October 17th, 2012

Review: Bluebird by American Express – a Better Prepaid Card

240 Comments | Twitter | |

 

bluebird

 

In a partnership with Walmart, Credit Karma advertising partner American Express has launched a new prepaid debit card called Bluebird. It hopes to revolutionize the prepaid space, which is typically known for numerous high and hidden card fees.

Bluebird – An Alternative to a Traditional Checking Account

Prepaid debit cards have gotten a bad rap. (Remember the Suze Orman card? Or the Kardashian card?) American Express and Walmart are trying to turn that around with Bluebird, which lets consumers take control of their finances:

    • Cash deposit: With Bluebird, cardholders can deposit cash via direct deposit, transfers from a bank account, by adding cash at virtually any Walmart, or by depositing checks with the card’s mobile app.
    • Free bill pay: Using Bluebird’s website or mobile app, members can pay their bills digitally, with no fee.
    • Cash withdrawals: Bluebird members can withdraw cash at any ATM that accepts American Express cards or that’s included in the MoneyPass ATM Network.
    • Family budgeting: Bluebird offers a feature called Sub-Accounts, which allows the account owner to create accounts for other people, like family members. The card member sets up the Sub-Accounts and can adjust settings for daily spending limits and ATM access. Each Sub-Account member receives his or her own Bluebird card.

So, what are the fees?

Bluebird comes with a few fees, but much less than the traditional prepaid debit card. It has no monthly or annual fee, which is refreshing. Here are the main fees cardholders can expect:

 

Fee Type
Amount
Adding money from a debit card
$2 per transaction
Out-of-network ATM
$2 per withdrawal or decline (waived through 11/4/12)
MoneyPass Network ATM (for Bluebird cards NOT receiving direct deposit)
$2 per withdrawal or decline (waived through 11/4/12)

 

Who should get Bluebird?

This card isn’t for the person looking to establish a credit history. Remember that prepaid cards aren’t credit cards. They won’t help you build your credit. (For a cash-backed card that does, try a secured credit card.)

This card is for unbanked consumers—folks who don’t have traditional bank accounts, either because they can’t get one or they prefer not to do business with a bank. There are approximately 10 million unbanked U.S. households, according to the FDIC, which is a huge market opportunity. And consumers can do just about everything with the Bluebird card that can be done with a traditional checking account and debit card. Plus, there’s no credit check when you apply for a Bluebird card.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this site is not provided by the bank or issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the bank or issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank or issuer. Credit Karma may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise. It is this compensation that enables Credit Karma to provide its members with services like free access to your credit scores and free monitoring of credit and financial accounts at no charge.

 

is the Social Media Manager and Writer at Credit Karma.

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Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.

240 Comments

  1. I’ve had my Bluebird account since November 2012. I had no problems using the card and my deposits showed up in a timely manner. Here’s the problem…my card was hacked. Someone did a money transfer of $1,000 and within minutes withdrew the money. I notified AE within hours of the first transaction. I was on the phone with the Card Protection Department for almost 2 hours. The account, understandably, was closed and I was told I would receive a call within 24-48 hours regarding the investigation and the return or transfer of my original balance. No return call came. I called them and was told the original balance was being returned to the bank account that deposited the $1,000. Mind you, when I phoned them, the original balance was still on the card. The $1,000 had been added and then withdrawn. The poor Customer Service Rep (an American) could only read from a script and could not provide any information. Once again, I was told a supervisor would call within 24 to 48 hours. Anyone want to bet on that happening? I’m resigned to the fact my money is gone and apparently, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it even though according to AE/BB, I’m only liable for $x if I notify them within an allotted number of days of suspicious activity. Again, I phoned them within hours of the first fraudulent transfer. Thankfully, this card was only used for online purchases and only had a couple hundred dollars on it.

    Sandy Carson at 2:22 pm on May 30, 2013
  2. DO NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH BLUEBIRD!!!!
    A TERRIBLE MISTAKE IF YOU DO!

