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.
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?