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Bluebird, offered by American Express, is an FDIC-insured prepaid debit card with virtually no fees. It functions almost like a checking account, making it a useful substitute for consumers who don’t have a bank account. Even if you have a bank account, Bluebird’s family-friendly money management tools may be appealing.
Families that want kids to learn saving or budgeting in an account linked to parents.
People who want a payment card that doesn’t let you go negative or charge overdraft fees.
Those who have had trouble with managing a bank account in the past.
» See more options: Check our list of best prepaid debit cards
No monthly or purchase transaction fees.
Several free ways to add money to the card including direct deposit, transfers from a linked debit card, mobile check deposits and cash at Walmart registers.
Extensive, free ATM network of over 24,000 MoneyPass ATMs.
Comes with valuable perks and services uncommon to prepaid cards, such as check-writing, spending alerts and family subaccounts, from American Express.
» Looking for a way to build credit instead? Learn about secured credit cards
No cash back allowed at retailers.
Most methods of withdrawing cash involve fees, including $2.50 for non-MoneyPass ATM withdrawals.
Can’t link a bank account to Bluebird to directly transfer money.
Steep fee of 1% to 5% to have mobile checks cleared the same day; the free option takes 10 days of processing.
» Ready to open a traditional savings option instead? See the best high-yield savings accounts
Overview of prepaid debit cards
What is a prepaid debit card?
A prepaid debit card is a type of payment card that only lets you spend the money you load onto the card. They don’t help you build credit. Like a debit card, a prepaid card works at any merchant that accepts its payment network, such as Visa, Mastercard or American Express. It’s safer and more convenient than using cash. Usually the prepaid card has a mobile app to deposit checks and transfer money. Learn more on our guide to prepaid debit cards.
Unlike checking accounts, prepaid debit cards may lack some services such as free ATM or branch networks, checks, among others. If that doesn’t work for you, see our list of best checking accounts. Or, if you’ve struggled with banks before, check out second chance checking options.
Prepaid debit card vs. debit card vs. credit card
Prepaid debit cards — pay before: You load money onto the card via cash, checks, direct deposit or a bank account before paying for transactions.
Debit cards — pay now: You use money directly from a checking account when paying for purchases or withdrawing money from an ATM.
Credit cards — pay later: You borrow money from a bank when you use the card and pay the money back later.
How does FDIC insurance on prepaid cards work?
Prepaid debit cards nearly always have FDIC insurance, which keeps your funds protected in case the issuer goes bankrupt. Only financial institutions can have FDIC insurance, so a prepaid card is either managed by a bank or by a prepaid card company that partners with a bank to offer that insurance. You must register your prepaid debit card with your name and other identification information in order to be eligible for FDIC insurance and other protections.