Bluebird lands. Questions answered

Last week, in the post “Bluebird takes flight and changes the game,” I described a new product from American Express that has some terrific features both for people looking for a no-cost checking alternative, and for points & mile collectors.

Just like the older American Express Prepaid cards that I wrote about in “One card to rule them all,” the Bluebird card can be reloaded with Vanilla Reload cards.  This is important because some stores allow Vanilla Reload cards to be bought with credit cards.  In other words, it is possible to get points and miles from loading Bluebird.  Once loaded, Bluebird can be used like a credit card, or as an ATM card for cash withdrawals, or to pay bills, or to send money to friends.

Bluebird arrives

I ordered my Bluebird card last week (Tuesday) and it arrived yesterday (Monday).  With my Bluebird in-hand I was able to run experiments.  Some of the experiments were doable from home, but for the others I rushed out to a couple of Walmart stores in the area….

Load via Vanilla:  Some people questioned whether Bluebird could really be loaded with Vanilla Reload cards.  In fact, some American Express reps even told customers that they could not be used that way.  However, online documentation was clear that Vanilla Reload cards could be used.  So, the first thing I did after activating my card was to load $500 from a Vanilla Reload card to my Bluebird.  No problem.  Result: SUCCESS

Load via credit card in-store:  The online documentation makes it clear that in-store reloads (“swipe reloads”) require cash or debit card, but an American Express rep I talked with said that “some stores” allow credit cards.  I tried at a register in one store, and at a reload ATM in another store.  No luck. Result: FAIL

Load via gift card in-store:  I didn’t think this had much chance of working, but I had a Walmart gift card sitting around, so it was worth a try.  At a register in one store, and at a reload ATM in another store, I tried to reload Bluebird with a Walmart gift card. No luck. Result: FAIL

Load via bank gift card: I thought this one had a chance of working since online documentation said that debit cards could be used for swipe reloads.  I brought along two Visa gift cards, both with the word “debit” in the bottom corner. I tried one at a register in the first store and the other at a reload ATM in the second store. No dice.  The register told me to select “credit” and then rejected the whole idea.  The ATM machine asked for my PIN.  I tried 0000, but the machine ultimately told me (in a distressingly loud voice) “card not accepted.” Result: FAIL

Load via true debit card in-store: I fully expected a debit load to work, but since I was at the register anyway, I tried it just to be sure.  Using a real debit card (my Mio, actually), I successfully loaded $200 to my Bluebird.  The good news is that neither Walmart nor Amex charges a fee for this.  So, for people with mile earning debit cards (e.g. Suntrust Delta card, BOA Alaska Airlines card, UFB Direct Airline Rewards checking) this might be a great alternative to buying Money Orders.  Since I don’t yet have any of those cards, I’ll have to rely on readers to try this out and let me know if miles are earned when loading Bluebird.  Result: SUCCESS

Manage card with Mint.com: One great thing about the older Amex Prepaid cards is that it is possible to monitor your account(s) via Mint.com.  I tried to add my Bluebird to my Mint account, but it didn’t work.  Hopefully Mint.com will fix this soon.  Result: FAIL

Manage card with iPhone App: I installed the Bluebird by American Express app.  It’s very easy to use; it allows you to pay bills; send and receive money from others; deposit money via check, bank account, or debit card; and view your transactions and balance.  I was happy to find that the app existed and that it seemed to work, at least for the basic functions I tried.  Result: SUCCESS

Next Up

There are still many things yet to be discovered about Bluebird:

  • Do points-earning debit cards earn points when loading Bluebird at the register?
  • Where, besides Office Depot, can people buy Vanilla Reload cards using a credit card?
  • What about Bluebird Feeder Packs – will we be able to buy those with a credit card?  Where can we buy them?
  • Can we make debit payments with Bluebird (to pay taxes, for example)?
  • Do transfers from PayPal or Amazon Payments count as direct deposits for free ATM use?

Have you tried Bluebird yet?  Have you learned anything worth sharing?  Comment below.

 

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About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. HELP ANYONE!!!
    I tend to forget about my Netflix bill and it over charges my account if I’m not careful. Will this solve my problem? Will BB charge me a monthly fee after Novemeber 4 to have Netflix take money out automatically? If there are no funds in the account can Netflix still take it out, which will over draw my checking account, like it does now? Sorry I’m a single mom and know very little about this stuff, I just thought this might help my situation of forgetfulness.

