Is Bluebird bank account a real bank account?

Bluebird bank account by American Express is a popular prepaid debit card and online banking account that functions similarly to a traditional checking account. However, Bluebird is not actually a real bank account. Instead, it is a prepaid debit account offered through American Express and FDIC insured through The Bancorp Bank.

What is Bluebird?

Bluebird is a prepaid debit card and online banking account offered by American Express. It provides many features of a traditional checking account, like:

  • FDIC insurance up to $250,000 through The Bancorp Bank
  • Online bill pay
  • Paper checks
  • Direct deposit
  • Mobile check deposit
  • Withdrawal from ATMs

However, Bluebird does not actually provide a real bank account. It is a prepaid debit account, where users load funds onto the card to then spend or use for payments. Bluebird accounts do not support overdrafts like a bank account.

Key Differences Between Bluebird and Bank Accounts

There are some important differences between Bluebird accounts and real bank accounts:

  • Prepaid debit vs. bank account – Bluebird is a prepaid debit card account, not a bank account with a financial institution.
  • No overdrafts – Bank accounts allow overdrafts (spending over the account balance), while Bluebird declines transactions if funds are insufficient.
  • Loading funds – Bluebird accounts need to be loaded via direct deposit, bank transfer, depositing cash, etc. Bank accounts do not require loading.
  • FDIC insurance – Bluebird has FDIC insurance through The Bancorp Bank. Bank accounts have FDIC insurance directly through the bank.
  • Ownership – Bluebird is owned by American Express. Bank accounts are owned by financial institutions.

Is Bluebird Considered a Bank?

No, Bluebird is not actually a bank. It does not meet the legal and regulatory definition of a bank in the United States. Here are some reasons why Bluebird is not a bank:

  • Bluebird does not accept deposits and make loans like a traditional bank.
  • Bluebird is not chartered as a bank by regulators.
  • Bluebird is owned by American Express, which is a financial services company, not a chartered bank.
  • The funds in Bluebird accounts are not held directly by American Express. They are held by partner banks.
  • Bluebird cannot make overdraft loans to customers like a bank.

So while Bluebird offers some banking features, it does not meet the legal criteria to be considered a real bank in the U.S. banking system.

Bluebird’s Partner Bank

While Bluebird is not a bank itself, it does partner with an FDIC-insured bank to hold the funds in Bluebird accounts. The partner bank for Bluebird is The Bancorp Bank, headquartered in Wilmington, DE. Here are some key facts about The Bancorp Bank and its role with Bluebird:

  • The Bancorp Bank provides the banking services and infrastructure for Bluebird accounts.
  • Bluebird accounts are FDIC insured through The Bancorp Bank up to $250,000.
  • The Bancorp Bank issues the debit cards for Bluebird accounts.
  • Customer funds from Bluebird accounts are held at The Bancorp Bank.
  • The Bancorp Bank handles banking regulations and compliance for Bluebird services.

So while Bluebird is not a bank itself, it partners closely with The Bancorp Bank to provide the banking functionality and FDIC insurance for Bluebird accounts.

Bluebird Account Features

Although not a real bank account, Bluebird does offer many standard banking features similar to a checking account. These include:

  • Debit card – Can be used to make purchases online and in stores wherever American Express is accepted
  • Bill pay – Pay bills online or schedule automatic payments
  • Checks – Physical checkbooks can be ordered for a fee
  • ATM access – Use the Bluebird card at in-network ATMs to withdraw cash
  • Direct deposit – Set up payroll, tax refunds, or benefits deposits
  • Mobile check deposit – Deposit checks remotely via the Bluebird app
  • Account alerts – Get text or email notifications for account activity
  • Travel features – No foreign transaction fees and emergency cash transfers

Bluebird also offers convenience features like online account access, free transfers to other accounts, debit card customization, and joint accounts. The accounts have monthly fees that can be avoided with qualifying direct deposits.

Pros and Cons of Bluebird

Some pros and cons of using a Bluebird account instead of a traditional bank account include:


  • FDIC insured funds up to $250,000
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Lower fees than many checking accounts
  • Good option for those who cannot open a bank account
  • Accepted anywhere American Express is accepted
  • Useful spending analysis and budgeting tools in the app


  • Not an actual bank account
  • No physical branch locations for support
  • No overdraft capability
  • Must load funds to use (no linked savings)
  • Can be inconvenient for cash deposits
  • No interest earned on balances


In summary, while Bluebird provides many standard banking features and is FDIC insured, it is not technically a real bank account. Bluebird is a prepaid debit account owned by American Express, not a chartered bank. For those who do not need overdrafts or physical branches, Bluebird can be a practical online spending and banking tool. But it lacks some features of traditional bank checking accounts. Ultimately, whether Bluebird is suitable depends on an individual’s specific financial needs and banking preferences.

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