Is American Express Bluebird’s “Send Money” the Next Amazon Payments?

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Bluebird Introduction

One of the best uses of American Express Bluebird is the ability to pay for transactions which can’t usually be made with a miles or points earning credit card. Transactions such as your rent, mortgage, car payment, credit card bill, tuition etc.

You load your Bluebird card (which you can order online) with a points earning debit card at Wal-Mart.  You can also reload Bluebird with Vanilla Reload cards which you can buy at CVS, Walgreen’s or other locations.  Alternate with other credit cards so that you’re not spending too much at buying Vanilla Reloads with any one credit card.

Here’s a post on other credit cards to use with Bluebird, so that you’re not maxing out on just 1 card.

You may also be able to pay for the Vanilla Reloads with a credit card at Walgreen’s, but this isn’t always the case and could be a bit of wild goose chase.

Here’s a post on what a Vanilla Reload looks like and  how to load a Vanilla Reload card to your Bluebird account.

Bluebird Send Money

American Express Bluebird lets you send money electronically from 1 person to another person outside of the Bill Pay feature which I reviewed here.

At first glance, this seems similar to Amazon payments where you can send up to $1,000 with a credit card, fee free per month, from 1 user to another.  Amazon payments is a great way to help with minimum spending requirements on credit cards.

You can send up to $2,500 monthly using the Bluebird “Send Money” feature, and the maximum amount per transaction is also $2,500.  You can also set up payments automatically from one person to another.  However, the person to whom you send money has to either have a Bluebird account or open a Bluebird account to receive money.

Emily transferred $100 to me, and the money immediately appeared in my account.

What’s the difference between “Send Money” and “Pay Bills”

The main difference is that the “send money” feature is NOT supposed to be used to pay a merchant, business or commercial entity for goods or services (use Bluebird “Pay Bills” for that).  The terms say (bolding mine):

Payment to a merchant, business, or any type of commercial entity, or a payment (or request) sent in connection with the sale of goods or services or for payment on a debt or amount owed, is not an eligible use of Send Money and is prohibited (Pay Bills is the only currently approved means of sending payments to a merchant, business or other commercial entity via Bluebird).

I interpret this to mean that it is okay to use Bluebird “Send Money” to send gifts to others (for example Emily sent me $100 in the example below).

But it appears that you can’t use Send Money to pay for goods and services like you can with Amazon Payments.

The second difference is that the person to whom you are sending money using the “Send Money” feature needs to have a Bluebird account (or sign up for one) while the business or person to whom you send money using the “Pay Bills” feature doesn’t need a Bluebird account.

Why “Send Money” is not the next amazon payments

You can send up to $1,000 per month (ideally not exact dollar amounts) between persons with a credit card using Amazon payments, which is a good way to meet minimum spending requirements.

I’m pretty sure that Amazon knows about this (they are filled with smart, hardworking folks who mine data like no other), but chooses to allow folks to transfer money in order to build market share.

I suspect that American Express will have a lot less tolerance than Amazon if you transfer money back and forth between Bluebird accounts – especially if you share the same address.

American Express is much more conservative than Amazon and has among the best risk management systems and is also the purveyor of the financial review.

Bluebird is much too valuable to lose (because of the ability to pay credit card bills, mortgages, rent, etc.), and I certainly wouldn’t want to risk having my account shut down for transferring money back and forth between the same accounts.

How to Send Money

Here’s how to send money using Bluebird if you have a legitimate reason such as making gifts to kids in college or to family members living elsewhere.

Step 1 – Log in to your Bluebird account

Log into your Bluebird account online.

Step 2 – Click on “send money”

Click on the “send money” button which is on the left of the screen.

Click on “send money”

Step 3 – Enter payment information

A.   Enter the email address of the person to whom you want to send money.  That person has to have a Bluebird account or open a Bluebird account to receive the money.

Make sure to send it to the email account associated with the receiver’s Bluebird account.

Step 3  – Enter Payment Information

B.   Enter a message (if you want to).

C.  Enter the amount you want to send.

D.   You can enter the frequency of payments ranging from daily, weekly, Biweekly & Monthly.

You can also set the payment for a future date.

Then click the “Review” button.

Then Click “Review”

Step 4 – Enter your PIN

Enter your PIN number and then hit submit.

Step 4 – Enter your PIN

Step 5 – Confirmation

You will see a confirmation for your payment.

Step 5 – Confirmation

How to Receive Money

I immediately received an email that Emily had sent me money.

