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Wal-Mart, Amex expand Bluebird capabilities

NEW YORK (AP) -- American Express and Wal-Mart said Tuesday that they're expanding their reloadable prepaid card program to include direct-deposit capabilities for government payments.

The two companies said their Bluebird accounts will now be eligible for FDIC insurance, which will give them the security required for the government payments, which include Social Security payments, military pay and tax refunds.

Members also now have the ability to order Bluebird checks that can be used to pay bills and make purchases without worrying about not having enough funds or incurring overdraft fees, because the needed funds are set aside ahead of time.

The program was officially launched in October as an alternative to debit and checking accounts designed to help consumers better manage and control their finances. The accounts have no minimum balance, monthly, annual or overdraft fees.

In afternoon trading, American Express Co. shares rose 92 cents to $67.02, while shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fell 11 cents to $74.74.