Wal-Mart’s New Prepaid Card May Be the Best Deal Yet – Businessweek
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and American Express (AXP) are taking a big plunge into the prepaid debit-card market with a new card called Bluebird. The card has many features that are standard in regular bank accounts and seems to have remarkably few fees—which have long been the scourge of prepaid cards. Bluebird is the biggest sign yet that prepaid cards are evolving from a product for the poor and unbanked into a more mass-market offering that competes with regular checking accounts.
NerdWallet, which maintains a database of prepaid cards, says Bluebird is “exactly as momentous as they make it out to be” because it has virtually no fees. The card has no monthly maintenance fees, and it’s free to load money on it through direct deposit, with cash at Wal-Mart, or via transfer from a checking account. (It costs $2 to use a debit card to load money on the Bluebird card, which seems like a strange thing to do in any case.) Bluebird doesn’t allow overdrafts, so there will be no surprise charges for spending more than the account balance. It costs $2 to withdraw cash from an ATM—and that fee is waived for in-network ATMs if the card is loaded via direct deposit. Strangely, the full Bluebird website won’t be up and running for another week, so it’s not clear if there will be fees for other features such as the peer-to-peer transfers that are possible with Bluebird’s mobile app.
Amex and Wal-Mart started a pilot program for Bluebird in 2011, with a more limited set of features. The relaunched product is much closer to a true bank account alternative. For example, it lets customers pay bills online and deposit checks by taking photos of them, a feature several major banks have added as recently as last month. Like many prepaid cards, Bluebird cards aren’t FDIC-insured and don’t have as much consumer protection as a standard checking account.
Posted on October 15, 2012, in Article and tagged American Express, Automated teller machine, Bluebird, NerdWallet, Stored-value card, Transactional account, Wal-Mart, Walmart. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.