A surprising number of people don’t use traditional banking services. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, as many as 40 million Americans do not have an account at a bank, or do not routinely use traditional banking services.
One of the companies stepping up to meet the money handling needs of that segment of society is Walmart Financial Services, where customers can get services like payroll check cashing, money orders, money transfers, bill payments, and Walmart branded credit cards. The drawback to Walmart is that most of its services are offered in-store and, in an increasingly mobile world, many people would rather not bother being tied to a brick-and-mortar store for financial services.
Enter T-Mobile, extending its services beyond wireless voice and data service to include Mobile Money, a pre-paid Visa debit card and associated banking services with very few fees. With Mobile Money you can set up direct deposit of your paycheck, and have access to a network of 42,000 no-fee ATMs. A quick search of in-network ATMs in my zipcode found a T-Mobile ATM at the Walgreens less than a mile from where we live — and 19 under three miles away.
T-Mobile is not new to financial services, offering customers interest-free financing on new phones…
You can also get cash back from major retailers, just like any other debit card, and there’s no fee for adding more money to your account. Since the debit card is pre-paid, there’s no credit check required to set up an account. While you don’t have to be a T-Mobile customer to use the service, there are substantial fees for non-subscribers.
The best part of the T-Mobile service for most customers will be the ability to transfer money, pay bills, add funds, and view your available account balance through an Android phone or iPhone through the Mobile Money app. That app gives users the ability to deposit a check just by taking a picture of it, and to transfer money between accounts.
T-Mobile is not new to financial services; they have been offering customers interest-free financing on new phones for quite some time. Spreading out the cost of expensive new phones is a nice option for many people who can’t afford the up-front cost of some of the newer models.
While Mobile Money may not draw away customers who routinely carry a healthy balance in their checking and savings accounts, it’s likely to be very attractive to college students and many others who appreciate a low-cost option to a bank or credit union, and don’t want to be tied to a brick-and-mortar store.
To open an account, all T-Mobile customers have to do is walk into any T-Mobile store with a small cash deposit; in a few days new account holders will receive their pre-paid Visa card. The bill paying service works the same way as most bank accounts, and the system will mail a real check if the payee doesn’t accept electronic payments.
While Mobile Money may not work for everyone, it is a brilliant strategy for encouraging customer loyalty. If changing mobile carriers also means losing your bank, you’ll be less likely to jump ship at the end of your cell phone subscription.