The $100 E-Mail!

Here’s what I did to receive the money from Emily’s account.

Step 1 – Log in to your Bluebird account

Log into your Bluebird account online.

Step 2 – Click on “updates”

Click on the “Updates” button which is at the bottom left of the screen.  You can also scrolls down the main page to see details of the transaction

I had the option to:

  • Suggest a new amount
  • Cancel the transaction or
  • Accept the transaction

Step 3 – Click on “accept transaction”

I clicked on “accept transaction”

Click “accept transaction”

The next screen indicated that I had received $100 from Emily and my account balance increased by $100 immediately.

$100 Transferred to Me Via Bluebird “Send Money”

Bottom Line

I wouldn’t abuse the American Express Bluebird “Send Money” feature to send money from person to person.

Bluebird opens up a lot of other ways to complete minimum spending on credit cards & to earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points on almost all purchases by allowing you to pay your bills (including rent, mortgages, and loans) & withdraw money from an ATM.

I’d rather use Bluebird for paying bills and increasing the amount that I can spend on a credit card than to transfer money from person to person via Bluebird.

In my opinion, Amazon Payments is much better for transferring money for free from 1 person to another with a credit card.

If you liked this post, why don’t you join the 7,000+ readers who have signed-up to receive free blog posts via email (only 1 email per day!) or in a RSS reader …because then you’ll never miss another Bluebird update!

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

51 responses to “Is American Express Bluebird’s “Send Money” the Next Amazon Payments?

  1. They really are serious. They want you to think that the BB is your new checking account that you carry around in your wallet. And I am!

  2. Will depositing money from your AP account into BB count as a DD to give you free ATM usage?

  3. So does transferring money from one person to another earn points the way amazon payments does?

  4. This looks like a decent way to get your account closed.

  5. Darius, when you use your Suntrust debit card to fund BB, what does it post as? Does it post as a Wal-Mart charge just like if you were to buy a money order there?

  6. Daurius, I don’t understand your logic here. Your big bold headline is “Is Bluebird the next Amazon Payments”

    Then you specify how it is NOT the next Amazon Payments, because it is much riskier to send payments back and forth with Bluebird, and that you risk getting shut down my Amex.

    Then you go on to do a step by step tutorial on how to execute the exact act that you warn is so risky. Why on earth would you spend an entire step-by-step blog post on how to do something that you think is a bad idea? Is it that hard to come up with useful topics to write about? As I person who survived the dreaded Amex Financial Review, I believe that you’re doing a disservice to your readers here.

    I’ve read your blog from it’s start, so I know you began with altruistic intentions. I’d hate to think that the notoriety the blog has brought you makes you feel pressured to make a daily post, even if it’s unworthy. Or worse yet, that the financial windfall from your credit card sign up commissions has subconsciously changed your motivation.

  7. Seems like I can use “Pay Bills” for contributions to charities, right? Thank you.

  8. @ell
    I felt the same thing as you did at first. Howverr, I do think that this is an info. Blog so Daurius is only trying to provide all info. involved in the process. He also warned us. People are smart, they can decide what to do. Getting shut down is only a possibility not a fact. The send
    feature is there to use and will benefit those who wants to use it.

    money. Father is there to use. So it will benefit those who do needs to use it.

    feature is there to use for those who do wasn’t to use

  9. @Preacher7 – That’s the spirit! I’ll try the direct deposit from Amazon payments and keep you posted.

    @frank – You earn points when you either buy a Vanilla Reload to charge your Bluebird with a miles earning credit or when you use a miles earning debit card at Wal-Mart to load your Bluebird. You can then use Bluebird to pay bills, mortgages, transfer money, withdraw from the ATM etc.

    @Josh – I agree, so I wouldn’t do it unless you have a legitimate reason to transfer money between accounts. There are lots of other ways to use Bluebird.

    @MelStewy – It posts just like a regular Wal-Mart transaction.

    @Rob P – I don’t see why not.

    @ELL @leslie
    – Thanks for reading from the start and for your comment. Bluebird has a lot of features, so I want to explain how I’d use them and what is a good option and what isn’t (in my opinion). I say it upfront, in the post, and at the end that I wouldn’t abuse Bluebird Send Money. But for some folks (say, those who want to send money to kids or family etc.) Bluebird “Send Money” is a good option and I explain how to use it . For what it is worth, there are also no credit card referral links in this post. I also try not to post multiple times in a day and sometimes not over the weekend. But Bluebird is the best thing to happen in the miles and points world for a long time, and I want to explain how best to use it!

