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Walmart launches GoBank as mobile-first banking gains

Following closely on the heels of Citibank’s introduction of the new mobile-first Access Account, Walmart has partnered with Green Dot Corp., which sells prepaid debit cards in mass merchant locations, to offer the latter’s GoBank checking account.  GoBank, which is available exclusively at Walmart, promises low fees as well as a range of features for mobile-centric consumers such as instant person-to-person payments via email or text message, pay-anyone bill pay and budgeting tools.

“We know that our customers are technology savvy,” said Molly Blakeman, senior manager of corporate communications at Walmart. “They are great shoppers.

“They are always looking for ways to save money,” she said. “So GoBank also falls right into that being that you can access it on the go.

“It is really design for on-the-go customers. Being able to check your account balance with just a swipe, depositing checks on your mobile phone, transferring money, it really just fits in well with our customers and we are excited to see how they respond in store.”

Alternative banking
GoBank is designed to be used on a mobile phone. Account holders have full access and control of their money from participating Walmart locations as well as their iPhone, iPod touch or Android device.

Users can take advantage of popular mobile banking capabilities, such as remote deposit capture or the ability to check their balance on the log-in page of the app without having to log-in.

GoBank is expected to be available nationwide by the end of October.

The checking account promises a low fee cost structure with no overdraft fees, minimum balance fees or monthly fees with a qualifying direct deposit of $500. The low fees are a way to help Walmart attract customers who may be frustrated with the fees they are paying for traditional banking accounts.

The fees associated with the account include a 3 percent foreign transaction fee and out-of-network ATM fees.

The account also comes with a linked MasterCard debit card and access to 42,000 free ATMs.

Fortune Teller
Consumers can sign up for a GoBank account by purchasing a starter kit for $2.95.

Budgeting tools include Fortune Teller, which crosschecks the price of an item with a user’s planned income and expenses. Users will be advised in real-time to pass on a purchase if it is beyond their means.

Users can also move money in real time into the Money Vault for safekeeping or out of the vault to be accessed with their debit card.

If account holders need to mail a check, GoBank will mail it for them for free.

Easy access
The Walmart news follows Citibank’s introduction yesterday of Access, is designed for digitally savvy consumers by excluding paper checks in favor of online and mobile payment methods (see story).

These join Simple and ING Direct in designing new types of accounts catering to mobile users (see story).

“We are always looking for ways to better serve our customers,” Ms. Blakeman said.  “They told us banking fees were too high for them.

“In an effort to give them options, we brought GoBank into our stores,” she said. “We are really excited about the offering.

“It is very accessible for customers and very affordable.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York