card–a new debit card alternative from Walmart & American Express.  They asked me not only to tell you all about the card, but to use it for a month and then talk about the experience.

Well, it’s a month :)  As you remember, I bought the Bluebird card in store.  I just took the little box up to the register and paid $5 to activate the card and then loaded on the minimum of $20.

I took the card home and logged on to Bluebird.com to register the account.  After filling in all the info (including my mailing address, name, social security number etc for my permanent card) and logging on, there was my account with the $20 loaded.  I could have used the temporary card to make purchases, but I waited about a week/10 days for my regular card to show up in the mail.

It looks like a real, honest to goodness credit to debit card!  You can see the temporary card here on the top and my permanent card there on the bottom (yes, I blocked out the middle numbers with a green rectangle).  It’s got a regular raised imprint with the account numbers, my name etc.  When you flip it over there is a place for your signature and even that three digit “security code”.

So stop and think about that for a minute.  With Bluebird I have something that looks like and functions like a credit card–but I don’t need to have a bank account or any credit check to get it.  I could simply continue to add cash on to the card at virtually any Walmart cash register.  Think about all the things these days that you need a credit card for–like purchasing things online or paying for gas at the pump.  And think about all the folks who couldn’t use those services if they had bad credit.  Now they can!

Because Bluebird functions like a debit card-you have to have the money there in order to use it.  You aren’t going into debt when you use it.  It won’t LET  you spend more than you have.  And of course if you want you can add money on using direct deposit (either all or some of you paycheck) or by transferring in money from a bank account as well.  You just log into your account (or use the mobile app) and take care of it!

There was only one thing I was worried about in using Bluebird–and that was the fact that it was American Express.  I’ve always had either a Visa or Mastercard, and they are widely accepted.  I remember “back in the day” (what, the 90’s?) it seemed like fewer merchants took American Express.  I knew that I could shop at Walmart using the American Express card–but what about everywhere else?  I was pleasantly surprised to find out as I went about my daily business and tried using the card that my local gas station took American Express, that I could shop for Christmas gifts on Amazon with it and that I could even run through the Mc Donalds Drive Thru and grab a couple of “Happy Meals” with it.  It really worked everywhere I really wanted to use it.

Overall I was pleased with the card and can see quite a few interesting uses for it.  Even if you already have a credit card and debit card that you use, it occurred to me that you could use Bluebird as a way to save up for special purchases or events.  With the direct deposit function, what if you set it up to put $50 a month from your paycheck into the account–and then you left that card in a drawer at home and let the money build up as your vacation fund, an emergency fund or your Christmas Shopping account.  It would be “out of sight, out of mind”–and yet still completely accessible if you really needed the cash for an unexpected expense (either by using the card as a debit card or by withdrawing the cash at an ATM).

Although I didn’t go through the process of setting up “sub accounts”–there are tons of cool ideas for those as well, especially since you can do things like setting daily spending limits and turn ATM access off and on.  If you have a kid in college you could load spending money, book money etc remotely–and they can’t over charge it because when the money is gone, the money is gone.  Or what about if you are caring for a parent? It’s a great way to still give them their freedom but keep tabs on their spending so that there aren’t any awkward monetary mistakes.  Or you could even set it up so that the account is in the name of a caregiver (a nanny or eldercare giver) and load it with a limited amount of money to be used for expenses.

Pretty interesting.

Now before I close out, I had a few questions asked last month when I first introduced Bluebird:

From Michelle:  I would like to know if the expense tracker is similar to what’s provided by Mint.com — or — if the card is compatible with Mint.com for tracking

Michelle-I signed in to Mint.com and couldn’t find a way to link a Bluebird account

From Judith:  What are the fees to use the card?  per transaction?  fees to use ATMs: withdrawals, balance inquiries, etc.

Judith-If you open the account in store there is a $5 fee-if you open it purely online you avoid that free.  There is no fee per purchase.  There is a $2 fee for ATM withdrawals unless you use direct deposit and make the withdrawal at a MoneyPass™ Network ATM.  The entire chart of fees (which is mostly “$0″) can be found in the Bluebird Account Fee Summary.

From Liz: Just wondering if its easy to close out the account when I’m done with it.

Well, I’m not sure as I haven’t tried to close it.  But you can just let it go to zero for as long as you like and then when you feel like it load on more money without any fees.

