By offering low-fee checking accounts, Walmart dares to go where most big banks won't. Few major financial institutions are willing to give lower-income Americans checking accounts these days -- without exorbitant fees.
But, unlike the big banks, Walmart really needs low-income customers.
The retail goliath on Wednesday announced it would offer customers checking accounts with no minimum balance and no fees for overdrafts or bounced checks. Those who get a direct deposit of at least $500 every month -- a floor that includes many people receiving government benefits -- will have the $8.95 monthly fee waived.[...]
That Walmart is one of the few options available to poor customers looking for a cheap bank account is troubling, given the retailer's profit motive, said Wallace Turbeville, a senior fellow at Demos, a progressive think tank. Unlike the Post Office, which some have considered as an option for low-fee checking, there's no reason for Walmart and its partner bank not to take advantage of customers who have so little bargaining power, he said.
“There’s a huge number of people that are underserved or overcharged for financial services,” Turbeville said. “That suggests that its going to be profitable for Walmart.”