Begun last year as a pilot program, Bluebird will have no minimum balance and no monthly, annual, or overdraft fees. The two companies say the only fees attached to the card will be within the user’s control, like out-of-network ATM withdrawals by customers who do not have direct deposit.
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The companies intend for the card to be an alternative for debit and checking accounts that will help customers manage and control their finances. In the past, Wal-Mart has made efforts to serve its large population of low-income shoppers, who have little or no access to credit — the retailer already offers check cashing at low rates for those shoppers without bank accounts.
“Our customers tell us that they’re tired of navigating a complex maze of dos and don’ts to avoid the ever growing list of fees found on checking products,” Daniel Eckert, vice president of financial services for Walmart U.S., said in a statement. “Bluebird solves this problem and we believe it’s the best product on the market to help customers affordably manage their everyday finances.”
The Bluebird cards can be used at locations that accept American Express, and users will be able to deposit money onto the card by direct deposit, remote check-captures using the Bluebird mobile app, using cash at a Walmart register, or by linking a bank account to the card. More features will be added to the card in the first quarter of 2013, including new options to deposit money and check-writing capabilities.
This will not be Wal-Mart’s first prepaid card program; currently, the retailer offers prepaid cards from Green Dot (NYSE:GDOT). However, that card comes with a $5.95 monthly fee, while the Bluebird card will have no fees of any kind associated with it. Wal-Mart’s partnership with American Express will greatly diminish business for Green Dot, as 62 percent of its business comes from that retailer. NetSpend (NASDAQ:NTSP), which also offered a prepaid card through the company, will be affected as well.