    Michael at 1:07 pm on June 20, 2013
  3. OMG! I have never I REPEAT NEVVER had such a bad to worse experience !! American Express took a wonderful, useful, simple idea and turned it into a WALMART RUDE CLUSTERF&*$. I have 500.00 on a card I can’t access and no one is able to help me. DO NOT GET INVOLVED WITH THIS CARD!! The agrevation, the inaccessible funds, the utterlack of knowledge and professionalism by the AMERCIAN EXPRESS EMPLOYEES, and time spent pointlessly repeating yourself to someone else who can’t help you will make your head blowoff. I think this is pretty clear.

    Michele M. DeVinney at 2:00 am on June 28, 2013
  4. Got this card so my daughter would have a source on which I could deposit money while she interned in Los Angeles. We are from NC. I deposited money on that card each month for over 3 months. One morning, I tired to deposit and they closed the blue bird card. Said they could not let me send money to her card. I called, they said something about my bank account being in a different name….they were both in the SAME NAME. So they closed me and I had to send money through the mail (with tracking and express shipping). Funny thing is….when would put money on the BB card, it took FIVE days to show up on her card. When I shipped cash from NC to CA it got to my daughter in TWO DAYS. Will never do business with them again.

    Deborah Martinez at 5:27 pm on July 26, 2013
  5. BLUEBIRD IS A SCAM !!!!!!!!!

    Anthony Blake at 3:38 am on July 28, 2013
  6. Thanks I was considering because I’m fed up with traditional banks but no thanks. I heed reviews!!

    miki at 11:18 am on July 28, 2013
  7. I’ve had this card since November 2012. I was afraid to use it at first because of all the bad reviews, but I used it slowly. I deposited cash at Walmart and it showed up on my card immediately (FREE). I processed direct deposit, and my payroll is available to me at approximately 2AM on each payday. When I return anything I’ve purchased on this card, it is refunded to be within 3 days. There are no monthly fees.

    I love the online banking features and the mobile app, it makes access my money super efficient and easy. I’ve paid my rent through their online bill pay (which is FREE! No purchasing money orders or stamps), and my landlord gets my rent within 3 days. I’ve spoken with their customer service, and never had a problem with rudeness. I can’t say this is the same with my bank… they are always rude and condescending (with the exception of 1-2 tellers). I purchased the Bluebird checks (FREE), which works more like a money order. You cannot use the check with having an authorization code, this code deducts the payment from your account when you write the check. No more unexpected withdrawals, and if an unexpected withdrawal is made, it won’t go through without my consent (versus it going through and being charged a huge NSF).

    On the flip side, the Bluebird charges $2 for each ATM withdrawal, and you cannot use the card as a debit card (it must always be run through as a credit card purchase, which means you can’t ask for a cash withdrawal at the register, and merchants who accept only debit won’t be able to accept your AMEX Bluebird). This is not a big deal to me, as when I did a search for MoneyPass ATM’s there were like 6 of them in my areas. These ATM’s accepted deposits and surcharge free cash withdrawals. Bluebird will not charge you for the ATM withdrawal at $2 if you have direct deposit (which I did) AND you won’t have to pay the ATM surcharge on top of that if you can find a MoneyPass ATM.

    I will not use my bank for every day money management, as they charge for everything (I swear, they charge you to say hello and good-bye). I use my bank for my savings, but for my household budget, I switched everything to Bluebird. It’s reliable, and even with the $2 ATM withdrawal fee (which you control the number of fees you’ll receive), it’s still cheaper than using my “free” checking at the bank.

    Marissa at 10:01 am on August 1, 2013
  8. Thanks for all the reviews as I was considering this option. I don’t like paying bank fees for every single thing. I will wait till they get all the bugs out to reconsider getting this card.

