Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and American Express decided to team up to launch Bluebird, a new prepaid card, aimed at providing American consumers with an alternative to debit cards. Certainly, a prepaid card and debit account launched by Wal-Mart and American Express is a signal that the American retailer giant is stepping into the banking world. Bluebird, a type of prepaid American Express card, will enable American consumers to use features like smartphone deposits.
The Wal-Mart and American Express Alliance
Wal-Mart and American Express are to launch a new type prepaid of American Express card, Bluebird, which will offer unique features and services to its users as it has been designed to help American consumers to manage and control their everyday budget.
A pilot program of Bluebird was started a year ago, and since then the new prepaid American Express card has been used as a checking account but with no fees. According to Wal-Mart and American Express, only fees, which will be associated to the Bluebird prepaid card, will be both transparent and within its user’s control. The Bluebird card, which is an initiative of Wal-Mart and American Express, is said to be available in over 4,000 Wal-Mart stores and online as well.
Certainly the partnership between Wal-Mart and American Express is unusual if not exceptional as these two companies have targeted other types of American consumers up to date, which is quite obvious by looking at their slogans; "Save Money. Live Better" and "Don't Leave Home Without It." Moreover American Express has been lately more interested in high-end consumers than average American consumers.
However Wal-Mart and American Express are not the only companies, which decided to launch prepaid cards. Chase and Comerica also launched one; Suze Orman rolled out the Approved Card, etc. What is special about these cards is that money can be directly deposited or reloaded on them and because of these features they are becoming an interesting alternative to checking accounts.
Wal-Mart and American Express, however, declined to give any details of their partnership but they indicated that both companies would benefit from the Bluebird prepaid card. The launch of Bluebird card is intended to strengthen Wal-Mart Stores and American Express position in the prepaid card market.
The account and the prepaid card, called Bluebird, will be available next week. The fees of the Bluebird prepaid card are transparent and within its consumers’ control, according to the statement of Wal-Mart and American Express. Also the new Bluebird Prepaid Card will have no minimum balance and no monthly, annual or overdraft fees, although some ATM fees will apply.
The Bluebird Prepaid Card can be used in Wal-Mart Stores and anywhere American Express is accepted. Users of the prepaid card will be able also to withdraw cash from ATMs as well. The Bluebird prepaid card has also a feature that allows its users to make deposits and pay bills using their smartphones. Deposits, however, can be made by using many ways, including regular direct deposits from a paycheck or using a smartphone app.
Daniel Eckert, vice president of financial services for Wal-Mart, said: “(…) and we believe it's the best product on the market to help customers affordably manage their everyday finances.” Time will show whether the Bluebird prepaid card is blue sky.