    • Jessica: Since Bluebird doesn’t charge any fees except for ATM use under certain circumstances, I think that using your Bluebird account would solve your problem in that you won’t get charged an overdraft fee. Instead, the Netflix payment will be declined if you have no money in your account and you risk Netflix shutting down your account.

  2. I just load $500 each to my BB and my wifes with my WF PP and withdrew a total of 1K with no fees!!! I guess BB has some interesting uses.

  3. @FM — just got my BB card, and it appears to be a dud! Does it have PIN debit capabilities? Have you been able to make debit transactions with it? Doesn’t look like it’s possible, which makes it only marginally more useful than the old AMEX due to the bill pay feature. Even that doesn’t work well for me, refuses to recognize my mortgage account saying it’s incorrect. My pay-power card had no problems with that.

    • frequent churner: I haven’t tried the PIN at a register yet. It didn’t work to pay taxes online because it has fewer digits than a visa/mc debit card. For your mortgage, make sure you’re putting in the zip code of your mortgage company correctly

  4. I am building my bb card to 2k, need few more hundreds to pay my mortgage, But i am worried if i will get in trouble with this or not because this mortgage payment will be my 1st transcation on BB..and take close to 85% balance.
    what do you think?

  5. It seems that Vanilla is no longer allowing the Vanilla Reload Card to reload the bluebird. When you try online, it is denied (with an error code 90). If you call in, customer service tells you the only vanilla card that will work on the bluebird is the bluebird feeder pack. (they also will deny that the vanilla card ever worked to reload the bluebird.) According to the script they now have, the only cards that will work to reload bluebird will say bluebird on it.
    The problem is that American Express isn’t up on this. As of now, the website still says Vanilla Reload Network cards are an acceptable way to reload. And BB customer service will also tell you the same, and then refer you to the vanillareload.com or the number on the back of the reload card (neither of which will let you load now) Anyone else have this same experience?

  6. For people having problems registering their mortgage account (mine is GMAC), be sure to use the mortgage company’s zip code and enter the full 9 digit zip code.

  7. So I finally got my Bluebird Card by mail, so I’m ready to do some tests on my own. I’ve added Bluebird on my Paypal account as a primary checking. Yes you can find the “account number” other than your card number once you’re logged in to Bluebird. It took Paypal 2 days to verify, but once it was done I was ready to transfer some money. I’ve started with $62.50. It took another 2 days for it to show up on the BB account balance as available. It was marked as “direct deposit”. Since I’m member of Costco, I first stopped to get some gas. Knowing that Costco accepts AMEX I swiped my membership card first followed by Bluebird. Transaction declined. I ended up buying some gas and pay for it with my regular bank debit card which is “MasterCard”. Next I went into their warehouse to pick up some food items. Total $18.56. This time Bluebird was accepted. I left Costco and stopped at another gas station, this time an independent one called USA Gasoline. I swiped Bluebird and it asked me if it’s a credit or debit transaction. I’ve indicated “debit” upon which the card was declined and said to get assistance from attendant. Instead I’ve cancelled transaction and swiped again as credit. This time I’ve got approval. I’ve purchased $15.11 and left.
    When I got back home and logged in to Bluebird to see if they show up. They don’t. And even though I’ve spent a grand total of $33.67 Bluebird shows “Available $0.00 – Total Balance: $62.50”. I can’t help it but wonder if they cannot keep track “live” of what is going on and they lock the entire balance every time you make a credit transaction you’re in big trouble. Unless they learn to behave as a debit card with instant adding and subtraction, I better stick with an other card that accepts pin.

    • Maxo,
      I found BB keeps track live of your available balance, but it takes a while for the transactions to appear online (1 to 3 days).

      Every transaction I’ve done has had an immediate impact on my available BB balance. I know gas stations often put a hold on a set amount from your card, like $75, until the transaction goes through. I suspect that is why your available balance now shows 0. I’m pretty sure when that transaction shows up in a day or two those funds will be released and you will see you have indeed been debited just $33.67.

  8. Jack, thanks for the reply. Almost all credit and debit cards show immediately all pending transaction when you check online. Visa or MasterCard doesn’t tie up $75 for 3 days for a $15 dollar purchase. Unfortunately AMEX is not part of any clearing gateway that handles debit transactions. I thought BB looked like a good deal, but they lie in their ads when they call it a debit card. Merchants have to pay full fees based on credit not debit. It would be a constant struggle to find places that accepts them with a pin transaction if anybody accepts them at all.

