Walmart

Wal-Mart to Offer Prepaid Cards and Debit Accounts

Surprise partnership with American Express

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Wal-Mart Stores is taking another leap into the banking world, offering a prepaid card and debit account with American Express that will give low-income consumers access to features like deposits by smartphone.

It is a surprising alliance between the discounter Wal-Mart and American Express, which until recently has been focused on high-end consumers. The move, announced Monday, is intended to strengthen both companies' positions in the market for prepaid cards—which, unlike credit and debit cards, are largely unregulated and have far fewer consumer protections.

The account, called Bluebird, will be available next week. The companies are positioning it as an option for people turned off by bank fees. "The only fees consumers will ever pay are clear, transparent and within their control," like out-of-network ATM fees, the companies said in a release.