Wal-Mart, AmEx Team on Prepaid Card

BENTONVILLE, Ark — Wal-Mart Stores [4] and American Express on Monday announced the launch of Bluebird, a prepaid payment card they said is an alternative to more expensive checking and debit accounts.

The program, which launches next week, is available at Wal-Mart stores and through bluebird.com. Bluebird builds on a pilot program launched late in 2011 and was shaped by feedback from consumers who said they were not getting the value they expect from traditional checking account and debit services because of higher fees, Wal-Mart said.

Bluebird will include capabilities such as deposits by mobile phone and mobile bill pay; fee transparency; and no minimum balance, monthly, annual or overdraft fees, the companies said.

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“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,” Daniel Eckert, vice president of financial services for Wal-Mart, said in a statement.

In a research note Monday, Deborah Weinswig, an analyst at Citibank, said the new offering could help drive incremental traffic to Wal-Mart. “We believe Bluebird will resonate well with Wal-Mart's core customer, as only 15% of Wal-Mart’s sales are paid for with a credit card, and could drive increased mindshare and incremental traffic over time,” she said.

Wal-Mart said the new offering would broaden its assortment of financial products, which already includes a prepaid card option though Green Dot.

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