Walmart, American Express launch alternative to traditional bank accounts

Bentonville, Ark. -- Walmart and American Express have teamed up to offer customers an alternative to debit and checking accounts. The new service, called Bluebird, is designed to provide financial services to customers who often do not have traditional bank accounts. It will allow for deposits by smartphone and mobile bill paying, with no minimum balance or monthly, annual or overdraft fees.

“Bluebird is our solution to help consumers who currently may be poorly served by traditional banking products. It allows them to easily and safely move, manage, and spend their money. In an era where it is increasingly ‘expensive to be poor,’ we have worked with Walmart to create a financial services product that rights many of the wrongs that plague the market today,” said Dan Schulman, group president, Enterprise Growth, American Express.

Building on a pilot program launched in late 2011, 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 service will be available next week online and in more than 4,000 Walmart stores.

Users of the new service will be able to put money onto the card through payroll direct deposit, remote check capture with a mobile application, with cash at a Walmart register, or by linking to a bank account.

 Cash withdrawals from American Express' ATM machines carry no fees or surcharges for customers enrolled in direct deposit. For those without direct deposit, withdrawals are $2. For out-of-network ATMs, each withdrawal is also $2 and additional operator fees may apply.

“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. Bluebird solves this problem and we believe it’s the best product on the market to help customers affordably manage their everyday finances,” said Daniel Eckert, VP financial services for Walmart U.S.