Retail stores branching out into alternative financial services
Giant retail store chains have begun branching out into the world of alternative financial services. Store chains such as Walmart, Kmart and Best Buy have started offering financial services to unbanked customers — those without bank accounts. Almost 20 percent of Americans do not have a bank account.
Alternative financial services at retail stores
Large retail chains are beginning to offer alternative financial services to customers who don’t have bank accounts, according to the Washington Post. Services such as money orders and check cashing have been available in retail stores for years, though some retailers are expanding their offerings. Walmart offers check cashing and sells prepaid debit cards in stores and is expanding by putting a financial services section called Walmart Money Center in stores. The Money Centers, which are currently in more than 1,100 stores nationwide, offer check cashing, money orders and prepaid card services in a bank or credit union-like format. The company is planning to expand the number of Walmart Money Center locations from Alabama to Arizona to Alaska, but Walmart does not appear to be planning on offering cash advances yet.
Kmart and Best Buy expand financial services
Retail chains Kmart and Best Buy are also expanding into offering financial services to customers. Kmart is offering pilot programs of check cashing, money orders and prepaid debit card services in some stores. The layaway program that Kmart re-launched at the height of the recession has also been very popular, as fewer people want to use installment loans or credit cards to make purchases anymore. Best Buy has launched a series of kiosks run by Tio Networks that customers can use as an electronic bill paying system. Instant cash is fed into the machine, which uses an electronic payment network.
The unbanked are people who do not have a bank account of any sort and use alternative financial service providers such as check cashing services to handle transactions. About 70 percent of the unbanked earn $30,000 per year or less and many choose not to patronize banks because of bank fees or mistrust of banks. Surveys done by Walmart indicate that one in five customers do not have a bank account.