  9. Hi,I just wanted to post that I added my Bluebird direct deposit account to my paypal account, verified the small amounts deposited into the Bluebird account…..I had 14.50 in my paypal account then I withdrew it to the Bluebird direct deposit account and it did go through this morning. It shows up as a direct deposit so I am hoping that when I start withdrawing money at the ATM that I won’t have to pay the ATM withdrawal fee.

    • Tara: Thanks for the info! I had the same experience. Remember that you’ll have to do a direct deposit within 30 days prior to each ATM use to keep it free

      maxo: Thanks for your update about Bluebird. I agree that it will be difficult to use it for day to day use if they don’t update the info immediately. Hopefully Amex will fix this issue soon.

  10. Has anyone tried withdrawing money from MoneyPass ATM? According to bluebird.com my local Walmart has MoneyPass ATM that allows free withdrawals without direct deposit until Nov 4. When I went there, an employee directed me to the money center. So I tried using their ATM but with a $1.50 charge. It seems like no one at WalMart knows what MoneyPass ATM is even when I showed up the website.

  11. Has anyone had any experience loading with Vanilla reloads purchased at Dollar General? There are no OD stores near me, but there is a DG right down the street. I stopped in today and saw the Vanilla reloads hang tags, but it doesn’t have a pin on it. The girl said she needed to swipe my prepaid card in order to load it directly. I don’t have my BB card yet so I can’t try that. Has anyone done this or run into any issues at DG? Thanks!

    • Teri: I haven’t tried yet
      .
      Bex A: Several people have tried, but to my knowledge it hasn’t worked for anyone. I tried loading a Mio card and it would have worked, but their register was setup to only allow cash not credit

  12. Thanks, the thread on FT didn’t have too many comments about DG specifically but it didn’t sound like they had any luck either. I’ll try it once I get my BB card and report back!

  13. Only flaw in Bluebird is the direct deposit. If your employer sent the direct deposit Thursday then you will have to wait 1 business day before fund is there. If your employer sent it Friday then u wont get paid till Monday 2pm EST per BB rep. I was like I get paid Friday not Monday. Will let u know when the DD kicked in. My other account already has the DD in there already like my WalmartMoneyCard. So if u plan in getting this card consider direct deposit first.

  14. Reporting back…actually got my BB in the mail yesterday so I tried loading with a Vanilla Reload last night at Dollar General. Talk about getting a girls hopes up…we tried it and it “went through.” Was about to pay and on up popped a “card # invalid” message on the cashier’s screen. No go at Dollar General 🙁 I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. ST debit at WM here I come!

  15. It looks like OD is now taking inventory of VRs. I took 2 VRs (with permission from mgr) from the one near my work to use at two different OD near my house this weekend. The first OD got an error saying that they have already reach floor limit while the other one said that the VRs were stolen and actually wrote “stolen” on the card. So for those who were thinking of taking extras to be used in the future, you can scrap that thought 🙁

  16. I have tried several times, but the Vanilla Reload that I got from an OD cannot be loaded onto my BB. Called both AXBB and Vanilla to no avail. Said only can be loaded onto the regular Amex prepaid. Any advice to get it onto my BB?

    • Chris G: The info you got on the phone is wrong. Double check that your permanent Bluebird card has been activated properly. If that doesn’t work, wait 24 hours and try again. The site bluebirdmoney.com is for an old version of bluebird that is going away. The new bluebird site is bluebird.com.

      • Last week, I called and was given a different CSR # to call, ending in 7847. They said it is the BB customer care number. Considering I was on hold with BB for over 2 hours today, only to have an Indian call center pick up and say that I’m speaking to the wrong department, I’m not calling back today. When I try and load it online, I get error #90 on the vanilla site, or error #4006 on feedbluebird.

        The Vanilla CSR today told me there were specific vanilla reload cards to use with BB. Is that true?

        • Chris G: No, it is not true. If you bought the Vanilla Reload card at Office Depot then it is the right kind. Can you verify that you have the permanent version of the bluebird (the one with your name on the card)? Also, can you verify that you’ve activated it? If you log into your bluebird.com account does it prompt you to activate your card?

