Apple Pay what again? Walmart is getting into the mobile banking space, the company announced this morning, through a partnership with financial services provider Green Dot Corporation. The company’s low-cost checking account product called GoBank is now being made available exclusively at Walmart, offering customers an overdraft-free bank account with no minimum balance requirements. The service is aimed at the low-end of the market, where customers are often referred to as the “un-banked” or “under-banked.”
The GoBank account is designed to appeal to those who are looking for the conveniences of a traditional bank – including support for direct deposits, ATM access, bill pay, person-to-person payments, money management tools, and more – without the accompanying fee structure associated with big banks. GoBank users will never be assessed NSF fees for bad checks, and with a qualifying direct deposit of $500 per month, the bank’s monthly membership charges ($8.95/mo) are waived. (There’s also a “starter kit” needed to sign up for a GoBank account, which costs $2.95.)
GoBank users are provided with a MasterCard debit card, and there are a few unique features included, too – like “Fortune Teller,” which advises customers in real-time to pass on purchases when it detects that the purchase increases the customer’s risk of going over budget, based on GoBank’s understanding of the customer’s planned income and expenses.
Customers also have early access to their direct deposit paychecks in some cases, if their employer notifies GoBank in advance of an incoming deposit.
Most importantly, perhaps, is that GoBank includes mobile money management from a suite of applications that work on iOS and Android, in addition to the web.
Almost all U.S. customers will be able to establish a GoBank account, provided they have a verifiable ID, the companies claim.
Walmart’s involvement with Green Dot/GoBank is not to become a bank itself (it tried and failed to do this before), but rather function sort of like a branch for GoBank’s customers, who can sign up for an account from Walmart stores, and deposit cash into their GoBank accounts. Walmart, of course, also offers other financial services at its stores, including prepaid debit and credit cards, check cashing, and money transfers.
GoBank competes with rival mobile banking products aimed at the same consumer segment, including Amex’s Serve and T-Mobile’s “Mobile Money” product, for example. On a broader scale, it also competes with other modern mobile banking services, like those from startups like Simple or Moven.
Walmart says GoBank will be available in its stores nationwide by the end of October. As the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer – and one that attracts the same sort of ‘bargain shopper’ that would be drawn to a product like GoBank – its decision to stock and support GoBank could immediately give that product an edge in the rapidly heating up mobile banking marketplace here in the U.S.