  10. I think slow and steady is the way to go. There are tons of point earning options out there currently. No need to blow one up by doing “too much” ina short period of time.

  11. You’re overthinking this.

    With Amazon Payments, Amazon assumes the interchange fee for the use of your credit card. It is in Amazon’s interest to manage these fees.

    With BlueBird, WalMart or one of the Vanilla Reload merchants accept the interchange fee. American Express sees no financial impact. Indeed it is in their interest to promote all the functionality of a normal checking account.

    That being the case I don’t see this as a killer feature for siphoning off the funds generated by credit card spend when you have the ability to just transfer it to your checking account or pay the very credit card bill which created the balance.

    Until I see reports of financial reviews everywhere my tendency is to believe BlueBird is a new beast and that it is in American Express’ interest to promote the use of all their features with significantly less oversight with credit risk out of the picture.

  12. I am a little bit turn off by Daraius recent “race to be the 1st one to post” on this BB card.
    I agree with LL, if it’s not like amazon payment, why go thru step by step?
    1) I seem to get this vibe that MM secrets has to beat frequent miler in being the 1st to post.
    2) It must be the juicy commission from the Ink card that BLINDS Daraius to keep posting irrelevant info.

  13. I’m going to resist temptation to use this to take $ out of the ATM – going to save the “old” Amex prepaids for that and use this to pay legitimate expenses that don’t take a credit card. Just our office rent alone will cover one of our cards. As far as paying credit card bills, I think I’ll stay away from (our benefactors) Chase and Amex and, if any, pay the B of A, Barclays and Citi ones. As the saying goes… Don’t want to poop where I eat…

  14. I have a feeling these posts are going to kill the system. I’m not sure why Darius is so determined to blast these things all over the internet. I was at the FF conference in Chicago and I’ve become very hesitant to share my own angles with all the bloggers there.

  15. Sorry to go OT here, but a few weeks back you mentioned registering our American Express cards for the $25 credit given on Small Business Day in November. I have not heard anything more about it and can’t find any info on where to register them. Do you have any info on that?
    Thanks

  16. Why would Amex do an FR on a prepaid card? It’s not like they ask for any financials, job history, etc. What would they verify?

  17. @TSO precisely

  18. This is already killing the system. I used to be able to get vanilla reloads at my local suburban Chicago Office Depot for the prepaid Amex. Now, in the short time Bluebird has been out NONE of the Chicagoland Office Depots have any in stock and this past week I was in the Raleigh Durham area and none of the stores there had any.

  19. @Joediver, Yep. Ever since MMS got ahold of this it’s been drying up. I also used to be able to use my HH at Walgreens. That got flagged.

  20. I drove 140 miles rt to get 40 vanilla cards for future use. Of course the next 5 ODs had em in stock lol

  21. @ace: To clarify “for future use” – did you take the cards without loading them with any cash value? If so, did the store not object to that?

  22. @CVG_Kid - I agree that credit risk is much reduced for American Express, but they also have to have systems to detect money laundering. And repeated transfers to and fro accounts will look suspicious. But I do agree that this isn’t a killer feature when there are so many other ways to use Bluebird.

    @JoC - I get a higher commission from, say, the American Express Platinum, Premier Rewards Gold or Delta cards, but how often do you see me post on those cards. In fact, I tell you in the Airline credit card tab that the Delta card isn’t particular appealing and show you how to get a better targeted offer. Bluebird makes it much easier to meet minimum spending requirements & pay bills and I want to ensure that I cover all the features for my readers!

    @PatMike – There are so many ways to use Bluebird that you don’t need to take money out from the ATM or transfer to hit the monthly limits.

    @JC – You *should* be hesitant to share information with folks who publish on the internet unless you have asked for the information to remain confidential BEFOREHAND.

    @Anne - You can’t use an AMEX prepaid card for Small Business Saturday. Here’s more information on Small Business Saturday.

  23. This card is worthless, imho! It’s NOT a debit card, which means you can’t pay taxes or buy money orders with it. The only way it’ll help you manufacture spend is to pay mortgage, rent or electric bills. Using it to pay your CC bills will very likely get you eventually shut down since it’s obvious to AMEX what you’ll be doing.

  24. Everyone – Darius could care less about us. For him it’s all about generating referrals for the Ink Bold card. It’s sad that just a few months ago he was wondering if he should put affiliate links up. Now all of his posts are driven by those very high affiliate commissions. 500 referals at $200 a pop he’s going to pull in six figures with these Bluebird posts. Who cares if it’s ruined it for all of us…he’s already made his money.

    I’ve been to EIGHT Office Depots in the last week and NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM has any of the Vanilla Reloads in stock. I’ve been buying the Vanilla Reloads the last three months with no problem, however they’ve all disappeared the last five days. This is dead in the water as far as I’m concerned.

    Thanks MMS!

  25. I think the real question is why wont OD restock the Vanillas? If you were selling out quickly of any product wouldnt it be natural to restock and resupply quickly? I think OD has decided to let the Vanilla card go by the wayside. So you’ll need to manufacture spend another way to earn miles.

  26. Have been doing the Vanilla thing since the beginning of May. Went to 2 ODs today and they were sold out. Went to a third and bought the last ones. I doubt that it’s the bloggers killing this deal. Bluebird changed the game for us. Now the “target market” is buying Vanillas. I even got an ad on my facebook for Bluebird (never “liked” Walmart or Amex on fb).
    Glad I’m going on a 4 week trip. I need a break anyway.

  27. I too sometimes enjoy making unwarranted logical leaps. Making such leaks doesn’t embarrass me, and why should it? Do I end up looking like an idiot? No!

    I conclude, each time, that Daraius posts frequently on the BB because he wants people to sign up for the Ink Bold card.

    All the ODs around me are out of cards, and therefore it’s all Daraius’s fault. Stop posting for your commissions Daraius!

    William of Ockham is dead to me; he can f— off. Daraius too.

  28. Daraius, don’t let the haters who just posted get you down. You continue to do a really good job at keeping us all up to speed about what’s up. I can’t wait to hear if your AA miles posted from your BB debit card loads, as I’m getting one of those cards this week. Please post about the best debit cards to use to load BB, like you did with CCs last week. Thx: For that, and for all you do to keep us thriving in this game!

  29. Darius,
    Not thinking of using a prepaid AE card for Small Business Day, just an ordinary credit card. The link you sent me to does not mention the $25 credit. Did that die out?

  30. @rick b - I don’t understand why using it to pay a credit card bill will get you shut down. AMEX wants you to use the Bill Pay feature!

    @Ugh - Other blogs with higher readerships have also mentioned Bluebird. Perhaps you can try a Walgreens or 7-11 to see if they will let you buy the Vanilla Reload with a credit card?

    @MileageUpdate
    – I wonder if Office Depot loses money on a Vanilla Reload sale via credit card, and more importantly if the volume is sufficiently high for them to stop selling Vanilla Reloads with a credit card.

    @PatMike - Perhaps you’ll find the stores filled with the reloads when you return!

    @harvson3 – Ha! Ockham’s razor doesn’t replace the need for empirical evidence to prove or disprove a theory, but it does have a simplicity which some may find attractive…

    @Preacher7 – I won’t know if my AA miles post until the 1st week of November (when my statement closes) so I’m going to delay the debit card post until then. That said, I’m almost 100% sure that I’ll earn miles on the Delta and Bank of America Alaska Air debit card just like I did last month for money order and bill payments at Wal-Mart. Thanks for reading!

    @Anne - I believe the $25 credit should still be available, but we’ll know more once the offer is live.

  31. MMS, I would think that if they stop selling the Vanilla for CC they would also limit the other cards that sell for 500 as well? What would be the diff between the two sets of cards?

  32. For the same reason why Netspend advertised themselves as a replacement for a bank account but shut me down for sending bill payments to my CC accounts. It’s not against the rules but it’s obvious what you’re doing if they decide to check your account. You will not fit the standard poor customer profile and will be investigated. Maybe if you put enough spending on it to make they money they will let it slide but with everyone worrying about financial review and the cardinals, it’s a risky transaction to carry out with any frequency.

  33. @rick b & MMS: AmEx-BB won’t get income from providing bill payment service. So what kind of activity should make them happy? Perhaps keeping some idle cash in the account and making retail purchases with their card, right?

  34. One of “my” Office Depots is right next door to a Walmart. They are the store that always had the fattest supply of Vanillas. Now they are gone. Is it Daraius and the bloggers’ faults ? Of course not. Walmart/Amex are advertising the s**t out of these cards and the Walmart crowd is no doubt interested in the Vanillas as the “free” cash advance route. Instead of one of us purchasing 20 of these, I bet there are 20 of them, each purchasing one.
    The whole Bluebird thing seemed good on paper, but for those of us doing the “old” pre-paid Amex/Vanilla thing to the max of our INKs, the Bluebird had introduced new players to “our” game, and may be the factor in OD running out or (heaven forbid) not taking credit cards for Vanillas…

  35. @Max — yes they want to collect the interchange fees without actually lending you any money, plus nickle and dime you on other little fees. The bill payment is a non-profit feature to lure in the customers who’d otherwise not want to deal with the fees just to have a pre-paid credit card.

    Without debit payments, the usefulness is limited. What is a poor underbanked consumer doing paying several $500+ credit card bills, and why would they need a BB card for that? Looks suspicious so it’s usefulness for manufacturing spend is limited as you always have to watch your back that AMEX isn’t on to you.

  36. Does your credit card company charge you a fee for cash advance for loading money onto bluebird?

  37. Hopefully OD will realize the errors of their way and get back to stocking up with Vanilla Reloads. Or I can dream that the program was so successful that OD ran out and Vanilla took a few weeks to print more of them and as we speak 1,000’s of OD trucks are barreling towards the stores to restock with Vanillas.

  38. @rick b - I believe NetSpend has shut down almost everyone who crossed a certain threshold of charges. AMEX & Wal-Mart have very vested interests in seeing Bluebird succeed.

    @Max – They likely make money off the float, so keeping a balance earns them money as does using the card.

    @mo – You can’t load Bluebird directly with a credit card, so there’s no cash advance fee. You load it by buying Vanilla Reloads at Office Depot which posts as purchases, so no cash advance fee.

    @MileageUpdate - :)

  39. I’m resisting the urge to taking my excess funds out via ATM to give them the float. Alas, we had over $6700 in float and were shut down by NetSpend so fingers crossed.

  40. So I went to my local OD and got a Vanilla card just to see what they were like, and I think I got the wrong one. The package said OneVanilla prepaid visa card on the front. When I got home and opened it, it says “non-reloadable” on the card itself (did not see that on the package). It will not transfer to BB in any way that I can get to work. Not an big deal, as this was just an experiment for me, but if this is true it might be worth pointing out that there is more than one “Vanilla” card at OD, and they are not all the same.

  41. @Jason – Nope, you can’t use OneVanilla prepaid card. I’ll have a post on which card to use soon. You want the cards which look like those in the 2nd picture in this post –>http://millionmilesecrets.com/2012/10/22/american-express-bluebird/

  42. @jason and darius, why cant the Vanilla visa card work? its a “debit card” no different than that US Bank Buxx card you talk about. isnt a Vanilla Debit card no different than cash?

  43. @Daniel- The Vanilla “debit” card doesn’t let you withdraw money from an ATM and doesn’t have a PIN. Even the US Bank Buxx card can’t be used to reload a Bluebird.

  44. Pingback: Vanilla Reload Cards | Million Mile Secrets

  45. Can someone tell me what the difference is between the Amex Prepaid card and the Amex Bluebird card? I just got a prepaid for traveling with foreign transaction fees and want to know if it’s worth the bother to get a Bluebird instead.

  46. @Alisa Clark – You can’t use the Prepaid version to pay bills or transfer money to folks which you can do with Bluebird. However, you can still load the prepaid cards with Vanilla Reloads bought with an Ink Bold at Office Depot and earn 5X points everywhere.

  47. Assuming I’m willing to take the risk of getting shut down from amex, what would be the mileage benefit of sending money through bluebird?

    For amazon, the benefit lies in the fact that you can send money WITH your credit card.

    For blubird, however, you CANNOT send money with your credit card. Presumably, you would have already gone through all the mileage steps BEFORE you got the money into your account.

    Once the money is in your account, what would be the point of sending it back and forth? Wouldn’t you just deposit or ATM withdraw the money anyways?

    I feel like this fact makes all the other points in this article moot. Someone please tell me if I am understanding this wrong, because I would be willing to take the risk and send $2500 per month to meet some minimum spends I have.

    Thanks!

  48. @John - You don’t earn miles by sending money, but you earn miles or achieve credit card spending when you fund the Bluebird with a Vanilla Reload card. Transferring money is just one way to empty out your Bluebird account (you mention others), but you could withdraw money via ATM or use it to pay bills…even your credit card bills. So transferring money isn’t very helpful.

  49. How you try to withdraw money using ATM? I was giving options checking, saving or credit card. I am not sure what it means.

  50. @Jake – Use the checking option.

  51. Pingback: Sending Money Using Amex | moneyvegas.com

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