    Roxee at 12:59 pm on August 1, 2013
  9. Do not use blue bird account. Omg
    I made a rent fee on blue bird bill pay website and they took my funds right awy from my account. After a few day, i got a letter from my landload that pay a rent fee immidiately with late fee of $100. So i contact bluebird what was going on. The representative said the payment was not go throgh while my account summary showing that the payment was already made. only they can do is dispute and it take 6 Weeks. I had same happen twice. Omg Eventhogh they made mistake, i need to wait to get funds back to my account for 6weeks.

    Gon at 1:47 pm on August 12, 2013
  10. Too bad Credit Karma rated this highly. It is a NIGHTMARE!! As stated in the other reviews, there are no protections and the customer service people are rude and treat you horribly!! Not to mention that everytime you make a purchase the balance in your account is printed on your receipt!!! This caused me to be robbed at gunpoint for my money. Obviously you can’t withdraw over a certain amount at a time via ATM and when I couldn’t withdraw all of it I was shot. I’m lucky to be alive!!! Can you imagine any bank printing your account balance on your receipt!

    Mary at 3:45 pm on August 15, 2013
  11. I got the Bluebird card base on a Clark Howard review. I entered my bank account as a funding source which they validated immediately. I then use the funding source to add funds. They debited my account immediately but 3 days later they were still showing the funds pending on my Blue Bird account. I call their customer no service and they said it was Bluebird policy to hold funds 5 days. I told them my bank had already debited the funds and I know electronic transfers don’t take that long and they confirmed it was just their policy. They show low fees but this is essentially a fee with them receiving my money but not giving access to it.

    This is not a reputable way to do business. Avoid them unless you have no other alternatives. There are many reviews online with similar problems and I have heard that many of the people saying they had a great experience with them are really employees of the company who were required to post this to counter the negative publicity they are getting.

    Russell at 8:22 pm on August 21, 2013
  12. Got a bluebird card, loaded a payroll check on it. For the last two days I have not been able to use the debit card function. I have spent over 7 hours on the phone with customer service while they have no idea whats wrong and could careless if it works. I have been lyed to so many times about what would fix it and hung up.on so many times i have ran out of fingers and toes to count them on. Thus far the answer is to wait another 3-5 fays to see if it gets fixed. I was to that was Amex policy. I have issues with a service company that. Provides that kind of service to a customer. Just my opinion anything but bluebird is the best option! There is NO help at customer service. I takr issue with them using the name customer service. If you want a bluebird card save yourself the stress andd deposit u
    your money in the trash can.

    Tom at 3:13 pm on September 1, 2013
  13. I’ve had this card since January 2013. I use it for my business account. When I first tried to open up my business account with Wells Fargo, I needed the business license and I hadn’t received it yet. I didn’t want to co-mingle my funds with my personal Wells Fargo account so I figured, I would use this temporarily. I have this account linked to quick books, I receive payment through pay pal and I can honestly say I’ve never had a problem. I always find it funny that when people have a positive experience with a product, someone will say or they are employees of the company. Nope. I just haven’t had a problem. I’ve had my business license for a while and my business has been up and running for months. I still haven’t switched accounts. I’ve also used the pre-authorized checks a couple of times with no problem.

    Bree at 10:16 am on September 2, 2013
  14. I have an account. I did a transfer from my account to the sub account of my wife for 523.00 $ but she did not get it she only got 1 $. I called and asked them to put it back on my or her account. They said there is a technical error and they were going to do an investigation. They said I could not get the money back because it was not showing in the pending transactions so there was no was to add it back immediately. They have promised to investigate and get the money back to me with in 2 business days. I will wait for their call and keep everyone posted. This money has vanished from the computer if they get it back to me today I will tell u they are not so bad and keep their word. So can’t wait to see.

    michael at 3:19 am on September 3, 2013
  15. bluebird sucks!!! they closed my account because my boyfriend was trying to put money on my card for me and the debit card was in his name and not mine that is so lame. she said it was in the terms and conditions but who actually reads all of that most people just skim over in and click agree. if it was so damn important then why didn’t they have that some where on the site either where u link the card or on the home page. don’t recommend bluebird!!!!

