Walmart's 2 Debit Cards Make it the Walmart of Low-Cost Banking
In October 2012, Walmart launched a new debit card in a partnership with American Express. Walmart calls the card Bluebird. Walmart now offers two pre-paid debit card options for consumers who need basic banking at prices Walmart customers expect. The retailer’s services are geared for the one in four US households not served by a bank or credit union.
Walmart’s existing card is called the Walmart MoneyCard. The MoneyCard, which was launched in 2007, is of a partnership with GE’s Capital Bank division and Green Dot. The MoneyCard, like the new Bluebird, is a debit card that the customer “loads” with funds by visiting one of the Walmarts that contain a money center. The customer may also have funds direct-deposited into either a MoneyCard or Bluebird account.
|Affiliation||Mastercard or Visa||American Express|
|Initial cost||$0 (online) / $3 in store||$5|
|Available ATMs||1 million Cirrus & Maestro||22,000 MoneyPass|
|ATM transaction fee|| $0 MoneyPass |
$2 at non-MoneyPass
| $0 if direct deposit @ MoneyPass |
$2 without direct deposit
|ATM balance fee||$1||$0|
|Point-of-sale transaction fee||$0||$0|
Pre-Paid Cards at a Glance
Pre-paid debit cards offer two strengths. The first is the consumer does not incur an overdraft fee if they attempt to spend more than the balance of the account. Pre-paid debit cards are “loaded” with a certain value the consumer can spend. When the balance is spent, any transactions are denied until the account is replenished.
The other advantage is pre-paid cards act like any other debit card or credit card at the point of sale. This means the consumer can use a pre-paid card at grocery stores, gas stations, online, and to fund peer-to-peer transfers, such as Paypal.
Like other credit or debit cards, prepaid cards are tied to networks. In the US, for example, some merchants accept Visa but not Mastercard or American Express. Other merchants will accept cards from all three.
Because a pre-paid debit card is a debit and not a credit card, its history is not reported to the consumer credit reporting agencies. This means that Walmart’s MoneyCard or Bluebird will not have any impact on a consumer’s credit score. If you wish to boost your credit score, look to a secured credit card instead of a debit card.
Walmart Debit Card Bluebird
Walmart pitches Bluebird as a simple pre-paid debit card, but it has an impressive list of features for a budget-priced card.
- Customers can load the card at Walmart check-stands, direct-deposit, account transfer, or a digital photo of a check using a Bluebird mobile app.
- Use and control of sub-accounts for friends and family using a mobile app.
- Roadside assistance
- Purchase protection, which is a form of insurance if a product purchased using the card breaks.
- Travel assistance, which is a hotline for travelers to call if they lose their luggage, or experience other travel disasters.
The downsides to Bluebird in comparison to Walmart’s MoneyCard is the number of merchants who accept American Express in comparison to Mastercard and Visa. Pay attention to the merchants you buy from frequently. If you shop where American Express is accepted, then Bluebird is an acceptable alternative to a pre-paid card issued by a Visa or Mastercard affiliate, such as MoneyCard. If, however, you rarely see the American Express logo where you shop, then Bluebird will be a futile choice.
If you do almost all of your shopping at one of the 4,000 Walmarts or other merchants who accept American Express, then Bluebird offers good value.