I’ll leave you with a comment from reader Emmerae:

I love this card:-) It is simple to use and you can have direct deposit. I don’t have to worry about bank fees. A 25 cents error caused 5 checks to have fees. Although 3 of the checks were paid, the others were returned. Although this was completely my fault, a mocha that cost $2.25 ended up costing me $27.50. I don’t have to worry with the bluebird card because no matter what mistake that I make, there are no overdraft fees. I can’t spend what I don’t have. For me, it’s the best option for right now. There are no monthly fees like most prepaid cards and its with American Express. What more can I ask for?

****This is a sponsored post****
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post I am participating in with the Walmart Moms. Walmart has provided me with compensation for this post. My participation is voluntary and opinions, as always are my own.
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Comments

  1. kelli says

    Used mine at the pump (did not use full balance) and
    now my card Shows 0 balance. tha t was yesterday and it still shows 0. Whats up with

    • says

      Kelli-I’m not sure. . . Have you logged into your dashboard on the computer to see what it says for the balance or tried to contact customer service? I’ll definitely forward your comment back to my point of contact for this review.

    • says

      Ok Kelli-there is actually a reason! This is the response I got back from my point of contact at Walmart:

      If customers have questions they should call Amex customer service – 1 (877) 486-5990. But in this particular case:

      If you pay at the pump, gas stations will routinely obtain an authorization for an estimated purchase amount to ensure that there will be sufficient funds to cover the final purchase.

      If the dollar amount of the actual purchase is less than the amount of the approved pre-authorization amount, a “hold” is placed on the remaining available funds and you must wait up to eight days for the remaining funds on your Card to become available.

      • Shawn Oehlke says

        Just had this happen to me yesterday. $40 in gas, and Bluebird put a hold on $100. This is unfortunate and I am in the process of leaving Bluebird in my rearview mirror.

        • James says

          Bluebird did not put the $100 hold on your account. The gas station did that. If you look closely at most gas pumps that accept credit/debit cards, they have posted on or near the pump a list showing what amount they will pre-authorize against your card.

    • says

      Jeana–No, sorry that won’t work. It does require your name and social security number to set up the card. If you want the card for someone else, like say a child in college, you create the main account with a valid name and SSN and then you can create a subaccount.

  2. SharonH says

    Got the card today and tried to do a POS at checkout. When I slid the card, it didn’t give the option for debit or credit so that I could get some cash. Instead it just approved it as a credit transaction. This was at Walmart. So I go to the “Money Pass” machine. It’s broken. It’s always broken. In the end, I had to do an atm withdrawal which cost me a grand total of $4.50. That was $2.50 for the atm and $2.00 for not being able to use Walmart’s broken machine. Why wasn’t credit or debit an option? Thank you.

    • Eric Willy says

      The FAQ’s on Bluebird’s web site says: “There are no cash back or cash over transactions with Bluebird.”

      I’m just guessing, but this is probably one of the ways American Express makes money on this card. By running transactions through the Amex network and the higher fees they charge retailers to do so. Amex will probably never allow this card to be run as a debit card. To avoid ATM fees you just have to make a small ACH transfer into your Bluebird account once every 30 days. Bluebird sees it as being a direct deposit and that allows for no fees at Money Pass ATMs (of course the machine does need to be a working ATM).

    • Rob Hammill says

      This is my problem here in Baltimore. The two Walmarts I go to, the ATM’s are ALWAYS broken. If you go to the Money Center, they tell you they can’t make a withdrawal off the card even if you have a PIN. This card is pretty useless. Walmart’s involvement SUCKS.

  3. Eric Willy says

    Another way I use Bluebird is to make cash deposit into my online bank. Typically an online only bank doesn’t have a way of accepting cash deposits. You have to turn your cash into a check or money order then mail in the deposit. Then you have to wait for it arrive by mail then be credited to your account. Now I can stop by Walmart, deposit the cash on to my Bluebird card instantly, then transfer all or part of it to my linked checking account. It takes one to two days for it to get credited to my account.

  4. SharonH says

    I guess I’ll have to find ever Money Pass atm in my neighborhood to save money. All in all I love the card because it allows me the freedom of transferring money from my Paypal account as needed.