    JoJo at 4:59 am on September 3, 2013
  16. I agree don’t get this card. My situation is you spend 5 plus dollars on the card. They tell you to sign up online which is ok. But they advertise that this is an account for students me being a student who purchased the card it’s not useful at all. You have the option to link a bank account which they have to verify ( understandable) but they informed me that if I wanted to receive the permanent card as I am the owner of the account I need to provide them with my current address (school) to get the card, I did. When the card came I needed to verify my personal bank account to use it and to add money problem is that my banking Address on my bank account is linked with my home address. I can’t use the card now there are some identity concerns on my account i cant verfy who i am even though both addresses (school& home)are on the account but because i was told by a rep to change the primary address and i did I can’t use the card. And yes they were able to verify my bank account from the bank I still can’t use it.

    Ebony at 11:29 am on September 3, 2013
  17. Do not, do not, get this card. They cancelled my card with funds over 500, they have yet to refund my legitimate funding sources, it’s been over a month, who do I report it to.? I’m going to start with the BBB , I’ve spent countless hours on the phone with their security team, supervisor name Seth brnatt ext 5761
    18006602454, reassured my funds would be redo posited within 24 hours that was 5 days ago, not to mention the month prior to them sitting on my money. This is a total scam do not think about American Express unless you want to give them your money.

    Debra at 8:33 am on September 25, 2013
  18. Ps don’t let them appease you by saying the funds will be rede posited in 5-7 days, then wait 3 weeks to be told surely the money will post back within 24 hours, don’t fall for their scheme. File a dispute with your bank and report to the fdic

    Debra at 8:49 am on September 25, 2013
  19. I sent a check payable to me from my investment company on 9/25/13 by priority mail to American Express, Bluebird in Salt Lake City, Utah and it was delivered on 9/27/13. On 9/30/13, I received a confirmation at 3:16 pm indicating that the check has been confirmed and received by American Express, Bluebird and submitted for processing. At 7:48 pm pm 9/30/13, I received an email indicating that the check I mailed could not be accepted and will be returned.

    The email indicated that their would be a reason(s) why the check could not accepted, but there was no reasons. I called the customer service line and they had no reason(s) either.

    A VERY UPSET CUSTOMER

    WOW~

    Dee at 9:45 pm on September 30, 2013
  20. I’m surprised to read all these negative comments, I’ve had bluebird for 6 months, have put nearly $30,000 on the card and have never had a check not show up or be rejected. You people just aren’t using it right.

    holman1313 at 8:54 am on October 4, 2013
  21. I’ve been using BB as my primary card since January 2012. I have had no problems, and find it quick, easy, and dependable. My only gripe would be that sub accounts are unable to make deposits. The account balance only shows up on your receipt when you shop at Walmart, you should know better than to give a card with your name on it to someone else…. etc. etc.

    A Good Card at 7:34 am on October 14, 2013
  22. Ive had bluebird for couple months and ive been reading the reviews and ive had ni major problems and if i do have one i call and they fix it immediately. I think its good card aslong as you dint use card at gas pump and look up what bank dosent charge you to withdraw your money you should be ok. . It take. A min to figure the card out and how it works but its a OK WIT. ME

    Tena M### at 1:10 am on October 18, 2013
  23. Do not get this card!!! I added my bank debit card to my account so that I could transfer money. They allowed me to do a transfer. 2 days later I attempted to do another transfer, they froze my funds in my Bluebird account & wouldn’t release the funds until I called & conducted a conference call with my bank that issues my debit card. They wanted my bank to verify the account belonged to me. Even after they verified the account belonged to me Bluebird still required me to fax a copy of my debit card to them to verify that my name was on the card.

