Walmart has rolled out what looks like not only the cheapest but the most versatile prepaid card on the market today.
Called Bluebird, the American Express-branded card can be used anywhere AmEx cards are accepted.
But it’s not just another prepaid card. It more closely approximates a checking account with hardly any fees.
And Walmart promises it will only get better.
There are no monthly, annual or activation fees, no electronic bill payment fees, and no reload fees.
The only fees are for adding cash to the card from another debit card if you don’t have direct deposit, or withdrawals at out-of-network ATMs and other places. Both cost $2.
That’s pretty much it.
By comparison, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center, the median cost of the most common card fees, such as monthly and ATM fees, ranged from 50 cents to $9.95. Separately, an independent study by Bretton Woods Inc. said the average annual cost of a basic checking account is $259.
Bluebird will be available beginning next week online (www.bluebird.com) and at all of Walmart’s 4,000 U.S. stores. Sign-up is free online or through a smartphone app, and $5 for a set-up kit at Walmart stores.
Here’s a look at the details of Walmart’s Bluebird prepaid card:
|ATM withdrawal fees||$2 at out-of-network machines if you don’t have direct deposit, otherwise free.|
|Other features||Free direct deposit, free online bill payment, free mobile check deposit, ability to load additional funds free at all Walmart cash registers.|
|Verdict||With hardly any fees and convenient ways to load funds for free, this card may be best in the prepaid class.|
Bluebird has more ways to load funds than most other prepaid cards.
In addition to free direct payroll deposit, you can deposit checks remotely by taking a picture of the check and then using the smartphone app.
You can also load cash for free at any Walmart register, not just at Walmart Money Centers located within its stores. You can also link the card to a checking, savings or debit card.
Online bill payment is free, as are person-to-person payments.
In addition, Walmart said it will be adding additional features to Bluebird in early 2013, such as more options to deposit cash and check-writing capability, making it more like a checking account.
There is an initial $500 load limit when a customer picks up a Bluebird kit. After that, there is a $1,000-per-day load limit on the card, up to $10,000 a month.
To get cash, customers who have direct deposit can withdraw funds for free at more than 22,000 MoneyPass ATMs. (Find a MoneyPass ATM near you at www.moneypass.com.)
If you don’t have direct deposit, each MoneyPass ATM withdrawal costs $2; withdrawals at out-of-network ATMs are also $2.
Bluebird customers can set up alerts and controls to manage their account. They can also create subaccounts for friends and family members from their smartphone.
In addition to the above features, Bluebird cards are covered by many of the features that other AmEx cards offer, including purchase protection, roadside assistance, free fraud protection if the card is ever lost or stolen and free customer service.