American Express Bluebird Card Review

The reloadable prepaid debit card space is getting very crowded. The leading brands so far have been Green Dot, Netspend, RushCard, Walmart MoneyCard, Vanilla Visa and the Simon Prepaid Card. However, there is a new entrant into the market that is likely to change the dynamics of the industry going forward, especially in relations to prepaid debit card fees and charges. The new card is the Walmart Bluebird Card, which is issued by American Express in partnership with Walmart. The card has many qualities that sets it apart from the competition. We would like to mention two of them.

The first is the Bluebird Card support. It is very easy to get help for your card and the Bluebird card customer service number is prominently on the back of the card and American Express has gone out of their way to make it easy for all their cardholders to communicate with them, both online and via phone. There is even a robust social media platform that integrates seamlessly with your account, as the attached video below shows:

With this level of customer support, it is no surprise that the Bluebird card is now one of the most favorite prepaid cards on the market – because it is backed by two solid brands – AMEX and Walmart. The other feature we like most about this card is the list of free services that come with it. Prepaid debit cards are notorious for charging crazy fees, even on simple things like balance check, contacting customer service, or getting a copy of your statement. But the Bluebird card is different. First, activation is free if you sign up for the card online, which makes it accessible to many people. Second, there is no monthly or maintenance fee and you don’t have to maintain a minimum balance on the card. With all these free feature, we are rating this card one of the best on the market.

If you look at the number of complaints received by card holders of prepaid debit cards submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, you will understand why we are recommending this card with such praise, because it is very rare to find prepaid cards that provide excellent customer service and have a card that is set up to only charge a bare minimum of fees and not burden cardholders with necessary fees, such as inactivity and account maintenance fees.

Direct Express Card vs Direct Deposit

One of the most often asked questions from those receiving government benefits is whether to select the direct express card option or get their benefit payment direct deposited into their bank checking or savings account. If you are not sure why this question is important, here is some background. The US Treasury Department, which is in charge of sending benefit checks to eligible recipients – like Social Security and Veterans Affairs Benefits, made a rule recently that required all federal benefit payments to be sent via electronic payments starting in March 2013. This was done for obvious reasons – to save money on postage and mailing and reduce the incidence of checks being lost in the mail.

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As a benefits recipient, you have two options to comply with this directive. You can either select to have your payments deposited into a Direct Express Debit Card account  – or you can have your payment sent via direct deposited into your checking or savings account with your local bank or credit union. If you are receiving check payments and do not select an option, you will automatically be enrolled in the direct express program and your payment will be sent to a direct express credit card which you must then sign up for an account to be able to get your money. Therefore, if you do not want the government choosing how you should receive your benefits check, then you have to select one of the two options provided. The Direct Express card program is very well run by Comerica bank with less fees and great customer service.

Based on how the program has run thus far, one can say that adding this as an option to the traditional checking account has been a success for seniors. And since the program is not laden with tons of fees and charges, it almost runs as a debit card, which is what you would want in a program that is targeted at people on fix income who cannot be burdened with unnecessary fees and charges.

Government Debit Cards and Fraud

Why are prepaid debit cards issued by the U.S federal government or States the target of increasing internet fraud and scams? For example, when you go to the Eppicard website, you are hit with alarming warnings about Phishing. Similarly, like the Eppicard, the Direct Express card is a target. The federal government issues the direct express card to pay federal benefits to recipients like Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits. The card is issued by Comerica bank under license with MasterCard. The Direct Express Debit card is the other option available to receive federal benefits if you are not doing direct deposit into your checking or savings account. However, in recent months, a lot of scammers have targeted direct express card holders with Phishing emails.

Part of the reason is that the scammers know that a large majority of those using the direct express debit MasterCard are seniors and may not be technology savvy. As a result, they are more likely to become alarmed by Phishing emails that claim that their Direct Express account is blocked and that they have to take immediate action to unblock the account. Comerica bank seems to be aware and concerned about this fraudulent activity and are taking action through the Direct Express Website – warming cardholders to be careful and protect their account information. The question is whether this information is getting to the intended target. You should contact the Direct Express customer service if you get a suspicious text or email asking you to provide your card or account information.

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One possible explanation as to why government debit cards are prone to fraud may be because the card holders may think it is secure because it is a card issued by the government. They have this false sense of security in the protection of from the government regarding their personal information and trusting that nothing suspicious will happen. However, the government is as vulnerable to phishing and other electronic and internet attacks from criminals as private companies are. In fact, the government may actually react slowly to incidents that say a private company whose reputation depends on protecting data. So, there is no reason for these cardholders to be careless with protecting their cards or personal information. In addition, since some cardholders use public computers or internet connections to log into their accounts, they are more likely to expose themselves to thieves who are waiting to harvest their information for personal gain.

As the video from the Federal Trade Commission shows above, the true place to get your free credit report to monitor your credit is from AnnualCreditReport website. There are other sites advertising similar services but once you dig deeper, you will realize they are not free. If you are a holder of any government prepaid card, like SNAP benefits, Unemployment Benefits Eppicard, WIC, TANF, Medigap, Supplimental Income, Veterans Affairs pension, Social Security Debit, etc, you should take steps to protect your private information knowing that the government is slow to react when there are breaches. Don’t wait until something bad happens before you have to react. That time may be too late. Besides, it takes a lot of time to recover money lost through identity theft or phishing. Save yourself all that hassle and future paperwork by learning more about how to keep your government debit cards, personal and confidential information as safe as possible. The video above will show you how.