Review of the American Express Bluebird Prepaid Card

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Reviews

Oct 25, 2014 | Updated Dec 14, 2015

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Late last year, American Express launched Bluebird, a new checking/debit card product marketed via Wal-Mart stores nationwide. The card has garnered quite a lot of positive attention in the months since then for its convenience, flexibility, low cost and generous point-earning potential per-dollar-spent.

Bluebird® by American Express®
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Bluebird® by American Express®

For People with
No Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: Not Applicable - Prepaid Card
Quick Card Facts

Having Bluebird in your wallet does not affect your credit. The card is for anyone seeking to minimize account-related expenses with, and membership in, a regular bank. Bluebird’s main demographic is the “underbanked.” That is, clients who do not have standard access to mainstream financial institutions, and who must rely instead on check-cashing facilities and non-traditional providers. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) estimates the underbanked at 20.1% of the population, or about 24 million adults. This is a huge, largely untapped client source that American Express and Wal-Mart are now reaching out to.

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Regulatory agencies have long urged traditional banks to welcome this market, but with mixed success. The FDIC recently found significant problems still exist. Only 37% of banks across the country actively market the unbanked. A long list of prepaid debit cards – often heavy on fees and short on perks – have emerged to fill the gap. Bluebird could be an exception.

Wal-Mart says the card was developed for millions of customers who are looking for advanced capabilities such as deposits by smartphone, mobile bill pay, no minimum balance, or any account maintenance fees whatsoever. Bluebird growing pains mostly center on complaints about slow service center response, and inadequately trained service staff who have difficulty answering questions. Hiccups that are likely to go away as Bluebird gains acceptance.

Administered by American Express, Wal-Mart sells the cards and offers customers thousands of locations to make deposits and withdrawals. Bluebird holders who open a direct deposit account do not pay fees at MoneyPass ATMs, including Money Center Express machines at Walmart. Thousands of locations can be quickly found on the web.  A $2 network fee applies to card holders who do not a have Direct Deposit account.

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Public reception has been upbeat. Many points-earning cards do not allow mortgage, car or utilities payments, unless a user fee is tacked on. Bluebird has a bill paying option, either through a pre-established list of payees, or by check from your account to any payee you want. And the process is do-able from a mobile app.

Central to Bluebird’s usefulness is the prepaid money-infusion method, Vanilla Reloads. Prepaid reload cards are purchased in varying values for $3.95, plus their face value. You can buy these reloads at CVS and other convenience stores in $500 increments.

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  • C. Jackson

    STAY FAR AWAY! I was tired of my traditional bank, but still wanted the option to write checks. I thought this would be a great alternative to Paypal(also not a fan of) WRONG.

    1. If you purchase something and you or the merchant cancel the order Bluebird holds the funds for “2 – 8 days”. The average 4 -5. Even AFTER the merchant has notified Bluebird of the cancellation.

    2. You return something and the merchant immediately credits your card back. Bluebird doesn’t. Again “2 – 8 days” before you ever see the money back in your account.

    3. Customer Service is horrible. If you arent talking to a call center in Pakistan then you’re talking to a rude American that sounds like you’re bothering them by calling.

    4. And the final straw – I bought a pizza from Domino’s I go to sign the receipt and the for everyone and God’s brother to see is the BALANCE OF MY ACCOUNT.

    I quickly cancelled my direct deposit and have shredded this card.

    • Kimberly Rotter

      Hi C.,
      Thanks for your comment. The time frame for refunds/credits is, unfortunately, typical for many prepaid cards. The customer service issues are a challenge that hopefully AmEx will conquer over time. Most concerning to me is the visibility of your balance to any merchant and its employees. Wowzer. We would love to hear more if they follow up with you on this issue.

  • George liadis

    ‘m a disable on Social Security had my SS deposited on American Express card every month for the past 2 years never had any problems NONE, I been reading about some bad reviews about this card and had to write a review to tell people hoe good the card was.

    All this change when we went to Europe with my wife to visit our son, my wallet was stolen with my drivers licenses among several cards, one of them was the American Express Bluebird Card. When I realized that me wallet was gone, I went to the local police within 2 hours and reported it, I also call and cancel all my cards.