    Annoyed at 4:43 pm on October 21, 2013
  24. Bluebird has got to be the BIGGEST FREAKING SCAM DO NOOOOOT USE THEM NO CUSTOMER SERVICE THEY STEAL YOUR MONEY WITH NO WAY TO GET IT BACK READ REVIEWS I WISH I HAD!!!!

    Amanda Thomson at 7:39 pm on November 11, 2013
  25. @holman1313 – The balance shows up and MANY places other than Walmart. Perhaps you just haven’t noticed. I JUST submitted receipts for travel reimbursement. They were from restaurants and a gas station. 4 receipts total. My balance showed on 3 OUT OF 4 receipts.

    This is totally inappropriate! It does not present any kind of convenience for me since I can use the app on my phone, call, or log on to my account online to see my balance.

    It’s a total invasion of my privacy every time I use this card and my balance shows up for the person handing me the receipt to see. I’ve even had a waitress point out my balance and giggle about how she’s “never seen that before!”

    This doesn’t happen with credit cards or bank debit cards that I’ve ever seen. It’s ridiculous.

    The only thing good about this card is that there are very few fees. Amex IS NOT accepted at TONS of places so it’s not really a convenient card to have.

    NotAGreatCard at 3:10 pm on November 15, 2013
  26. Not surprise what I’m reading about BB. I paid my cell bill online, decline message. I did process a second time, thinking I did something wrong.Decline. Later that day, went to get gas….decline. Called customer service. They verified pending tranaction on phone company and gas transaction, which I did not get. Next day, received text my phone payment past due. Call phone company, they has no record recieving payment. Now I gave to way 8 days for my funds to be release in order to pay phone company. Glad I have a very understanding phone company. BB, I will be closing this account. FREE not always good.

    Penelope Wilson at 7:03 am on December 21, 2013
  27. Does it really take 6 whole days for a check to be deposited??

    kanisha Taylor at 10:21 pm on January 27, 2014
  28. This card sucks was told by the representative that I can have my income tax deposited I explained it was over 5000 she said that was fine come to find out you can’t load more then 5000 in one month what type of card is this. Most debit cards allow 15000 according to federal law now my tqxes will be return thanks to this card would never recommend this card to anyone

    Tawanda at 8:11 pm on January 29, 2014
  29. DO NOT GET THIS CARD!!!!!

    Card has many attractive features but the worst customer service I have ever experienced and I have experiences bad CS before.. They are VERY RUDE and tell U anything to get you off the phone and if U ask to speak to someone else they say hold on and disconnect U.. They print your balance on all the receipts so everyone knows what U have on hand, called in to have this stopped.. they act as if they never heard of this before(although I see now that is a very common complaint) then told me to call every merchant I use my card with and request them to stop printing my balance!! Of course this is the only card that EVERY place I use it prints the Balance. I will be canceling my card for sure.

    HewyP at 1:36 pm on February 11, 2014
  30. Terrible Card. Before reading this please understand i have had great experiences with amex in the past when it comes to CREDIT CARDS . Their fund holding system on this prepaid card is the most flawed i have ever seen in my life. I got the card to make amazon purchases from a seller who does bulk specials on some items i sell in my store. We have done this countless times in the past. Anyway the seller calls me and tells me that he miscalculated the amount of merch he had this month and that he declined to accept my money, which is fine. 3 days later funds still pending. Call bluebird they tell me 8 business days to get back my money while they confirm the merchant cancelled and declined the funds 3 hours after i sent them! Maybe the worst customer service i have ever experienced with amex. If i wanna close my 30k line they throw every discount possible at me but to retrieve 1k i gotta jump through hoops and over ladders. 8 biz days later (not counting sat & sun folks) Still pending. At this point i don’t even call back use my personal card (which i got the bluebird to keep my business and personal apart (because again i am an amex guy!) 14 days to get my 1k back. Bottom Line?: They dont care about this card. Its just a way for them to get in on the prepaid game and get some fees. The customer service for the credit and the customer service for this card are as far apart as night and day. I couldnt imagine if someone needed to pay rent or something serious and could get a hold of their funds. Poor job amex.

