Wal-Mart Expands Check-Cashing Centers

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The popularity of Wal-Mart’s in-store MoneyCenters could be an indicator that many American wage earners may still prefer check-cashing booths over banks.

And catering to the “unbanked,” Wal-Mart plans to open 500 more MoneyCenters in 2010 where customers cash checks and pay bills for a fee, according to The Consumerist. That would bring the percentage of MoneyCenter-equipped Wal-Marts (Stock Quote: WMT) in the U.S. to 40%.

Whether it’s due to a lack of trust in banks, lack of access to banks, off-the-books income or easy access to cash that check-cashing centers provide, about 7.7% of American households don’t have any checking or savings accounts with traditional banking institutions, according to a report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And that percentage is considerably higher for African Americans (nearly 22%) and Hispanics (a little more than 19%).

MoneyCenter customers pay at least $3 to have their checks cashed and bills can be paid at MoneyCenters as well for a minimum of 88 cents.

Or, instead of cashing a check, a customer can opt for a Wal-Mart MoneyCard, a prepaid card that can be used in Wal-Mart stores for an initial $3 plus a $3 monthly fee. However, identity verification as well as address, date of birth and other information must be provided, and use of the card could be subject to various other fees, according to walmartmoneycard.com.

Customers can even have their tax refunds directly deposited into their MoneyCard accounts, according to the Wal-Mart Web site.

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