Bluebird is coming. The sky isn’t falling

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American Express and Walmart today announced a new prepaid card called Bluebird (see press release here).  This replaces a product with the same name that American Express had beta tested through Walmart earlier in the year.  The new Bluebird prepaid card will be available next week.

What is it?

Bluebird is a prepaid American Express card very similar to the prepaid American Express cards I’ve written about many times before (for examples, see “One card to rule them all,” “How many Amex prepaid cards can I have?,” and “Amex Prepaid cards for foreign travel.”  Like American Express’ other prepaid product, BlueBird has no fees other than $2 for ATM withdrawals.

How can you get one?

Starting next week, you can either buy a .temporary card at Walmart and then upgrade to a permanent card, or simply order the card for free from www.bluebird.com.

How is it different?

Here are some features that appear to be different between Bluebird and the regular old Amex prepaid card:

  • ATM Use: With Bluebird, if you setup direct deposit, then all ATM withdrawals are free from MoneyPass ATMs.  Otherwise all ATM withdrawals incur a $2 fee (plus ATM owner fees).  With the old prepaid card, the first ATM use per month is free, then $2 per withdrawal afterwards; and ATM owner fees always apply.
  • Bluebird has no fee “electronic bill pay.”  We’ll have to wait to see what exactly this entails.
  • Bluebird explicitly allows funding via debit card for $2 per load.  it will be very interesting to see if we can load from Vanilla Visa debit cards.
  • According to the cardmember agreement, Bluebird allows loading from Vanilla Reload packs, but it is unclear to me whether this agreement has been updated with the new card’s features.  UPDATE: I called Amex and they confirmed that this card will be reloadable with Vanilla Reload cards.
  • Bluebird allows person to person payments (like Amex’s Serve product).
  • Bluebird will have a mobile app for managing your money.
  • Additional features: “In the first quarter of 2013, Bluebird will be adding additional features, such as more options to deposit money and check-writing capabilities.“

 

Important: bluebird Card Closure Notification

It appears that everyone (including me) who bought a prepaid Amex at Office Depot and upgraded it to a permanent card has received an email from Amex saying that their old bluebird account will be canceled.  The email looks like this:

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I’m pretty sure that this email is a mistake.

American Express did have an old Bluebird product that is being shut down, but it is not the same as the product bought at Office Depot.  So, I think the email is a mistake.  I expect that we’ll get apology emails soon.  If it turns out that this isn’t a mistake, it will be a great opportunity to cash out since American Express is offering to send people checks for their balance.

UPDATE: I called Amex and they confirmed that this appears to be a mistake.  They are currently investigating.

UPDATE 2: I just got this email confirming the mistake:

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More about Bluebird soon

As more information comes out about Bluebird, I’ll do my best to keep you informed.  Overall, I see this as similar to, but even better than what we have today as long as Vanilla Reload packs can be used.  Even without Vanilla Reload cards, though, I think this product is ripe with possibilities.

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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37 Comments on "Bluebird is coming. The sky isn’t falling"

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ed
Guest

Is it possible to get the old bluebird and get forced out on December 8th?

Joe
Guest

Yeah – I’m on board for an old Bluebird scramble.

Curtis
Guest

I too got this email and was trying to figure out why. Thanks for the quick write up about it!

David
Guest

But it would have to be purchased at OD for it to be worthwhile and not at Walmart.

Man! I was really looking forward to a massive Cash Out!

Steelsnow
Guest

The Office Depot prepaid temp. card did mention Bluebird in the T&C – I have a copy of them from a temp. card I picked up a few weeks back. I can try to dig thru them for more specific references to Bluebird when I have a chance. Could this possibly be replacing the current AMEX prepaid cards/program? And the big unknown is what Ed is asking….

Tim2
Guest

I am able to view my prepaid account on the bluebird website though

Will
Guest

@Tim2, bluebirdmoney.com is a jump page. once logging in , I can see everything I have with AMEX, prepaid cards, personal credit cards and business card.

Jack L
Guest

Data point: I got my Amex prepaid cards directly through Amex. But I can view the accounts by logging into bluebirdmoney.com. So maybe all Amex prepaids ARE considered part of the Bluebird conversion/shutdown?

Steelsnow
Guest

Just double checked, the AMEX prepaid T&C mentions bluebird many times but also mentions the AMEX prepaid card – looks like the T&C were made generic so they could be used for both products.

Dave
Guest

I’m still not sure what’s so great about Bluebird? The thing that makes the AMEX prepaid so awesome is that you can get 5x on Vanilla reloads at OD; the same can’t be said for Walmart. The issue people have been having with the AMEX prepaid isn’t with AMEX, but rather with OD and supply. I don’t know how this will help.

Jack
Guest

@Dave – I agree with you that if might amplify the reload card shortages. I wonder if you can have three of these as well as three of the regular prepaid cards on one account? I don’t think anyone is saying that Bluebird is great, but since they mention being able to send to others (like amazon payments) and future check writing (maybe ACH out?) and perhaps buying money orders at walmart, it might be cheaper to take money out if you desire to do that.

ed
Guest

@Dave
If this end-of-life was only to apply to the original bluebird card AND it were still obtainable AND it were reloadable with Vanilla cards, then the scramble would be well worth the effort (because there would be no ATM non-sense, and no hedging spend would be required). FM suggests the old bluebird was pulled long ago. Ebay?