  5. Eric Willy says

    I like the Bluebird card a lot also. I think it’s a game changer. It has virtually no fees, with the exception of $2 ATM fee if you don’t have a direct deposit on it. Previously, prepaid debit cards had so many fees, even if you kept the card in your wallet and never used it, it would cost you money. So far I haven’t seen a lower fee competitor to Bluebird but I’m sure there will be one coming sooner or later.

  6. SharonH says

    I agree with Eric, this is definitely a game changer. I won’t ever have to worry about I use this mainly for business and make deposits every couple of days. Plus with a big name like American Express I don’t feel like I’m walking around with a security issue waiting to happen. It’s a great way to separate my business from personal expenses. Love that.

  7. Ford says

    I got excited at the prospect of using this card to help my kids manage their allowance and learn to use a bank card responsibly, but was shocked to learn that—unlike any checking account—cash you deposit or transfer to Bluebird goes into limbo for “three to five business days,” earning interest for AmEx and inaccessible to you. The $100 I transferred from my Suntrust checking account, where it was withdrawn a week ago today, still hasn’t appeared on my Bluebird card. Such staggering delays, I’m told, are routine. Meanwhile, deposits and transfers from and into my checking account now occur pretty much instantly, down to check deposits made via camera from my iPhone. This is outrageous, and in my opinion renders Bluebird a good bit worse than useless, no substitute at all for a bona fide checking account. Unfortunately. Unless and until they achieve parity with banks in reflecting deposits, you’ll probably want to avoid this card.

  8. Lindsey says

    Bought the starter card at walmart and used it to make a purchase on Amazon just fine, but when I went to register for an acount on bluebird.com, it told me that they could not confirm my information at that time. i tried again with two other email accounts, and even made another one especially for registering with bluebird. still i got the same error for the fourth time. what is going on?? So frustrating.

      • Cynthia says

        That exactly what has been happening to me!…I have tried to register like three time already and still nothing they keep telling me that something went wrong or they could not verify my email or info etc so I have to register again with another email but this is getting to a point where you can’t keep doing that or what is the main reason you can register without having any trouble

  9. Ken says

    Jenn, I note that you keep recommending that people contact the customer support number. I have. Three times now for two different issues. Twice to regular customer service regarding unavailable funds, and once to account protections services regarding my account being locked. All three times were unsatisfactory encounters.
    In my call to account protection services I was given a fax number and instructed to fax a copy of a choice of personal identity documents, one of which was my social security card. I asked to speak to a supervisor because it is extremely irresponsible to transmit one’s social security information electronically, especially an actual copy of the card itself. I was told that a supervisor was unavailable and that one would contact me within 24 to 48 hours. That call was made five days ago and I still have not received a return call.
    The call to customer service was to inquire as to why funds I had deposited from my bank account were unavailable five days later when the funds were withdrawn from my bank the next day. I was told that “up to five days” which is the information given on the Bluebird website, really means “at least five BUSINESS days.” I think there is a substantial difference between “up to” and “at least” especially when the funds have already left my bank account.
    I agree with Ford above, that in these days of almost instantaneous electronic access to funds, it is irresponsible of AmEx to hold on to funds for such a long period of time.

    • says

      Ken,

      I keep advising people to contact customer service because I have absolutely no ability to help them, and that is what the company advised me to do. I am not an employee or Representative for the company, just a private citizen and blogger who was given the opportunity (sponsored) to try out the service and tell folks about what my experiences were–which I did. I did not experience any issues at all when I used the card–if I had I would have written about them. Technically my responsibility was complete when I published the post, however since I value my audience (even if they have only come by to read this specific post via a google search on the card)–I do provide the customer service number and forward every single comment back to my point of contact–ie the person who contracted for me to write the post and provided me with the information etc. I honestly don’t know what else to do.

      I will of course forward your comments on as well. I hope that someone contacts you soon and is able to resolve your issues (as well as all the issues folks have commented on). Thanks for taking the time to read and for taking the time to give me your input.

      • Ken says

        Jenn,
        I did not intend to be critical of you in any way at all. You are offering a great service through your blog. I simply wanted to “flesh out” the Bluebird experience by writing about my experience with customer service since that element had not yet been posted here.
        Thanks for giving us all a voice and an opportunity to share information and experiences.

  10. nikole says

    I put my tax refund on my temp card when I bought the bluebird account. Right now I’m waiting for my perm card can I add more money to my temp card?

