Walmart-Green Dot a smart, well-timed move

October 02, 2014

New checking account service could help sway shoppers back to the retail giant from dollar stores – just in time for the holiday season.

Walmart’s long-sought presence in banking took another step with its Green Dot Bank (FDIC member) relationship. Their joint launch, GoBank, is a checking account product exclusive to Walmart, which will be available nationally by the end of October.

Users can have their $8.95 monthly membership fee waived with one or more direct deposits per month adding up to $500. The account imposes no overdraft fees or minimum balance requirements. A $2.95 starter kit includes a starter debit MasterCard until the real one arrives. GoBank has 42,000 fee-free ATMs. The account does charge out-of-network ATM fees and a three percent foreign transaction fee. 

The Lempert Report sees this as a well-timed move to:

  • capture the significant unbanked population in the United States (Some 15% of households in major U.S. cities lack checking or savings accounts, and another 24% have accounts but also use payday loans and other financial alternatives, reports The New Yorker, citing the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development.)
  • rebuild positive quarterly sales to its core base of low-priced customers, and 
  • initiate momentum for the upcoming Q4 holiday season.

Why? Because America’s economic recovery hasn’t reached everyone – and millions of households continue under financial stress. Consider these points, for example:

  • While wages stagnate, the costs of childcare, health care and college tuition continue to soar. A recent Pew survey showed 57% of Americans feel their income trails the cost of living – versus 44% before the recession began, reports The Associated Press.
  • Millennials are putting off marriage and births due to money pressures, and millions live in their parents’ home again after graduating from college into a weak job market.
  • College enrollments are down the past two years, says the Census Bureau – as the nation’s collective student debt reaches a reported $1 trillion, with a payoff in well-paying jobs less evident today than before the recession.

Moreover, GoBank could help Walmart recapture some of its former customers who’ve been shopping in dollar stores lately.  NPD Group reports visits to the channel grew 14% in the May-to-July quarter vs. a brick-and-mortar market downtrend of four percent.