        • This card has my name on it. I ordered directly from the website when it first came out. When I go through the phone automated menu, it confirms that I have a $0 balance. When I log onto the site, there is no prompt for activation. However, when I did call last week, the CSR mistakenly thought my card was a temp, but after I pointed it out that it wasn’t, he confirmed. Maybe the system has my card wrong? I just ordered a regular AX prepaid, but I’m getting pretty frustrated with the BB thus far. And this is coming from somebody with the patience to book DL partner awards.

  17. Has anyone tried loading it by taking a picture of a check and depositing it through the app? How long does it take? Does it work with personal checks or just accounts cram businesses? Does the type of account have a effect on the time it takes to deposit? The website says with in 5 business days but I want to know about personal experiences.

  18. I recently used my BB to make a payment directly to my Insurance Co for my vehicle insurance. When I checked the BB site, the funds came off of my total (which was loaded onto the BB with two Vanilla Preload), but there was an extra dollar missing. In other words, when the payment was subtracted from the total, the balance was a dollar short. Does BB charge for making a credit payment?

    • Rusty1: Many merchants will put a $1 hold on your credit card just to verify your card. That’s probably what happened here. The $1 hold will come off in a few days. The holds can be much higher at gas stations and hotels so watch out for that.

  19. My husband tried the iPhone app to deposit a check I wrote him. The check cleared my account in a day, but it’s now 18 days and it still is not available on his BB account. Daily calls to BB give the same answer…it will clear by 9pm. What a joke.

  20. Is it possible to get money wire transferred into my BB account? And what info does the sender needs to send funds into my BB account? Thank you for the info

    • Haik: I’m not sure about wiring money, but if you log into your bluebird account and select “direct deposit” you can find your account’s routing number and account number that can be used for ACH transfers into (not out of) your bluebird account.

  21. I know I’m probably too late to get a response but here it goes..
    Chris G: Did you ever get your reload problems solved? I’m in the same situation — error 4006. BB support isn’t very helpful: “it should work”.

  22. New BB card. First direct deposit went fine and I was using for purchases for about a day and a half. Then I tried to withdraw cash and the whole thing was locked.

    Called BB. They said I would have to speak to an account specialist tomorrow but they can’t tell me why. It’s tomorrow. I spent my entire lunch hour on hold for a specialist without speaking to anyone.

    I’m holding again. I have no idea what excuse they could have for holding my money hostage. I cannot make any purchases or withdraw money from an ATM.

  23. In a similar boat to Hal – charges are being denied (car insurance credit payment), atm withdrawals are not working, etc. and when I call it takes an hour on hold to get -anyone- at all. One rep even put me on hold then disconnected me.

    Finally escalated to a supervisor over my lunch break today and they repeatedly told me that everything was working fine and that I should be having no problems, which is a blatant lie. Then they changed their story and told me I had to update my Bluebird account using the Bluebird site to even allow for ATM withdrawals at all. Does anyone know if there is a magic turn ATM withdrawal option on button hidden somewhere in the Bluebird site?

    I’ve got ~$700 on there right now and am at my wits end just trying to get access to it via credit card purchases, Bill Pay or ATM withdrawal.

    • Anon: That’s awful. I think that the rep you talked with is confused. There are other Amex prepaid products that have magic “turn on/ turn off” ATM buttons, but I don’t think Bluebird has that. At the top right of the bluebird.com screen (after you log in) is “My Account” and you can go to “Settings”, but I don’t see anything there to turn on or off ATM use. Maybe try changing your PIN

  24. Did anyone try to deposit their paychecks with the blue bird app yet? I want this card for that reason but I can’t find anywhere that says if it will take a certain amount of days for the money to be available to spend on your card or if it’s instant.

  25. FYI, my local Walgreens has stopped allowing cc for VR purchase. There’s now a message on the register screen requiring “cash tender” for prepaid card purchase. Looks like the store did a manual over-write as I was there last week and the store manager even called the corporate office to confirm that cc is allowed for VR. Hopefully the competitor will not follow suit.