  11. Lisa says

    I purchased this card in December 2012 and immediately started direct deposit of my paychecks. Today is payday and I still do not have my funds. Customer service states I need to wait until 2 p.m. when “all direct deposits are processed”. 2 P.M.?!!? As a single parent, thank goodness I didn’t need funds first thing this morning. After reading MANY horrible reviews of this card (I have also experienced card declines when more than sufficient funds were available as well as your account balance being printed on all receipts) I’m now worried I won’t get my direct deposit today. Every other deposit was posted between 6 and 6:30 a.m. and I am at Bluebird/AMEX’s mercy. The $11 I have in my wallet isn’t enough to feed 3 kids and myself on. EXTREMELY upset soon to be former customer here.

  12. Tee says

    Has anyone ever tried to link the Bluebird card to PayPal? I have an Etsy account and I would like to link the Bluebird account to it so that I can take payments and make payments.

  13. kristin says

    I have had the same problem as ken. They want me to fax a w-2, social security card or pay stub with my full SSN. This is bogus! I was treated absolutely terribly. Laura Shelton refused to get me supervisor, flat out saying “no.” Now they have a lot of my money unless I fax them very person, sensitive info over their “secure fax.” NEVER EVER USE THIS CARD!!! It is worth paying fees for some other card. They are probably just holding my money collecting interest.

  14. ro says

    I want to use the card to limit my personal spending. For example, one card for groceries, one for dining out, one for gas and so on. Can i get two cards for each sub-account? One for me and my wife. I want to budget with the envelope system where my wife and i have access to the funds all the time.

  15. Victoria says

    I work at Walmart and I’ve been having so much trouble with banks lately that I seen that my Walmart offers this card now. So I decided to pay the $6 (I put $1 on the card) and get it, because I need a way to get my payroll checks directly deposited. Well, I got home and signed up for an account online, but I can’t set up direct deposit at all, the button is gray. Is it because I just opened my account and will have a temporary card for about a week?

    I was going to go with the Walmart Moneycard instead (because a lot of people at work use that for their payroll checks), but I have always trusted American Express a lot more than Visa or Mastercard. I just wish I could get everything taken care of now, because I have until tomorrow to set up direct deposit at work, since it’s still reflecting my old bank on there and I don’t go back to work till next Saturday (I get paid next Thursday).

    • says

      So sorry to hear that. Have you tried calling customer service and seeing if they can find a store that accepts American Express near you? I do know that Walmart will accept it, and many places online as well.

  16. Cynthia says

    Hi, I bought a bluebird card because I heard it doesn’t charge you monthly fees or anything like that and etc., but I been having some. Problems at registering and I don’t know why? The first time I tried to register I didn’t hear anything back from bluebird again (not an email or the permanent card I was supposedly get) then I did some research and I saw that I had to receive an email from bluebird verifying my email address and they they were going to send me my card by mail but none of that happens so I called customer service to see what was going on and they told me that my account or info whatever was dismiss or something like that like rejected because they received my info like 5 times so they though it was some kinda of spam idk to be honest that’s what I think it happened so they told me that I had to register again with another email so I did that but this time I did receive everything I was supposed to get but then when I try to activate my permanent card on the bluebird website I couldn’t so I call once again to customer service to see if they could do it but I don’t know what happened that they could not activate my card because they dismissed or rejected my info i don’t know why so they told me to try to register AGAIN WITh OTHeR EMAil but to be honest with I m worried about all the info I am providing to them My question is now what are they going to do with the emails that I tried to register with before and the info that’s in it…? Are they going to erase that data or what? Like I can’t keep doing this I do not know what to do anymore what should I do

  17. Angelica says

    Does this card work with Pay pal and Etsy’s direct check out? I own a shop on Etsy and want to use this for my direct deposit’s

  18. Jack says

    Hi! I have read your review on the Bluebird card and it sounds like a good card. However, I have read comments on here and all the other negative reviews and the customer service is bad. Should I still get Bluebird despite all the negative reviews and bad customer service? I really want one because of the no monthly or maintaince fees that other cards have. I have a bank card but they were going to cancel my card because of inactivity for three months. I hope I don’t have any problems when I get this card.

    • says

      Jack-I don’t know what to tell you. It’s always hard when I try something and it works and then others try it and have problems. I can only go on my own experience and what I’ve been told. You may want to try just putting a smaller amount of money on the card to start with and use it for a bit to ensure it works the way you prefer before putting on a larger amount. Just a suggestion.

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