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Prepaid debit cards are a convenient way to make purchases, pay your bills, and limit your spending.
Many of them make a great alternative to opening a traditional bank account – especially if you have teenagers in constant need of cash.
Unfortunately, many prepaid debit cards come with high fees, putting them out of financial reach for some users.
Enter the Bluebird® prepaid debit card from American Express.
Bluebird® by American Express® Pros and Cons
As with any card, Bluebird® by American Express® comes with its own set of pros and cons.
- Virtually fee-free with a $500 direct deposit (some extra features do come with fees)
- Easy to use and reload
- Free cash withdrawals at over 30,000 MoneyPass ATMs
- No foreign transaction fees
- No credit check required
- Transaction and monthly spending limits
- Non-MoneyPass ATMs charge $2.50 per withdrawal
- Free check processing takes 10 days; same-day processing charges up to 5%
- American Express® is not accepted at all merchants
What is Bluebird® by American Express®?
The Bluebird® prepaid card from American Express® is an FDIC-insured debit card that acts like a traditional checking account.
It comes with family-friendly money management tools, low fees, and online and in-store payment options.
Plus, you can use your Bluebird® card virtually anywhere that American Express® is accepted.
Keep in mind that the Bluebird® by American Express® card does come with a low monthly fee of $1.
But if you direct deposit at least $500 per month into your account, Bluebird® will waive this fee entirely.
How Does the Bluebird® Prepaid Card Work?
There are three ways to sign up for a Bluebird® card from American Express®.
The first is by purchasing a Bluebird® Account Set Up Kit from your local Walmart for $5. This kit includes a temporary card you can use right away – all you have to do is register for a free account at Bluebird.com.
Your temporary card holds up to $500 for immediate use while your permanent card ships in 7-10 business days.
If you prefer to bypass the $5 setup fee, you can also register for an account at Bluebird.com or download the Bluebird® Mobile App.
The only downside to these methods is that you’ll have to wait to receive your card before you can use it – but it’s free!
Once you activate your Bluebird® card, you can use it to make purchases immediately online, in-store, and even between accounts.
The downside is that Bluebird® imposes spending limits based on the type of transactions you make:
- $100,000 per year
- $15,000 in merchant transactions per month
- $15,000 in bill payments per month
- $2,500 for friend and family transfers per month
- $750 in ATM withdrawals per day
- $900 per day (or $2,900 for tax refunds received via direct deposit) at Walmart locations
Additionally, you’re limited to a combined $15,000 per month for ATM and cash withdrawals, bill payments, and send-money transactions at Walmart retailers.
Bluebird® by American Express® Features and Benefits
The Bluebird® by American Express® prepaid card blends many features of a traditional checking account, a prepaid debit account, and an American Express® card.
This makes it an attractive option for individuals, families, and teenagers learning to manage their finances.
Access to AMEX Offers and Perks
Unlike most prepaid debit cards, Bluebird® comes with perks unique to the American Express® experience.
For instance, with AMEX offers, you can save when you dine or shop at select merchants – plus score cheap tickets to sporting and music events.
American Express® customers also enjoy complimentary roadside assistance, with a Global Assist hotline available if you’re more than 100 miles from home.
And fraud and purchase protection cover you in case of account fraud, item theft, and damage within 90 days of purchase.
No Monthly Fees
In addition to AMEX perks, American Express® Bluebird® cardholders enjoy zero monthly maintenance fees with $500 direct deposits every month.
Plus, there are no activation fees, foreign transaction fees, or 10-day check processing fees to worry about!
Mobile App with Money Management Tools
The Bluebird® Mobile App lets you handle your finances from one easy dashboard. In addition to setting up direct deposits and paying bills, you can take advantage of money management tools such as:
- Categorizing and tracking spending
- Saving for specific goals in “SetAside” accounts
- Setting up one-time or automatic transfers are no extra charge
Family Account Access
Upon activating your primary Bluebird® card account, you can add up to four additional subaccounts for family members.
As the primary account holder, you can transfer funds to each account, set spending limits, and impose ATM access restrictions for money-hungry teenagers.
Easily Freeze Your Card
As an added security precaution, Bluebird® lets you freeze your card from the Mobile App anytime, anywhere.
Whether your card is stolen or just lost beneath your car seat, this ensures you don’t have to worry about fraudulent purchases showing up on your account.
(It makes a handy tool for freezing your teenagers’ reckless spending, too!)
Free Bill Pay – and Check Writing, Too!
Free online bill pay seems like an obvious perk, given that most banking accounts offer this basic service.
But surprisingly, not all prepaid cards do, which makes free online bill pay from Bluebird® by American Express® unusual. All you have to do is log into your online accounts and input your card information.
Additionally, your Bluebird® card also comes with the ability to write checks to pay other bills.
While paper checks are largely outdated, this is a handy tool for paying your grandson for mowing the lawn or your landlord for not kicking you out.
Free ATM Withdrawals
One important note about the Bluebird® card is that you can’t get cash back at retailers; you must use an ATM.
But Bluebird® makes this cheap and easy, too, with fee-free withdrawals at over 30,000 MoneyPass ATM locations.
All you have to do is insert your card, follow the prompts, and bam! Your money is in your hands – with no third parties skimming cash off the top.
Bluebird2Walmart Money Transfer
Another perk of your Bluebird® by American Express® card is the ability to transfer money to any Walmart in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
To use Bluebird2Walmart powered by Ria, you must have been a registered account holder with an activated card.
Then, you can transfer money to anyone 18 + with a valid ID, even if they don’t have a Bluebird® account.
