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Walmart, Amex prepaid card relies on mobile to streamline online banking

Walmart and American Express have teamed up to launch a prepaid card called Bluebird, with mobile playing a key role in simplifying deposits, account management and person-to-person payments.

Bluebird was designed for consumers who are looking for mobile banking capabilities without high bank fees or a minimum balance requirement. The announcement comes at a time when mobile banking and payments are quickly growing but no one solution is yet dominating the market.

“Mobile technology has fundamentally changed the way that people interact with the world, and that’s why every Bluebird account is fully accessible via a smartphone app that includes multiple features, including the ability to track spending, set-up text and email alerts, make payments, send and receive money, and create and manage subaccounts for friends and family members,” said Charlotte Fuller, director of public affairs and communications at American Express, New York

“Additionally, Bluebird features mobile phone check deposits, allowing people to take a photo of a check and deposit the money into their account,” she said.

Payments evolve
Bluebird is being launched as an alternative to debit and checking accounts that merges the latest developments in payments, technology and financial services to make it simple and convenient for users to access fund and manage their money. It will be available online and in more than 4,000 Walmart stores.

Members can use the Bluebird app to add money to the account via remote check deposit as well as to manage their account.

Bluebird also allows users to also enjoy the functionality of a digital wallet by enabling person to person payments and the ability to control subaccounts for friends and family.

Walmart is increasingly active in the mobile space

“We know that eventually consumers will use their mobile phones to pay, however the adoption will not happen overnight,” Ms. Fuller said.

“With Bluebird, which is built on the Serve technology platform, we have the ability to bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds in a way that is unique in the market today – including a physical card, mobile app and P2P functionality,” she said.

“This gives consumers a mobile product that is usable today anywhere American Express is accepted with added mobile features.”

Following a pilot program launched in late 2011, Bluebird’s services were developed using feedback from consumers, who said they are not happy with the high fees associated with traditional checking account and debit services.

The card is accepted at any retail location that accepts American Express cards.

Going mobile
In addition to being able to make a deposit via remote check capture, Bluebird users will also be able to sign up for payroll direct deposit, use cash at any Walmart register to make a deposit or link a checking, savings or debit card to the account.

Members can also set up alerts and controls to manage their account, including receiving text and email alerts.

American Express and Walmart have both been active in the mobile space.

This summer, American Express began piloting a mobile service available on the brand’s iPhone app that recommends and ranks relevant merchant deals based on a card holder’s spending history and location (see story).

Walmart has been actively using mobile apps to promote in-store shopping is also working with other major retailers on developing a mobile payments solution.

“We expect that the mobile payments space will continue to evolve and as such, we’ll update our Bluebird product to meet the changing needs of consumers,” Ms. Fuller said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York