Wal-Mart, American Express Team on Prepaid Card

WalmartNEW YORK (AP) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) and American Express (AXP) are rolling out a prepaid card that they say offers unique services designed to help customer manage and control their everyday finances.

The two companies said Monday that Bluebird, which began during a pilot program late last year, will have no minimum balance and no monthly, annual or overdraft fees. They say that the only fees that will be associated with the card will be transparent and within the user's control, such as out of network ATM withdrawals by consumers who don't use direct deposit.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and American Express Co. say the card is an alternative to debit and checking accounts and will include such features as the ability to deposit a check to one's Bluebird account by simply taking a picture with a smart phone. It will also offer the same fraud protections in an event the card is stolen or lost as other standard cards.

The companies say Bluebird was built on feedback from consumers who said they were bothered by rising fees related to checking accounts and debit services.

"We are recreating and reimagining what checking and banking services might look like in the 21st century," said Dan Schulman, group president, Enterprise Growth at American Express in an interview with The Associated Press. He said the partnership with Wal-Mart aims to set up a "moral equivalent of a bank branch at retail."

The move comes as American Express is looking for new ways to expand its customer base beyond its traditional wealthy clientele. For Wal-Mart, the Bluebird service is the latest financial product offering to be pushed by the world's largest retailer, but it's also the most comprehensive.

Prepaid cards are a fast-growing segment of the payments industry. While the cards are aimed mainly at people who don't have bank accounts or whose credit ratings are damaged, they also are becoming popular with consumers seeking to avoid surprise bank fees and keep from accumulating credit card balances.

But prepaid cards are typically not linked to a checking account. Monday's announcement shows how the financial service landscape is changing in light of the rising popularity of smart phones and other technological advances, and evolving needs of consumers, who want on-the-go financial services.

"Our customers tell us that they're tired of navigating a complex maze of do's 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.

Wal-Mart is not new to the prepaid card segment, as it already offers prepaid cards from Green Dot Corp (GDOT). During a call with reporters, Eckert said that Walmart has no plans to end its relationship with Green Dot in light of its new partnership with American Express. The discounter has a contract with Green Dot that expires in 2015. He says Wal-Mart is just broadening its assortment of financial services to serve more customers.

The Bluebird cards can be used at a variety of locations that accept American Express. Users can deposit funds onto the card via direct deposit, with cash at any Walmart register, or by linking a checking, savings or debit card to the account. Another key feature: the user can set up sub-accounts for family members or others giving them access to certain funds, instead of the entire account. So parents could set up such accounts using Bluebird for their children in college.

Wal-Mart and American Express said that more features will be added to Bluebird in the first quarter of 2013. These features will include more options to deposit money and check-writing capabilities.

Bluebird will be available next week at www.bluebird.com and in more than 4,000 Walmart stores.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., is the world's biggest retailer. Its stock added a penny to $75.14 in midday trading Monday. Shares of American Express, which is based in New York, gained 4 cents to $58.60.

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Hello Steegs

We have to stomp out Wal- Mart now , before it is too late, The U.S. economy will never recover until Wally-World is gone !. It's time to quit doing what we want, and start doing what we should.

October 09 2012 at 9:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Rottie, you sound like Mike Douglas's character from Wall Street. Why d
on't you just write, "Greed is good"?

October 09 2012 at 7:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The stuff you buy at wall-mart is not being made in the USA because our standard of living is higher then in other countries. Thus the cost of manufacturing would be way higher. Do not fool yourself in thinking you do not want a WALL-MART. You may not like WALL-MART but you need WALL-MART.
Just as you need mexicans to pick your food. Jamaican's to care for your old. Sweat shops to make your clothes.
Chinamen to make your cell phone's.
You want your kids to have it better then you did in life. You do not want your kid doing the kind of work that is needed to make what Wall-mart sells.
Do you really think we could get americans to pick veggies and fruits again?
Work in industrial slaughter house's? Work 14 Hr days for min. wage? Live in company dorm's?
Now no check cashing fee's.
No trip to the bank.
You can spend your last dime.
Do not fool yourself, Banks did not want this kind of customer. This kind of customer cost's the bank's money.

October 09 2012 at 6:14 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Walmart has become the biggest joke of a store to shop at in the country. The clientel in there just plain scares me. Even the crackheads come out in the daytime. Poor people are poor because they choose to stay uneducated. Especially on how to manage $. They chose to drop out of school so therefore, it is up to themselves to continue to educate yourself. Start with some common sense. I have no sympathy for poor broke folks. I have ran into some people I went to school with that were poor and now at 50, they're still poor. That's all they will ever be in life is poor simpletons. What a shame. I didn't go to college but I did find a job that I now make $19.00hr. cleaning toilets. For who? Exxon-Mobil office buildings. I have lived on minimum wage and was not poor or broke & I did not receive any government help like food stamps. I have too much pride for that. The world sucks today and so does Walmart.

October 09 2012 at 2:30 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I've said before that walmarts entire plan was to get their own credit card..and then bank..once they get to have their own bank..if you thought credit unions failing were disastrous..wait till that happens

October 09 2012 at 1:35 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Walmart is destroying itself not even this American Express deal will save them! Shop anywhere but Walmart, No Walmart Monopoly in the U S . When Walmart gets rid of competition then prices will soar.

October 08 2012 at 11:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob my love 24/7

Just another way to get the illegals to shop exclusively at Walmart. Lets make it easier for them to live here. When actually they should be sent back to their country of orgin! Now they can access everything with this card. Stop making it easy for them!!!!!!

October 08 2012 at 11:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love Wal-Mart.. I go to Costco also. I can't afford to shop at other stores. At $ 5.15 a gal for gas, I can't afford to drive anymore either. Times sure are great right now under obama. I didn't vote for him but am glad you all did. How else could I be doing so damn well.

October 08 2012 at 10:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

for those of us who have no bank account anymore due to loss of a good job, and now have low paying job,or poor ppl, low income ppl its not a joke its a good thing...for what little money we have, we prefer not to carry cash, or to shop online, rent movies u need a credit card (AMY) so how can it be a joke ? and low income or poor ppl wanna feel important too !!!!! or do we not matter....and again for low income, poor ppl who have no car, and either walk or take the bus, or in my case its a walk away,(Walmart) then guess what we have no choice but to shop there, so values and feelings or saying of walmart dont matter, they have everything and its cheap and we can afford it.. When its all u got,, then thank God for walmart....we cant afford to shop fiesta palis royal or kroger....and they saw fit to take are toys r us, so back to shop for toys at walmart.....

October 08 2012 at 10:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Christopher Hurst

oh damn i thought the article was going to say walmart is going out of business and moving to china.....lol

October 08 2012 at 9:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply