“Walmart Money Center” is the catch-all term for Walmart’s growing suite of banking services. By all appearances, Walmart aims to offer a fast, low-cost alternative to banks while keeping the in-person convenience. The Center offers replacements for checking accounts and innovative debit card solutions among many other perks. The Bluebird Card, Walmart’s debit card crown jewel, provides an excellent near-zero fee option for individuals and families. The Walmart Credit Card packs an enticing special financing benefit while other services like in-store bill pay present a convenient way to stave off a potential credit score disaster.
What is Walmart Money Center?
Walmart Money Center is the bank-like alcove at the front of most Walmart stores. To those who haven’t used it, it may look like a pseudo-bank, but it’s basically the convenience store model applied to banking. Beyond the physical location, it’s a quiver of money skills that let Walmart shoppers and smartphone users conduct simple money management tasks easily.
There’s some sense that Walmart is still feeling its way. Confusing double offerings like the Walmart Money Card and the similar but highly superior Bluebird Card signal that the Center is still in its experimentation phase. Other “Money Center” services like check printing and product care plans, while valuable, appear tacked-on. Still, at heart it’s a powerhouse of wallet solutions. Its best features enable multiple options for easy bill payment, credit, checking, paycheck cashing and family money sharing. There are also options for money transfers and money orders.
Walmart Money Center Features
The Walmart Money Center presents a great debit card option plus a decent credit card and a few features to avoid. Below is the full list of the Center’s capabilities. Scroll down for details.
- Bluebird Card. This is Walmart Money Center’s flagship debit card. Signature features include virtually no fees, easy bill pay and brand new money sharing options.
- Walmart Credit Card. This card carries a decent rewards structure and a fairly enticing no-interest grace period on all Walmart purchases.
- Walmart Money Card. Formerly known as Walmart’s Green Dot Card, this prepaid card has had its teeth removed by high and hard-to-dodge fees. It does provide a unique rewards structure that most prepaid cards simply don’t possess.
- Pay Bills at Walmart. Consumers can pay bills at Walmart even without any kind of Walmart card or account. This great walk-in service can be a real credit-score saver in a pinch. Bill pay works at the Money Center or at any register.
- Tax Prep. Starting in January of 2017, taxpayers can figure and file their taxes with Jackson Hewitt tax pros in person at nearly any Walmart store.
- Other money matters. Additional services under the Walmart Money Center umbrella include check printing, money transfers, money orders and the Coinstar coin exchange machine.
The Bluebird Card: Walmart Money Center’s No Fee Bank Account for Families
The Bluebird Card is Walmart Money Center’s one-card solution to dozens of family money concerns. It’s a prepaid money card with almost no fees. It allows online bill pay from computers and smartphones. Users can reload it by direct deposit, bank transfer, with cash at the Walmart checkout or even by depositing checks with a smartphone. The card can be split into as many as four separate cards and shared with family members as young as age 16. By dint of a slick smartphone app, parents can even set spending limits and ATM access for each card.
The card also comes with stellar 90 day purchase protection from American Express. The added service protects shoppers in the event a product goes kaput. More than a prepaid card, Bluebird is really an alternative to family banking. Here are the card’s features in a nutshell:
Bluebird Card Features
- Pay bills online or with the Bluebird App for iPhone or Android.
- Add money free with direct deposit or by cashing paychecks. Also add money with bank transfers, with cash at a Walmart checkout or by mobile check deposit.
- No annual fee. No fees for activation, overdraft, direct deposit, check cashing, reloading or bank transfers. No fees for ATM use at MoneyPass ATMs, bill pay, checks, sending money, replacement cards, account dormancy and several other actions. In fact the only fees are for cash pickup at Walmart ($3 to $9 depending on amount) and buying a new card in store ($5)
- Manage the account from the Bluebird Mobile app.
- No minimum balance and no credit review.
- Get up to four cards with one account and set spending limits on each from the Bluebird App.
- Send money to other Bluebird account holders.
The Walmart Credit Card: It’s All About the Special Financing
The Walmart Money Center’s credit card comes in two flavors: standard and MasterCard. We’ll talk about the MasterCard option in this section. The card’s high interest and uninspired rewards structure has some reviewers crying foul, but this card’s real punch comes in the no-interest grace period.
Rewards Structure: So-so. The Walmart MasterCard has a decent unlimited rewards structure that gets beat by several other cards. At first glance it looks stellar: 3% cash back on all Walmart.com purchases, 2% on gas bought at Murphy USA and Walmart locations and 1% on everything else. While that’s not bad, a closer look reveals no special rewards for shopping in Walmart stores. Better rewards plans exist, like the Citi Double Cash card and the Capital One Quicksilver Rewards card. Those cards offer 1.5% to 2% back on all purchases.
