Good News/Bad News with Bluebird Checking and Debit Card

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We’ve been doing a series of posts about the features and use-experience of Bluebird, a joint venture of American Express and Walmart. The financial tool describes itself as “Your Checking and Debit Alternative”. We were sponsored to write a series of posts about our experience and, at least at this point, we would describe it as “a mixed bag”.

Let’s first recap the steps we have taken with Bluebird thus far. I opened an account and then drove to my local Walmart. Once there I deposited $100 in my Bluebird account. It worked well and, within seconds, the money appeared in my account and on my iPhone app. I then turned my attention toward the second main way of adding cash- directly through a linked bank account. Based on my excellent experience with the cash deposit I expected things to work smoothly. It didn’t.

I linked my bank account to my Bluebird account and then… waited. It took two days for two small deposits from Bluebird to appear in my checking account. I “told” my Bluebird account the amounts and the two accounts were immediately linked. I transferred $100 from my checking account and waited for it to appear. Then I waited some more. And some more.

That’s where we left it off. Yesterday I flew to Las Vegas in preparation for CES 2013. That’s when I tried to use my Bluebird card for the first time.

I grabbed dinner and some drinks at a restaurant next to my hotel. The food was okay. The margarita was passable. When it came time to pay for dinner I pulled out my Bluebird card- a card that should have now had $200 available but warned the server, “I’m reviewing this card and this is the first time I’m using it. If the card is declined don’t be surprised. I’ve got the money to pay for my meal.” She laughed. So did I.

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She came back, smiled and told me that I would not have to wash dishes. The “charge” (debt actually) had gone through. She then told me about a promotion the restaurant group was offering. It sounded good and I gave her my card back for her to take $25 more from it.

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It even told me the remaining balance.

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That came in handy when I again used the card to pay for breakfast. That too went through without issue.

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And I have about $7.50 remaining in balance.

That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad news- I have about $7.50 remaining on the card. Why is that bad news? Simply- I SHOULD have $107.50 remaining on the card since I added $200.

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Yes, the $100 I transferred from my VERIFIED bank-to-Bluebird account is still stuck in pending. I’m not sure what is up with this but I’m not going to call the company and complain. Instead we’ll wait and see how this plays out.

You can learn more here on the Bluebird website.

Categories: Rants and Raves


13 replies

  1. I’d seen these cards at Walmart, and have seen people loading them there, adding cash. It seemed like a fine plan, but if you think about it, I don’t think they’re really designed for people who actually HAVE bank accounts already.

    The market for a prepaid debit type card are people who in general, have a hard time getting or keeping a bank account for a variety of reasons. The check cashing stores I used to run offered these types of cards several years ago, and I’ve been following your posts to see how the experience compared to what it was a few years ago when we used them for our check cashing store customers.

    My specific questions regarding the card are can you use them to purchase plane tickets or use them to rent cars. This is where my current group of independent contractors that I deal with have huge issues. Most of them cash their checks at WalMarts anyway, and if these cards can help them overcome the airline & rental car issues, then that would be huge for us!

    I know you may not be able to get these answers quickly, because I can certainly see a hesitation with adding enough money to rent a car or buy a plane ticket if they have held up a bank transfer from a linked account for this long. But, if you have a way to find out, I’ll be very interested to hear!

    I know the initially loaded card doesn’t have a name on it, much like branded gift cards. But, can you order a card that links your address (for billing info) and has your name on it?

    • 85% of Walmart brick and mortar store sales are by cash or debit card indicating they are the target of this product.

      Yes you can order the personalized card directly at no charge on their website.

      Airlines accept prepaid cards already but rental cars are a hit or miss thing as they want a security deposit and won’t accept something that says prepaid on it out of hand for the most part.

      • Actually all rental car companies will accept debit cards as a final payment. When you return the car, you have the option to change your payment method to cash, debt or a different credit card. Most will also accept a debit card during the rental period, but since the rental car companies may also put a large hold on the funds, (up to twice the amount of the anticipated rental amount) a consumers available cash may be decreased significantly during their rental period.

        Many of the contractors I work with now are without bank accounts, and are not eligible to open one, which means they don’t have access to a debit card at all. And the rental car companies that DO accept cash to rent a car, are often scam artists and price gougers that prey on consumers who do not have those resources available to them.

        I have a pretty fair amount of experience in consumer financial services, especially those aimed at subprime consumers and those are the people these cards are marketed to. The fact that they are also Walmart shoppers is because those subprime consumers are also usually of lower income, which means they do more of their shopping where they believe they can get the best value for the money they have available to spend, which include large discount stores like Walmart, regardless of what payment method they use.

        Thank you for answering the question about having a card personalized, that does help.

  2. Dan why don’t you call customer service and find out why people are complaining about that part of the service?

    • I did one better and reached out to out contact.

      • I don’t understand that?

        • As noted early on, this was something initiated by a contact at Bluebird, and Dan reached out to the contact for some answers about the situation.

          • Unless he calls customer service, waits forever and speaks to the people there who won’t understand him and continually parrot lines off the cue card he won’t know what the fuss is about.

            I think its only fair for that experience be experienced personally by the reviewer sponsored post or not.

            • I didn’t say that was the only thing I was going to do but I want to first find out what, if anything is amiss.
              I think I have been very fair in my approach to this review. I have also taken things step by step in a measured manner since it is too easy to have too many things playing out at once.

              • You have said there is an issue with your deposit. Any other user would be forced to call the Bluebird customer service and deal with the results.

                I am wrong about that?

                • Dan is going to call them them, as any other customer would, but first he wants to make sure that it’s nothing he did, which as a reviewer IS the responsible thing to do, before he slams the product. He has been very transparent about the entire process, as he will continue to be. Stay tuned.

                  • Sure because all customers get to do that right?

                    The people actually using this product cannot afford to have funds locked up as pending or frozen which along with the horrible (actual) customer service are the 2 biggest complaints about the product. An actual customer would be panicked over the unavailable $100 and would be calling the actual customer service lines. The frozen funds often happens with the remote deposit feature also. These complaints are swamping the web.

                    Dan should call customer service several times and then explain the results to his contact as opposed to the reverse of that.