    TMRoss at 11:01 pm on February 11, 2014
  31. they charge to much fees and to top it off I deposited 6000.00 dollars and they places 5000.00 on hold and mind you I went to walmart to put CASH in the card, I’ve never heard of a debut card that place cash on HOLD! WORSE OF THEM ALL.

    Ambitiousmami at 4:19 am on February 26, 2014
  32. BlueBird American Express are liars. I sent my tax refund check to them. The money was supposed to be in my account today. I called them and they stated that the check was returned to me and that I should of received an email. I never received an email. i stated that to the rep. Then she stated that the reason it was returned was because the irs put a hold on the check. I stated that I will call the irs and call them back. The irs stated that the check had no problems that the rep lied to me. I called bluebird back spoke to 3 different people including a supervisor, who just tried to get me off the phone and transfered me without me telling me the reason my check was sent back. The other two reps also could not tell me the reason it was sent back. I started an online petion at http://www.change.org/petitions/president-of-the-united-states-and-federal-bureau-of-investigations-and-internal-revenue-services-investigate-and-shut-down-netspend-and-bluebird-american-express Please sign.

    Frank Herrera at 9:00 am on March 6, 2014
  33. Buyer beware!!!! Customer service sucks, they don’t have a clue to questions you may have about your account. I was robbed and told customer service before any charges where on my account, they told me not to worry. 2 days later there’s a charge for $420, was given the run around fora month and still no help getting my money back. Stay away,, not all merchants take American express, there’s not many atm to get moneyout without being changed. I would not recommend

    danita at 12:34 pm on March 10, 2014
  34. I have had Bluebird for a couple of months. I recently had my yearly bonus deposited onto it. (I had wanted it on my GreenDot but they told me that because the deposit was not a “tax refund” it couldn’t be more than $7,500.00) My bonus arrived and ever since…I can spend nothing unless I can charge it. I already took my ATM limit on my 2 paydays this month to cover non-AMEX accepting bills. Forget paying an actual person same day, you either have to order checks and wait for them to arrive or do bill pay which takes 4-5 days! So fine, no problem I think, I will just get cash in a round about way even if I have to pay a fee. Wrong! AMEX has set up an ironclad system, you cannot access ANY cash in any way other that in the ATM and only up to your monthly limit, after that if you want cash your screwed, regardless of your balance.

    Nikki at 7:56 am on March 22, 2014
  35. I have Bluebird. I love it. You can charge, get money back, and load free at WAlmart. Many places do not take it is the only problem. I have had no problems with it. Just remember your money is NoT guaranteed or secured. If your card is stolen, it’s like cash. Beware and load as cash on hand. It states that in its fineprint. I love having a card to use for online purposes or stashed like cash in my purse.

    Diane at 9:45 am on April 2, 2014
  36. WHAT A SCAM. DO NOT USE THIS CARD.

    I just received my card and made a small deposit on it, NO WHERE does it state the deposit will take FIVE DAYS.

    SCREW THIS COMPANY.

    I called them and told them I will use up may balance and then close my account.
    Kredit Karma must have been paid a hell of a lot of money to liee about this card.

    Kevin at 6:38 pm on June 26, 2014
  37. Yes bluebird stinks I have had alot of problems since I got the card in April 2012. They place holds on your money. You are charged ATM fees $3 money pass atm $2 charge per withdrawl. I just closed my account on 6/21/2014. They froze my account because I was making an too many online bank to blue bird card transfers and deposits. I emptied out this account and told them to close it. Donot get this card the regular walmart money card works better but they charge a $3 monthly fee everything else is free.

    The Mrs at 8:04 pm on July 22, 2014

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