A whole lot of cash changes hands in the Walmarts of the world every day. About 85 percent of the company’s daily transactions are done in cash.
After all, many of the discount retailer’s customers don’t necessarily have credit or checking accounts. That’s something that has led Wal-Mart's corporate execs to try and figure out ways to help serve that market’s financial needs, even if it means creating a whole new system of payment.
That's why Walmart is teaming up with American Express to roll out a prepaid financial-services product called Bluebird that "will allow for deposits by smartphone and mobile bill paying, with no minimum balance or monthly, annual or overdraft fees." The tagline — "Loaded with features, not fees" — emphasizes the fact that this is a move to help consumers who are struggling to pay their monthly bills, let alone go shopping.
"Bluebird is our solution to help consumers who currently may be poorly served by traditional banking products," stated Dan Schulman, group president of American Express, in a press release. "In an era where it is increasingly 'expensive to be poor,' we have worked with Wal-Mart to create a financial services product that rights many of the wrongs that plague the market today."
The nationwide launch of Bluebird this month — first online, and then to some 4,000 Walmart stores across America — follows a pilot test of the program late last year. As the bluebird.com website today informs customers involved in that trial,
Bluebird is changing. As part of these improvements, we are ending the current bluebird program and closing all accounts from that program on December 8th, 2012. We want to minimize any disruption this may cause to you and give you plenty of time before your current bluebird account is closed. So, you can continue to use your current bluebird Card and access your account here at bluebirdmoney.com until December 8th, 2012 or until you close your account.
A refund check will automatically be sent to you for the remaining balance on your current bluebird Card at the time the account is closed on December 8th or if you close your bluebird account before then. Prior to December 8th, you will also have the option to transfer your current bluebird Card balance to a new Bluebird Account once the new Bluebird launches.
As you can see below, the formal launch of Bluebird also tweaks the visual identity, with the new logo now capitalizing the first 'b':
It's not the only way that Walmart is helping consumers who are burdened by debt or just penny-pinching. The retail giant has offered low-fee check cashing, as Reuters notes. And in a move backed by the Walmart Foundation, it's also trying to help families who are struggling to make ends meet by extending a partnership with Goodwill to help women advance their careers and bring home a bigger paycheck through job training.