However, this feature costs:
- $4 for transfers less than $50
- $8 for transfers up to $1,000
- $16.99 for transfers up to $2,500
>> More: Walmart MoneyCard Review
Easily Add Money to Your Account
Bluebird® by American Express® makes adding cash to your accounts easy via a variety of options, such as direct deposit, linked accounts, and even register top-ups.
One of the most popular methods to add cash is a direct deposit from your employer or government benefits payments. (Depositing $500 per month is required to waive the $1 monthly maintenance fee).
Depending on your employer’s payroll system, you may even be eligible to receive paychecks up to two days faster when you sign up for Bluebird®’s direct deposit.
Linked Banking Accounts and Debit Cards
You can also transfer money from a linked checking or savings account. While Bluebird® doesn’t charge for this service, your bank may so be sure to check your bank’s fee policy first.
Additionally, your linked accounts are limited to $2,000 in combined checking and savings transfers every month.
You can also add money to your Bluebird® card via linked debit cards. Again, your monthly transactions are limited, this time to $1,000 per month.
However, this service is free and makes it easy to move money between Bluebird® cardholders.
Topping up your Bluebird® card at a Walmart register is another valid option – and it’s free! All you have to do is bring your Bluebird® card with you next time you go shopping and tell the cashier you want to add money to your account.
Other retailers such as Walgreens, CVS, and Dollar General also process Bluebird® card top-ups. However, these businesses may charge a fee of up to $3.95 per transaction.
The benefit of this option is that you can use either cash or another debit card to top up your account.
But you’re still limited in your deposit amounts – $1,999 per transaction for cash at Walmart registers, with a daily maximum of $2,500. And you can’t load more than $5,000 total in cash per month.
Although paper checks are going the way of the horse and buggy, Bluebird® by American Express® still accepts them as valid tender. You can deposit checks to your Bluebird® card in three ways:
- Sending a paper check via old-fashioned snail mail (required for checks over $2,000)
- Mobile deposit via the Bluebird® Mobile App
- Using Walmart MoneyCenter’s check-cashing services to deposit funds directly into your Bluebird® account
>> More: How Do Mobile Check Deposits Work?
How Does Bluebird® by American Express® Compare to Other Prepaid Cards?
Bluebird® by American Express® is a great way to enjoy many traditional banking features without being tied to a traditional bank.
Not to mention, if you direct deposit at least $500 per month, you can waive the $1 monthly maintenance fee.
#1. Bluebird® vs. Serve® American Express®
Serve® American Express® is another account serviced by AMEX, but it comes with fewer funding options and increased costs.
That said, you’re still eligible for AMEX Offers and extra perks like purchase protection and stellar customer service.
The card itself costs $1.50 in retail locations, though you can apply for free online. Monthly maintenance charges run from $6.95 to $7.95, depending on the specific card you choose.
Additionally, cash reloads cost $3.95 per transaction unless you opt for the $6.95 Serve® Free Reloads card.
And if you use your card internationally, all purchases are subject to a 2.7% foreign transaction fee.
#2. Netspend® Prepaid Visa® Card vs. Bluebird®
Netspend® is an expensive prepaid debit card alternative. Users pay a steep monthly fee of $9.95, though you can opt for a pay-per-transaction model instead.
Additionally, there’s no free network for cash reloads or withdrawals, card limits of $15,000, and a monthly inactivity fee.
That said, Netspend® does offer a 5% APY savings account for balances up to $1,000 and 0.50% after that. Plus, Visa® cards are more widely accepted than AMEX.
#3. Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard® vs. Bluebird®
Brink’s prepaid Mastercard® debit card is also more expensive than the Bluebird® card. The monthly fee costs $9.95 per month for the standard plan, or $5 per month if you direct deposit $500+ per month.
Plus, the card comes with steep 4% foreign transaction fees and $2.50 ATM fees. Online bill pay charges vary between merchants.
However, Brink’s prepaid Mastercard® also comes with a 5% APY savings account for eligible Preferred Benefits cardmembers.
>> More: Brink’s Prepaid Mastercard Review
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Bluebird® by American Express® a Good Prepaid Card?
The Bluebird® by American Express® card is one of the cheapest prepaid debit cards out there. In fact, if you use it right, it’s entirely free!
And you can use it just like a traditional debit card. That said, you’re limited to locations that accept AMEX – which isn’t everywhere.
What is the Difference Between Serve® American Express® and Bluebird®?
Bluebird® is a virtual free card serviced by AMEX that comes with half a dozen (mostly free) funding options.
By contrast, Serve® American Express® comes with the same AMEX perks as Bluebird® but costs more overall.
How Do I Put Money on My Bluebird® Card?
You can add money to your Bluebird® card by:
- Linking checking or savings accounts
- Direct deposit
- Mobile check deposit
- Cash reload at Walmart registers
- Linked debit cards or debit card top-ups
Is the Bluebird® Card from American Express® Free?
Bluebird is free, depending on how you use it. While it comes with no monthly or transaction fees, withdrawing cash costs money if you do it at a non-MoneyPass ATM. Additionally, same-day check clearing costs up to 5%.
What are the Benefits of a Bluebird® American Express® Card?
Bluebird® by American Express® comes with a ton of features, such as:
- AMEX Offers and consumer protection features
- Free online bill pay
- Up to 4 linked subaccounts for family
- A mobile app to manage your card and general finances
- Free ATM withdrawals
- No credit check required to obtain the card
Bottom Line: Bluebird® by American Express® Review
Bluebird® by American Express® is an FDIC-insured debit card that conveys many perks of traditional banking.
Perks include AMEX Offers, money management tools, low (to no) fees, and online and in-store payment options.
In other words, Bluebird® makes it easy to avoid pay-to-play alternatives and enjoy cardholder benefits fee-free.