James
Guest

Of course I was in Walgreens this weekend and saw a new kind of card (or so I thought) the Visa Prepagada!

Prepagada da vita, baybee! 😉

Elizabeth
Guest

Important: Disregard bluebird Closure E-mail

Dear xxxx,

The account closure notification e-mail you received today was intended only for bluebird Cardholders. Please disregard the email and the information contained in it. We apologize for any concern it may have caused. Your American Express Prepaid Card is not impacted in any way, and has nothing to do with the account closure notification email you received in error.

Sincerely,

American Express Customer Care

FrequentMiler
Guest

Elizabeth: Yep, thanks. I just got the same (and I updated the post with an image of the email)

Jack
Guest

Is this similar to “American Express for Target, It’s reloadable, It’s prepaid, It’s here” advertised in Target stores? Can you comment on the difference?

Jack II
Guest

@Jack – Target version is much more limited, you can only load from bank account.

Lawrence
Guest

Just got an email that said, “The account closure notification e-mail you received today was intended only for bluebird Cardholders. Please disregard the email and the information contained in it. We apologize for any concern it may have caused. Your American Express Prepaid Card is not impacted in any way, and has nothing to do with the account closure notification email you received in error.

Sincerely,

American Express Customer Care “

Titan limousine ground transport IAD DCA BWI
Guest

do you think we can still get a cash out anyway?

AlohaDaveKennedy
Guest

This is not going to last very long. Cardinal Fang has gotten wind of this scheme and is gearing up for a Spanish inquisition. Be warned.

trackback

[…] I think Frequent Miler did a write up on it. Something like one free ATM withdrawl per month at certain ATMs, plus small relod fees. Max $1k per month, I think. http://boardingarea.com/freque…-isnt-falling/ […]

Greek2me
Guest

ADK- i assume this comment meant re WMT bill pay ala same under MMS post?
Would you suggest not doing that gig at all then, or doing it fast and furious till Fang shuts it down?

gottoloveInk
Guest

Received the apology email from Amex as well. So stop the presses and don’t just load your cards in hope of a live refund…would have been nice though!

Titan limousine ground transport IAD DCA BWI
Guest

i took the oppty to cash our nearly $5k .. direct ACH transfer to bank account in 3-4 days, no extra fees or anything like that. Amex also offered to keep the Amex prepaid card open/active in case I want to reload again. I just told them I’ll get the bluebird later

Titan limousine ground transport IAD DCA BWI
Guest

call the number that was listed in the first email, tell them you want to select the cash out option. they will push back that the email was erroneous etc, and there is no need to cash out .. just stay politely adamant that you want to cash out. they will ask usual questions about why you want to cash out versus transfer directly to bluebird etc .. I made up some BS. so then he said it will take 15 business days to cut a check. I said I have bills to pay and can’t wait 15 days. so he processed it as direct ACH transfer to checking account within 3-4 business days. He took the banking info over the phone. let’s see if it comes through .. i trust Amex to not screw up and expect it by Mon/Tues latest.

mike
Guest

i don’t use the UR mall due to not having the corresponding Chase cards, but I note that you can fund this card with a debit card for $2 fee. So, I could fund using my Alaska Air Debit Card and earn miles? Any thoughts?

FrequentMiler
Guest

mike: I doubt you would earn miles with the Alaska Air debit card, but its worth a try to find out. The Sun Trust Delta debit card, on the other hand, is a bit more likely to work…

Sam Goth
Guest

Any idea on how the check writing feature will be structured wrt fees? It would
be great to get points for those check only places.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Sam Goth: No, we don’t have any details about the check writing feature yet.

FrequentMiler
Guest

The BlueBird signup is now live! You have to cancel your Serve account first. I just talked to rep. Features are beyond amazing. Too good to be true. Look for a post from me soon!

trackback

[…] I’m still excited to see what Amex has in store for us regarding the new Bluebird Prepaid product.  Last week, they said that it would be available “next week” (which is now this week).  Has anyone seen one in the wild?  For background, see “Bluebird is coming. The sky isn’t falling.” […]

greek2me
Guest

very exciting! Closing my Serve now.

FrequentMiler
Guest

I discovered that I could empty my Serve funds by sending money to my wife’s new Bluebird account. That was convenient since I have never linked a bank account to my Serve card.

trackback

[…] debit and checking accounts.”  I first mentioned Bluebird in my October 8th post “Bluebird is coming. The sky isn’t falling.”  Then, once Bluebird was available to consumers, I followed up with “Bluebird […]

trackback

[…] Then came Bluebird.  Bluebird, from American Express, offered all of the advantages of the NetSpend card, but with none of the disadvantages (see “Bluebird takes flight and changes the game“).  The combination of Office Depot, Vanilla Reload cards, and Bluebird was too good to be true.  Anyone with a credit card that earned a point multiplier at office supply stores could take advantage of these products and basically generate points out of thin air. […]