As you may have guessed, finding ways to travel well for less is a topic of major interest to me. I researched American Express Bluebird before testing it out and there are some benefits for travel purposes.
No Foreign Transactions Fees
I learned the hard way once that most credit cards have foreign currency transactions fees of 3% or higher. If you’re headed overseas, an extra 3% on your hotel and incidentals bill can be a significant amount of unnecessary money spent. If you’re planning a trip and either don’t want to apply for a new credit card or don’t have time to, then grab an American Express Bluebird and load it with cash. It’s accepted anywhere American Express is. In my experience, American Express is accepted pretty much everywhere overseas.
Road Trip Help
One of the Bluebird membership perks is roadside assistance. If you’re on a road trip and need assistance with a flat tire or similar, call the Roadside Assistance number for help. You’ll pay any third party fees, but at least you don’t have to fumble around trying to figure out who to call.
Overseas Emergency Assistance
Global Assist Services provides travel, emergency medical, and legal assistance when you are more than 100 miles away from home. The number is on the back of your card. You’ll be responsible for third party fees.
Earning Miles By Loading Bluebird
By using a miles-earning debit card to load Bluebird at Walmart (I haven’t done this yet) or via Vanilla Reload cards, you can earn hotel or airlines miles by using Bluebird. There aren’t that many airline debit card options and you earn miles at a slower 1 mile per $2 rate, but it works.
Use your debit card to buy a Vanilla Reload card to load your American Express Bluebird. Then, use Bluebird to pay your utility bills, which normally can’t be paid on credit cards. This works because Bluebird is an alternative to debit or checking. I’m doing this now, but I will tell you that it requires some extra accounting as our utility bills vary by the month and I need to make sure that Bluebird always has enough cash loaded on to it to cover the cost. It’s a little bit of a hassle.
I was able to use a miles-earning credit card to buy a Vanilla Reload card at CVS. Since my credit card gives me 1 miles per $1 (sometimes more), this alone would give me an extra 3000 miles per year for just paying our electric/gas bill alone on Bluebird. No, there’s no way to pay our mortgage on Bluebird as ours is too high. You’re allowed to load a maximum of $5000 per month via Vanilla Reloads. In fact, you can’t have a balance in your Bluebird account that’s higher than $10,000.
So far, I think the best use of Bluebird for travel is to avoid foreign currency transactions on overseas trips if you don’t have a credit card that does that for you already.
*Photo credit: Flickr, Payton Chung
**I am a compensated tester of American Express Bluebird to see if it’s right for my family. All opinions are my own.