Interest Rate: High. The Walmart MasterCard levies a high 17.15% to 23.15% interest rate depending on creditworthiness. A $1,000 balance on this card would add $231 after a year.
Grace Period: Excellent. Walmart in-store purchases of $299 or more carry no interest for 12 months with this card. Purchases of $150 to $299 don’t rack up interest for six months. That’s a long grace period for any card. To take advantage of it, cardholders must bring this certificate into the store to be scanned at the checkout.
Bottom Line: With a mediocre rewards scheme and a high interest rate, this card works well for those interested solely in its no-interest feature. Even that can be a trap though, encouraging out-of-budget spending that leads to high interest payments down the road.
The Walmart Money Card: Avoid this High Fee Money Card
The Walmart Money Center’s signature money card pales next to the excellent Bluebird Card on offer. Where the Bluebird Card is a prepaid debit card with nary a fee in sight, the Walmart Money Card is a fee minefield. Formerly called the Walmart Green Dot Card, this prepaid debit card has suffered some important changes. The worst among these is the increased fee structure.
Fees. There’s a $5 monthly fee, waived if users load in $1,000 or more every month. There’s a $2.50 ATM and bank teller fee. The card charges $1 for in-store activation, $0.50 for an ATM balance inquiry, $3 for card replacement and $5.95 for 12 paper checks. There’s also a $3 card issuance fee and a $3 reload fee in some situations.
Rewards. The one pleasant surprise of the Walmart Money Card is the rewards structure. Since this is a prepaid debit card, it’s amazing that it offers any rewards at all. The card pays 3% cash back for Walmart.com purchases, 2% on gas at select locations and 1% on everything else. The catch is that rewards can’t exceed $75 per year. That money is almost sure to get eaten up by the high fee plan.
Bottom Line. It’s puzzling why the Walmart Money Card still exists with the availability of the very similar but far superior Bluebird Card.
Pay Bills at Walmart: An Excellent Credit Score Saver
Anyone who has ever missed a bill payment thanks to a busy schedule knows how damaging missed payments can be to a credit score. Walmart has come to the rescue (for a price) with its in-store bill payment service. The service offers real convenience, giving consumers a way to avoid late fees. To use the service:
- Visit any Walmart.
- Go to the Walmart Money Center or the Customer Service desk.
- Standard bills cost $1 to process and deliver in three business days.
- Expedited bills cost $1.50 and deliver next day.
- Express payments cost $3.95 and deliver in 10 minutes.
- Bill payments at Walmart can be made with cash or any debit card.
- Not all billers are available for Walmart bill pay. Even fewer are available for express pay. The best way to find out what bills you can pay at Walmart is to visit a Walmart Money Center with a list of billers and ask.
Walmart Tax Prep Services: Money Center’s Convenient Tax Helper
Taxpayers who need their taxes done in person conveniently can now consider Walmart Money Center as a good alternative. Online services like TurboTax and H&R Block are an excellent choice, but for one reason or another, some will want in-person help. Starting in January of 2017, Walmart will provide tax help from tax pros at Jackson Hewitt tax service. The service gets 3.5 stars at the Better Business Bureau. That’s about the same as TurboTax’s parent company Intuit. According to CBS News the average tax return costs about $208 through Hewitt. That’s about $20 more than H&R Block.
Other Walmart Money Center Services: Money Transfers, Money Orders, Check Printing, Coinstar
People who need access to other banking services without a bank account can take advantage of the Walmart Money Center’s other features. The Center offers money transfers, money orders, check printing and even a coin exchange machine called Coinstar.
Check printing. Walmart offers decent prices about 25% cheaper than the other check printing services we surveyed. The cost runs from $7.46 for 150 standard security checks up to $34 for 600 designer checks. Business checks are available too.
Money Transfers. Consumers can stop in to Walmart to transfer money just about anywhere in the world. Transfers inside the U.S. cost a somewhat steep $12.99 up to $187 for amounts transferred up to $3,000. The service works through MoneyGram and is cheaper internationally. For example a $100 transfer to the Philippines costs $4.99. Bring cash since credit card and bank account money transfers aren’t accepted.
Product Care Plans. Product care plans can be purchased up to 30 days after purchase for anything bought at Walmart.com or in a Walmart store. The plans are reasonably priced and make a lot of sense for certain high-dollar products that have a tendency to go bad after the warrantee runs out. Most manufacturer warrantees only cover defects in materials and workmanship. A Walmart product care plan however also supports breakage, pixel failure, damage and mechanical and electrical failure. For example a $1,000 TV bought at Walmart that blows out in a year is a gigantic paperweight. That TV can be protected for three years against all damage with a Walmart product care plan. Plans also come with premium tech help from Soluto.