    Someone use the bluebird card and withdraw 500 euro $592.65 dollars also try to use it in several other places but was unable to withdraw any more money. They also made some charges on my other cards and file a dispute with them got a provisional credit with in 2 days. American express ask me to sign a declaration agreement and upload that with 10 days in order to get a provision credit until the investigate my claim that take about 45 days.

    Two days later I sign and uploaded the form, 4 hours later i got an email sating that my claim was denied here is the email “Recently you inquired about your charge(s) from your American Express Prepaid Card in the total amount of $592.65. Based upon our investigation we have determined that no error occurred and that transaction in question was authorized. Therefore this transaction is not eligible for credit to your Account.

    You have the right to review any documents we may have relied upon in making our determination. You may request this information by contacting us at 1-800-555-4318. We are open 7 days a week, 24 hours per day to service you.”

    Then 5 minutes later I got another email from them that my account is close. “During a recent review of your Account, we noticed activity that was in violation of the Bluebird Member Agreement, section:

    Section 22D

    Due to the violation, your Account has been closed.

    If you have any questions, please call Account Protection Services at 1-800-660-2454.”

    We had a balance on our account about 400+ dollars, I call them and told them we 5,500 miles away from home with NO MONEY and to allow me to get the 400 dollars out. The answer was we sending you a check at the address we have on file, that in Ohio in the meantime I’m in Europe. I request to speak with a supervisor WAST OF TIME he told me we are reviewing the account and we get back to you with 48 hours. I ask how can you investigate a dispute in 4 hours NO ANSWER.

    I call again and again and they keep telling me they are looking into this, in the meantime they send me a replacement card via UPS next day AIR in Ohio with the account CLOSED and still waiting for the balance that was in my account.

    I had no other choice but to contact the Social Security Administration my disability payments are protected by law. There are trying to get my money back including the unauthorized transection. THIS HAS BEEN A NIGHTMARE DO NOT USE THIS CARD, THE FEES ARE LOW BUT THIS COMPANY IS A SCAM. SHAME ON THEM. THANK GOT WE HAD OUR SON TO HELP US.

    • fed-up

      AmEx did the EXACT same thing to me in the exact same way down to the time it took to get the emails !
      This tells me that they are NOT even reviewing any of the disputed items..they are just closing the accounts and letting their customers get screwed so AmEx does not have to refund any money on the not-secure system.
      To the people in India that cannot speak english OR comprehend what social security is, to the filthy Walmart exec that decided to get Walmart involved with AmEx…shame on ALL of you ! I am going to EVERY “complaint” website I can find to tell my story so maybe I can STOP a few hardworking people from getting screwed and ripped off by AmEx and their crooked ‘bluebird’ scam.

    • Dany

      Hi .. Listen did you EVER get your money back from them for this violation?? I just received the EXACT Section 22 violation but I had JUST deposited 300 dollars into my account that had a previous balance. I then went to use it on the internet and it was denied. After calling the number posted they said they closed my account and are now reviewing it. I lost it on the phone with them and called them twice already. I’m expecting to call them at least 3 times tomorrow and 6 the next day. Any help from you would be highly appreciated. That money was supposed to be for a payment to someone and I had borrowed it from a family member to begin with. Thanks.

  • Nidia-Edison, NJ

    I have the Amex Bluebird card and I have to say I am very pleased with it. I have never encountered any issues such as a refund delay, my account balance showing up on a receipt. I have a certain amount deposited from my pay and I set it up with an alert if I go under a certain amount. I use it anywhere from local merchants to online. I truly to date love my Amex Bluebird and the only drawback I would have to say is that I cannot add my Walmart Bucks to my Bluebird. The instructions on the Walmart Website are incorrect and that is my only frustration. I would highly recommend the Amex Bluebird and you may not have checks to pay vendors but you can set it up online to pay vendors. It’s all on how innovative you are to use the card.

    • Brendan Harkness

      @nidiaedisonnj:disqus Thanks for sharing, I’m glad you’re happy with the product!

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