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.

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