Walmart & American Express Team Up To Release Prepaid Debit Card With Surprisingly Few Fees

Today, the folks at Walmart and American Express celebrated Columbus Day in the traditional way — by announcing Bluebird, a prepaid debit card that, given the track record for such products, has surprisingly few fees to chisel away at customers’ accounts.

The two companies say Bluebird is aimed at customers who just want the benefits of a standard checking account but can’t seem to get the ability to just deposit and withdraw cash without the hassle of fees or account minimums.

According to the details currently available, there are no setup or monthly/annual maintenance fees, nor will it cost anything to do any of the following: add money through direct deposit or from a checking account; deposit checks via the Bluebird mobile app; electronic bill pay; in-network ATM withdrawal; customer service calls; replacement cards.

In terms of fees, the companies say there is a $2 fee for out-of-network ATM withdrawals, and a $2 fee for adding money using a debit card. There is also the option of buying a $5 startup kit at Walmart cashiers that allows customers to sign up immediately; registration must later be completed at http://www.Bluebird.com. People who sign up on the website to begin with are not charged a fee.

The companies say they plan on adding check-writing functionality in the foreseeable future.

The one big catch that might keep some interested customers from signing up is that the Bluebird card will only be accepted at stores that accept American Express. While there are plenty of retailers that take AmEx, its network is nowhere near as vast as Visa or MasterCard.

Thus, depending on which cards are accepted by the stores you regularly visit, you might not be able to fully replace a basic checking account with Bluebird. Or you’d have to pay in cash at stores that don’t take AmEx, which could mean a $2 fee if the nearest ATM is out of network.

Bluebird was started last year as a pilot program, but since it is set to change drastically, Walmart will be closing existing customers’ accounts on Dec. 8 and sending refund checks to those with a remaining positive balance.