Last fall, an odd couple – American Express and Walmart – introduced the Bluebird card, a debit card with almost no fees and with the member benefits of an American Express card.
Cardholders can add money to the card via direct deposit, transfers, cash at Walmart or check. The card can be used anywhere that accepts American Express, for online purchases, ATM withdrawals ($2 fee if using an out-of-network ATM or don’t have direct deposit), bill payments. This week the partners announced enhancements to the card, including FDIC insurance for funds in an account, direct deposit of government payments (Social Security, military pay and tax refunds), and checking. The FDIC insurance is important, since they’ve also raised the balance limit to $100, 000 per year.
American Express, which markets itself as a luxury brand, and Walmart, which markets itself as inexpensive, would seem an unlikely partnership. Yet AmEx has long been the issuer for the Costco TrueEarnings card. And who doesn’t like to spend, er, save money shopping at Costco?
For those who are frustrated by bank fees, which continue to rise at brick-and-mortar banks, the Bluebird card is a decent alternative. Unlike most debit cards, there is no annual fee, no monthly fee, no card-replacement fee and no inactivity fee. Plus, you get those AmEx benefits like purchase protection, roadside assistance, and access to entertainment events.
Granted, it’s not going to help you build a credit score, since activity is not reported to the credit reporting agencies. But it can be an alternative to a checking account.
Have any of you tried the Bluebird card? Are you happy with it?