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October 11, 2012

Bluebird Will Soon Take Flight after Launch by American Express, Walmart

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

Wal-Mart and American Express (News - Alert) have partnered to launch Bluebird – a new prepaid card that offers several cutting-edge features.

The offering is an option to debit and checking accounts, and provides consumers many advanced features, according to a company statement.

For example, it allows consumers to make deposits by smartphones, and also offers mobile options to pay bills. It has fee transparency, and no minimum balance, nor monthly, annual or overdraft fees. It will be available next week online and in over 4,000 Wal-Mart stores.

Image via Shutterstock

Its features are offered in response to consumer preferences found by the two companies.  “Our customers tell us that they’re tired of navigating a complex maze of dos and don’ts to avoid the ever-growing list of fees found on checking products,” Daniel Eckert, vice president of financial services for Wal-Mart U.S., said in a company statement. “Bluebird solves this problem and we believe it’s the best product on the market to help customers affordably manage their everyday finances.”

“The financial services landscape is changing,” Dan Schulman, group president, Enterprise Growth, American Express, added in the statement. “Technological advances, regulatory changes, and evolving consumer needs are redefining payments ranging from prepaid, to checking and debit.  Bluebird is our solution to help consumers who currently may be poorly served by traditional banking products. It allows them to easily and safely move, manage, and spend their money.  In an era where it is increasingly ‘expensive to be poor,’ we have worked with Walmart to create a financial services product that rights many of the wrongs that plague the market today.”

Bluebird lets consumers deposit money via payroll direct deposit, offers remote check capture through the Bluebird mobile app, use cash at any Wal-Mart sales register, or link a checking, savings, or debit card to the account. Bluebird cards can be used at locations that accept American Express Cards.

Bluebird also provides a digital wallet, including person to person (P2P) payments, mobile app functionality, and users can control sub-accounts for friends and relatives from a smartphone.

The only fees are clear, such as out of network ATM withdrawals for a consumer who does not have direct deposit.

Bluebird will be adding additional features early next year, such as more options to deposit money and some more check-writing capabilities.

In its review of Bluebird, Opposing Views said it is a “prepaid card option specifically targeted to the store’s lower-income shoppers.” Also, Wal-Mart “hopes it catches the attention of its millions of customers who many financial experts would consider to be ‘underbanked,’” Opposing Views added.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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