Wal-Mart Stores Wednesday took another step into banking, unveiling a no-fee electronic checking account aimed at simplifying money management for customers without traditional bank accounts.
Walmart, collaborating with Green Dot, a provider of pre-paid debit cards, said the new GoBank account grants users a debt card and the ability to make electronic check payments to Walmart, other retailers, and individuals.
But while traditional checking accounts frequently levy various fees, especially on overdrafts and sub-minimum balances, the GoBank account eliminates those.
And a monthly $8.95 membership cost is waived if consumers make direct paycheck deposits into the account of at least $500 per month.
The venture also plans to provide paper checks, a Green Dot spokeswoman.
Participants will be able to store larger savings in a federally-insured "money vault," but the savings will not receive interest.
The venture aims to serve a market of lower-income consumers who lack access to traditional bank, because the fees are too high or they don't qualify for accounts.
Green Dot describes itself as "a technology-centric, pro-consumer bank holding company with a mission to reinvent personal banking for the masses."
The venture will not screen potential customers by their credit ratings, instead using "proprietary underwriting techniques to allow almost any consumer who passes ID verification to open an account."
The product has been launched in about 2,000 Walmart stores in the US, with the remaining 2,200 stores due to offer it by the end of October.
The venture follows other moves by Walmart into banking, including a prepaid debit card venture with American Express and various bill pay, check cashing and money order services.