Walmart and Amex Launch Prepaid Card Alternative

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After rumors Walmart had scuttled American Express’ prepaid card alternative, the two companies jointly announced the launch of the Bluebird card.

The discount retail giant had previously been testing the card in a pilot program launched in late 2011.

The card will be available at all of Walmart’s 4,000 stores, nationwide.

“Bluebird was shaped by feedback from consumers who said they were not getting the value they expect from traditional checking account and debit services because of increasingly higher fees,” the companies said in a press release.

The card comes with near-zero fees.

The only costs come from adding cash onto the card from a debit card, or withdrawals and declines at out-of-network ATMs and other places. Both fees are $2.

Users will be able to deposit cash with payroll direct deposit, remote check capture through a smartphone app, using cash at any Walmart register, or by linking a checking, savings, or debit card to the account, according to the release.

Last week, Walmart announced that it was allowing its customers to add cash to prepaid cards from multiple networks at its cash registers — previously users had to visit specialized areas of the store called Wal-Mart Money Centers to load cash onto cards.

Now, prepaid card users can put cash into cards backed by Green Dot, InComm's Vanilla Reload Network and First Data's Money Network.

The Bluebird card is built on top of the Amex’s digital wallet platform, Serve.

In February, Amex’s group president of enterprise growth Dan Schulman said Amex would soon be placing all of its prepaid products on the Serve platform.

"We will turn our platform from a digital payments platform to a digital payments and commerce platform," he said, at the Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Cards, Payments and Financial Technology Symposium in New York.

Early next year, Bluebird customers will get access to additional features, such as more options to deposit cash and the ability to write checks.

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