  26. My first ever visit to a Walmart was to try using $50 MasterCard Gift Cards to load Bluebird. The Customer Service Manager was enthused by the project. We tried several ways to get the MC accepted, but were stymied by the lack of a PIN. She then suggested that I buy a Walmart Gift Card with the MCs as she was sure that the Walmart card would work to load Bluebird. I had a $200 Walmart card in seconds, but we could not get it to load Bluebird. After 5 minutes or so, she decided to cash out the Walmart card – which required a manager. A cashier was also interested in what was going in, so in the end we had three employees all trying things out. All three, especially the manager, were trying to get a reload from the Walmart card to go though – they really believed that it should work. In the end, they decided to go the cash route. This required several calls for POS system codes, but finally worked. I handed back the cash, and got the Bluebird loaded. Given their attitude, I’m certainly going to try other options, starting with an eGift card.

  27. FM: will you receive miles by using debit card to fund BB?
    interested to open alaska airline by bofa..but sounds like it will not earn miles…am i correct?

  28. Fm:
    Can you clarify for me on this?
    I believe i am reading at MMS that you can load bluebird via debit card for 5k/month, $1k load max daily. but if i look at the Faq limit, it sounds like $1k limit/month for debit card.

    I am planning to open a debit card that give mile rewards, but if for 1k, it may not be cost efficient.

    and if the answer is 5k monthly, this 5k is on top of 5k vanilla reload limit right? so total you can do 10k.

    thks!

    • CHRIS: online debit card loads are limited to $1K per month & $100 per day, but in-person “swipe reloads” are limited to $1K per day & $5K per month. Unfortunately, Vanilla Reloads are in the same bucket as swipe reloads, so you can only do $5K total across both Vanilla Reloads and Swipe reloads.

  29. @ARC
    Please describe step by step how you added BB as a checking account on your Paypal and Amazon payments a counts. Also please tell us why you did that, meaning what you planed on achieving taking that approach. And lastly could you give us an update on it? Thanks a bunch

  30. @Smitty06, could you post a current list for us or email one to me if you don’t want it out for everyone to see?

  31. I’ve just encountered my first problem with BB after using it successfully, (both my wife and I have a card), to pay our bills, college tuition etc. Combined, we have spent about $15,000 per month. We use the card for charges and bill payment and deposit using VR and debit. Last Friday my account was declined when i tried to use it at Costco. Saturday I logged on and I got a dialogue box that indicated I needed to call customer service and offered a toll-free number. I called and spoke to a rep who would tell me nothing except that I needed to speak to protection services and offered to transfer me. When she did I got a recording that told me the mailbox was full. I called back and went through the same process to get again, no result, so I asked for a supervisor. The supervisor could only tell me that I would have to call back Monday when the office was open. He would not even say what may lead to an account being locked out. I’ll let you know what happens.

    • Pointsobs,
      I am in the same situation as you (to contact the #).
      I am told that they need to verify my identity, so they asked to fax SS# or W2.
      i did that, and within 10 minutes, my bb works…

      However, i am in much smaller scale, only paying mortgage, and view bills…under $4000.
      but comparable to my spending usage (merely under $200), the % is off balance…

      but i am back in with BB, actually just re open another one for my wife after closing her Serve few months ago.

      just an FYI with my experience.

      • Thanks @Chris. Just called and sat on hold for 10 minutes but with the same outcome. I spoke to their fraud department, she specifically said she looked at my transaction history and saw no reason for the “flag”. Asked authentication questions but nothing further. Just odd that my account and my wife’s were flagged for investigation. Onward we go for as long as it lasts!

  32. Hi, I want to apply for the Lufthansa card that expires at the end of June but I just got a Barclays US Airways on 03/01/2013. My present credit score is 743. In your expert opinion should I apply​? Thanks, StephenM

    • Stephen M: Is the US Airways card your only Barclays card? If so, you might have trouble getting approved as they seem to want to see at least 6 months of activity before approving more cards. They don’t seem to be very consistent though. If you don’t have too many recent credit card applications, you have a reasonably good chance of getting auto approved. If you do have lots of recent applications I think there’s a very good chance of getting turned down.

  33. From reading all the great posts, I can’t help but wonder if overall the bb card is a reliable form of payment in place of a credit card? I would hope to use the card specifically at Costco…
    Any advise?

    • Yes, for the most part it should work like a credit card as long as you have a balance large enough to cover it. There are some downsides though. For example, with a credit card if you dispute a charge they usually take off the charge immediately while investigating. With prepaid cards like Bluebird, you don’t get the money back until they are done investigating.

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