Bluebird soars higher


While Bluebird continues to be one of the best tools available for collecting points and miles (see “Bluebird takes flight and changes the game“), it is just now living up to its promise of becoming a full fledged checking account alternative.

In my first ever post about American Express’ Bluebird card (see “Bluebird is coming. The sky isn’t falling“), I quoted American Express’ promise to add check writing capabilities:

In the first quarter of 2013, Bluebird will be adding additional features, such as more options to deposit money and check-writing capabilities.

And, true to their word, with a few days remaining in the first quarter, American Express did indeed add check-writing capabilities to Bluebird.  Additionally, they added Check by Mail deposits, and FDIC insurance.  They also raised the total account balance limit to $100,000 (but only for funds added through Direct Deposit and Check by Mail deposits).

Feature-wise, Bluebird now really does have all of the pieces needed to be a good alternative to a checking account.  The best part is that American Express charges no fees (except for ATM fees, which can be avoided by setting up direct deposit and using MoneyPass ATMs).  On the other hand, many readers have complained about Bluebird (often due to customer service issues) so they may still have a way to go to earn the average person’s business.

For points collectors, Bluebird has become incrementally better.  You can still buy Vanilla Reload cards at certain various stores (using a credit card in order to earn points), and then load the funds to Bluebird.  You can still access those funds through Bluebird’s Bill Pay feature, or by transferring money to another bank account.  And, now, you have the additional option to write a paper check.  Nice!

Checks are free until August (for your first order).  Here are details from the press release:

Bluebird Members have access to one free checkbook until August 2013. Thereafter, Bluebird Members enrolled in direct deposit can receive their first checkbook of 50 checks at no charge, otherwise direct deposit and non-direct deposit users can order a book of 50 checks for $26 (including shipping).

To get your free checks, log into your Bluebird account then go to “My Account… order Bluebird Checks”.  You will be given the option to order 50 or 100 checks.  Since the first order is free, I’d recommend going with 100.

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Paul: Yikes. Thanks for the warning. It sounds like you’re better off simply transferring the funds from Bluebird to your regular checking account and paying taxes from there.


Rick says:
April 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm
Be advised….if you are loading up your bluebird to pay federal income tax with a check, you might be SOL…They wont authorize a check sent to a PO Box which is where you will send it if you own them anything…..

Has anyone tried authorizing the check to a non po box address and sending the check to the actual PO box and getting it to work? With the paper checks, this looks like a way to get around the PO box issue.


Ron: Yes, after logging into, there’s a button near the middle of the screen called “transfer money”. Use that to move money to your checking account.


Just got my Bluebird – late to the party, I know..
Anyway, is there some obvious way I can transfer money from my bluebird to my checking?
Or should I just send a check to myself?


I think using VRs to supplement your spending is fine, but don’t overdo it. Lots of charges on consecutive days for 1007.90 or close to it will set off alarms with the card issuers and they will shut us down. I try not to go over 50% with my VRs to hit a minimum.


Mike: it depends how much you do. Yes, it is possible to raise flags if you suddenly start charging a huge amount more than you have before — especially if you start charging up to (or close to) your credit limit.


I seem to be 1 of the lucky ones, after a short half hearted search I came across 2 stores loaded with VR’s, (CVS & Walgreens) I purchased my 1st one today on a CC. and loaded Bluebird.
My question is, if you consistently make VR purchases with your CC’s doesn’t that raise a red flag with the CC issuer?
I’m looking to get through my spend on 3 cards and I’m cautious about putting a majority of the spend into VR’s


The CVS on my way home from work still allows credit cards (for now) luckily! On the cash register, there is a sign that says prepaid debit cards can only be purchased with cash or debit card. All others can be purchased with credit cards.

I have had no issues. They just always ask me from my license to verify the name on the credit card. I hope that they don’t stop! This is my first month with Bluebird and I excited to get cashback for paying bills that I already had to but never would have before (i.e. mortgage, HOA, etc).


Cashing a BlueBird Check :
Just a warning to all you BlueBird users. BlueBird checks can not (ironically) be cashed by somebody who does not have a bank account (unless they want to pay a fee at a check cashing shop). I wrote a Bluebird check to to a contractor who does not have a checking account and he visited 3 banks, including BOA, BB&T, and Wells Fargo (where the money ultimately lies) all of which who told him he could not cash the check unless he had an account with their bank. This is despite what 2 customer service representatives told me when I initially called them before he went to the banks. I was also told by one of them that he could take it to Walmart and cash it there. Walmart told him they would not take a hand written check, it had to be printed. That sounded like store policy, so your experience may vary at Walmart. In anycase, I called AMEX BlueBird CS for the 3rd time and spoke with a supervisor who confirmed, you can not cash a Bluebird check (for free) without having a bank account.


Thanks Jonathan, that’s very good to know. What a pain…


“Rick says:
April 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Be advised….if you are loading up your bluebird to pay federal income tax with a check, you might be SOL…They wont authorize a check sent to a PO Box which is where you will send it if you own them anything…..”

Is this true if you will be using a BB check that you write yourself? In other words, I have the new checks in hand. Does the pre-authorization ask for an address? and if so, that address cannot be a PO box? I mail my personal (non BB) checks to my landscaper c/o his PO box. So I couldn’t use the new BB checks for that either?

It seems to me one of the advantages of the new BB checks woulb be if I can mail them anywhere….

So – can we or can’t we write a new BB check to the IRS or state tax folks? Thanks.


Mike: You would have to see if the issuing bank allows you to create a PIN. Great question.


Can you load your bluebird at walmart with a $200 best buy debit visa card?


Thanks – just went to pick up more…you know this is a big trend when you see litter in parking lot of CVS and it is 2 used vanilla reload cards torn in half…


MR H: Calendar months


Are limits per 31 day period or calendar months?