Pendum

Retail giant Walmart and credit card brand American Express have announced the launch of Bluebird, a new low-cost prepaid account aimed at the un- and under-banked. The program will go live next week online at bluebird.com and in more than 4,000 Walmart stores nationwide.

Bluebird accounts are meant to provide users with a low-cost prepaid alternative to debit and checking accounts. According to an independent study by Bretton Woods, consumers now pay an average of $259 per year for a basic checking account.

"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," said Daniel Eckert, vice president of financial services for Walmart U.S. "Bluebird solves this problem and we believe it's the best product on the market to help customers affordably manage their everyday finances."

Bluebird members can deposit money in a variety of ways — by payroll direct deposit, by RDC through the Bluebird mobile app, by loading the card with cash at any Walmart register, or by linking to a checking, savings, or debit card.

Consumers who use Bluebird can avoid the minimum balance requirements and monthly fees associated with checking accounts and other prepaid options. Additionally, they get fee- and surcharge-free access to 22,000 MoneyPass ATMs, provided that they sign up for direct deposit to their Bluebird account.

Those not enrolled in direct deposit must pay $2 to use a MoneyPass ATM. For out-of-network ATMs, each withdrawal is also $2; additional ATM operator fees also apply.

Bluebird is built on the American Express Serve platform for digital payments and commerce. The program's mobile features include a digital wallet for person-to-person payments, a mobile app, and the ability to set up and control subaccounts.

"Bluebird is our solution to help consumers who currently may be poorly served by traditional banking products," said Dan Schulman, group president, Enterprise Growth, American Express. "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."

In the first quarter of 2013, Bluebird will be adding new features to Bluebird, such as more deposit options and check-writing capabilities.

For more stories like this, visit the mobile banking research center.

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