Wal-Mart Taps Debit Card Business

The Financial Service Centers of America welcomed the news. "We are always very happy to learn of any organization that is prepared to offer financial services to unbanked and underbanked consumers," said Cynthia Vega, a spokeswoman for the group. "We greet that as good news."

But her group does have concerns about Wal-Mart, a retailer, offering financial services.

"This is our core business," she said. "When cashing checks is not your primary business, but selling light bulbs and dog food is, there is going to be a learning curve. Your staff is learning how to do different things and is not focusing on getting check cashing customers in and out of store as fast as possible. The priority is to keep people in store so they spend money. This is our business, to serve folks."

Wal-Mart spokesman Nick Agarwal told ABC News that the MoneyCards were about giving people the ability to manage their money better. "The card will give customers the ability to spend their money where they like, in or out of Wal-Mart."

Banking On Future Growth

Wal-Mart has been quite open about its plans to expand into the financial services sector and offer products to the millions of customers who shop at Wal-Mart each week. The company said it has seen 30 to 40 percent annual growth in this sector, good news for the retailer which has struggled recently with its sales at stores opened for more than a year.

But the push to offer more banking products has not always been easy.

Earlier this year, the company withdrew its application to open a specific type of bank that would allow the company to avoid paying fees to third party vendors for every credit and debit card transaction after vocal and organized opposition from banks, unions and other critics.

That setback did not deter the company's plans to offer more financial products such as the MoneyCard.

And while officials would not comment about future plans to provide even more services such as home loans, people familiar with the company's strategy said the overall goal is to help its customers fulfill "the American Dream." "That's our goal," said Linda Thompson, president of Wal-Mart financial services, "to help our customers prepare and save for the future by giving them access to greater financial opportunities."

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