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Bluebird Prepaid Card Review: Free Services, Perks

Banking, Checking Accounts, Prepaid Debit Cards
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Bluebird Prepaid Debit Card
NerdWallet’s rating: 4.5 / 5.0

4.5 stars out of 5

Bluebird
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at Bluebird
Bluebird, offered by American Express, functions almost like a checking account, with virtually no fees. This prepaid debit card makes a useful substitute for consumers who don’t have a bank account — about 7% of Americans, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Even if you have a bank account, Bluebird’s family-friendly money management tools may still be appealing.

The bottom line

  • No monthly or transaction fees, and several free ways to add money to the card.
  • Extensive, free ATM network.
  • Comes with valuable perks and services from American Express.

» MORE: What you should know about prepaid debit cards

Our Ratings
General fees5.0 stars out of 5
Purchases and withdrawals4.5 stars out of 5
Reloads5.0 stars out of 5
Other services5.0 stars out of 5
Overall4.5 stars out of 5

Here are more details about Bluebird’s fees and services.

General fees

5.0 stars out of 5
5.0 / 5.0

ProsCons
  • Free if you open account online or via mobile.
  • More than 24,000 free MoneyPass ATMs.
  • Purchases are protected against accidental damage and theft for up to 90 days.
  • Customer service available 24/7.
  • Includes benefits like emergency roadside assistance, shopping and entertainment offers.
  • Cards on the American Express network are less widely accepted by merchants than those on the Visa and MasterCard networks.


Bluebird offers an impressive array of free services. You can open an account online or via a mobile device, write preauthorized checks, make bill payments, manage accounts and more. If you’re careful, you can use Bluebird without paying any fees. There are ways to load, spend and withdraw cash for free.

Purchases and withdrawals

4.5 stars out of 5
4.5 / 5.0

ProsCons
  • Bluebird can be used anywhere that American Express is accepted.
  • No transaction fees.
  • No way to get cash back with a debit purchase at merchants.
  • Out-of-network ATM fee of $2.50.

Bluebird’s no-bounce check-writing privileges stand out. To write a check, log in to your account and enter the amount. If you have enough funds, the amount will be immediately deducted and you’ll get a code to write on the check. You can use the Bluebird card at any place that accepts American Express, and you can withdraw cash at MoneyPass ATMs for free.

One disadvantage: You can’t get cash back with purchases. You can withdraw cash at Wal-Mart stores, but you have to pay a fee.

You can withdraw up to $750 per day from ATMs. For larger sums, you can withdraw up to $900 in cash at a Wal-Mart, for a $3 to $6 fee.

Reloads

5.0 stars out of 5
5.0 / 5.0

ProsCons
  • $0 to add cash at Wal-Mart registers.
  • $0 to add money through a linked debit card.
  • $0 for mobile check capture by Ingo Money — can take 10 days to clear unless you pay a fee for same-day.

  • Can’t link a bank account to Bluebird to directly transfer money.

At a Wal-Mart register, you can add cash in amounts up to $1,999 for free — and the money will be available immediately. You can set up direct deposit of paychecks or tax refunds for free. If you have a debit card for a bank account or a debit/payroll card, you can link that to Bluebird to add funds online or via the Bluebird app. If you’re at a Wal-Mart register, you can also add funds from a debit card for free.

You can load checks worth up to $2,500 on the card via the Bluebird mobile app. There is no fee, but checks take up to 10 business days to clear unless you pay for same-day service.

» MORE: Best prepaid debit cards

Other services

5.0 stars out of 5
5.0 / 5.0

ProsCons
  • Families can share one Bluebird account.
  • Unlike many prepaid cards, Bluebird has check-writing privileges.
  • Free checks.
  • Free online or mobile bill pay.
  • Five free ways to check your balance.


  • None to speak of.

Families can share one Bluebird account. The primary member can open and fund up to four subaccounts, each with its own card and spending limits.

If you’re saving toward a specific goal, you can set that money aside in a separate account with a name like “Bahamas” or “new car.” You can transfer the money back to your main account at any time. Bluebird keeps your money in a custodial account at an FDIC-insured bank, so your balance is covered for up to $250,000 if that bank should fail.

Many free services

Bluebird
Learn more
at Bluebird
Bluebird is not a bank account, but it can function as a reasonable, low-priced substitute. To get the card, register for a Bluebird account online, download the free app at an app store, or buy a $5 starter kit with a temporary card at a Wal-Mart store.

Research more before you leap: Here are some other economical prepaid card options.

Jeanne Lee is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: jlee@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @jlee_jeanne.

Updated Nov. 16, 2016.


Ratings methodology

NerdWallet’s overall rating is a weighted average of each category: general account fees, transactions and funds access, reloads and other services. Factors we consider, depending on the category, include fees, ATM access, reload options, breadth of merchant acceptance, account features and limits, user-facing tech and customer service. Several Nerds contribute to prepaid debit card ratings to ensure consistency and accuracy.

What the ratings mean:
5 stars out of 5 — Among the very best
4.5 stars out of 5 — Very good; only minor caveats for most customers
4 stars out of 5 — Good; issues that might make a difference to some customers
3.5 stars out of 5 — Fair; make sure strengths and weaknesses are a good match for you
3 stars out of 5 — Poor; proceed with great caution
2.5 stars out of 5 (or below) — Best to avoid