You have to hand it to those people in Bentonville, Arkansas – the corporate headquarters of Wal-Mart. They are definitely innovators. And the Walton family is big in public service. I saw an article in our paper yesterday announcing the opening of the Crystal Bridge Museum in Bentonville, which was financed in its entirety by Wal-Mart and one of the Walton heiresses.
But I digress.
The Wal-Mart-Amex solution
Here’s where the innovation comes in. Wal-Mart stores have partnered with American Express on a prepaid card that can be reloaded named Bluebird. It has no overdraft, monthly or annual fee and no minimum balance. In fact, in making the announcement Wal-Mart stated that the only fees that cardholders will be required to pay will be that are controlled by the user, such as withdrawals from out-of-network ATMs by customers that have no direct deposit.
An interesting alternative
American Express and Wal-Mart see Bluebird as an alternative to debit and checking accounts and believe that the card will help customers better control and manage their finances. They created the card based on feedback they received from their customers who said they were troubled by the growing fees associated with debit services and checking accounts.
Where bluebird can be used
A Wal-Mart spokesperson said that the Bluebird card can be used at a number of different places that accept American Express cards. Bluebird users can add funds to the card via remote check, direct deposit, via cash at any Wal-Mart store or by linking to a debit card, savings or checking account. Wal-Mart also said that it will be adding new features to the Bluebird card early next year. This will most likely include more options for depositing money and ways to write checks.
Bluebird for Christmas shopping?
The Bluebird card might be a good way to pay for your holiday shopping but do understand that it’s not a credit card. It’s just an easier way for you to access and use your own cash.
In comparison, there are some credit cards for holiday spending that might be as good or better than the Bluebird card. For example, Citibank has three no-fee cards that come with a 0% interest rate on purchases and interest-free balance transfers that last from 15 to 18 months. (However, you do pay a balance transfer fee of 3%.) One of these, the Citi Diamond Preferred card goes to a full rate of 11.99% after 18 months but includes personalized concierge services.
A second Citibank card called Citi Thank You has an interest rate of 12.99% after 15 months but gives you a Thank You point for every $1 you spend. And finally, the Citi Simplicity card, which has a rate of 12.99% after 18 months, won’t increase even if you are late in a payment.
If you pay your entire balance
Another good alternative for your holiday spending if you pay your entire balance every month might be the US Bank Cash + Visa Signature card. It has no free, a 0% introductory rate and various categories of purchases that offer a 5% rebate. The 0% offer expires after six months and then goes to 13.99%.
The Discover More card comes with no fee, has 0% interest for 15 months and a 5% cash-back bonus on purchases in special categories that rotate every three months. Finally, there is the no-fee Chase Freedom card, which has 0% interest for 15 months then goes to 12.99%. With this card, you earn 5% on up to $1,500 that you spend on hotels and airline fares. You can also earn the 5% on purchases at Best Buy and Kohl’s through the end of December – making it a good holiday shopping card indeed.