Thinking outside the account
American Express introduced the Bluebird prepaid
card through a partnership with Walmart in 2012. For the most part, American Express has fared well with the Bluebird program, considering it entered a crowded prepaid card field — both within the industry and within Walmart itself, with various other prepaid products sold at the stores, said Ben Jackson, a senior analyst at Mercator Advisory Group.
However, it may not have delivered what Amex was hoping for early in the launch, Jackson said.
"Based on the fact they haven't talked about it much, prepaid has not led to new credit customers like they had hoped," he added. "When they launched, they said if they liked the prepaid customers and their spending patterns, they would offer credit cards."
Thus, Amex has chosen to tinker with the Bluebird model, adding features such as one not found on any standard credit or debit card: access to the Walmart2Walmart domestic money transfer network.
If Amex can expand the market for Bluebird, it may bring it closer to its traditional audience. The recent addition of a Bluebird2Walmart money transfer option represents another step for Bluebird, said Stefan Happ, executive vice president and general manager of global prepaid and alternative payments at American Express.
The service ties into Ria's Walmart2Walmart money transfer network, which allows customers to send funds to be picked up at another Walmart location within the U.S. "Our work with Walmart and Ria links Bluebird and Serve to the broader Walmart2Walmart universe," Happ said.
Bluebird also launched Cash Pickup powered through Ria earlier this year, allowing cardholders easier access to cash beyond traditional ATM limits and enabling a "high-dollar, funds-off route for tax refund deposits," Happ added.