By the end of 2008, Wal-Mart plans to open 1,000 MoneyCenters, which is approximately one quarter of its U.S. stores. It will also broaden its menu of financial products and services, beginning with the launch of the Wal-Mart MoneyCard, a reloadable prepaid Visa, which is rolling out nationally through GE Money and Green Dot.
It can be loaded and used instantly after activation. No bank account or credit check is required. It can be reloaded at Wal-Mart or at any of the Green Dot network locations nationwide. All funds loaded onto the card are FDIC insured.
The rapid expansion of its low cost money services and in store locations is described by the Bentonville, AK, based giant retailer as a vehicle to help meet the needs of the millions of customers who visit its stores each week for their basic money needs.
Analysts see it as a smart move. The timing, these experts note, comes at a time when Wal-Mart customers are feeling the pinch.
MoneyCenters will assist customers who are outside the mainstream of banking with convenient, nationwide access to low cost money services, including check cashing, money orders, bill payment and money transfers. It combines with the MoneyCard, which provides many advantages of a checking account. Wal-Mart says it is providing, "a foundation from which customers can achieve their financial goals."
Jane Thompson, President of Wal-Mart financial services, says, "We're offering them a safe place and a card to help them manage their money. We've seen firsthand what a difference that can make. It changes lives."
Wal-Mart currently conducts more than two million money services transactions every week. Last year, customers who used Wal-Mart's services saved an average of $450 per year, or almost $40 per month, the company says.
With the opening of additional MoneyCenters, total savings are expected to grow dramatically, putting more than $320 million back into customers' pockets this year.
"The $40 our customers save each month can grow to become the down payment on a house or help pay for a child's college education," says Thompson. "That's our goal: to help our customers prepare and save for the future by giving them access to greater financial opportunities."
"As we piloted the card, we were happy to see how quickly our customers began using it to manage their money," said Thompson. "They immediately understood the value and how to take advantage of benefits, such as direct deposit or loading their paychecks in our stores. The acceptance has been exciting to watch."
The MoneyCard will be rolled out to approximately 2,600 Wal-Mart stores by the end of this summer and available at most Wal-Mart stores by year end.
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