Why some people are using Walmart as their bank

This is an interesting idea—would you try it?

Are you ready to starting banking at Walmart?

The retail giant is trying to get people to save up more money, according to a recent report on NPR, and it’s offering enticements to get people to start saving.

Alternative to mainstream banks

Though banks are everywhere, many Americans don’t have a traditional bank account for a variety of reasons.

People think they don’t have enough money to keep in a bank account, or they don’t trust banks. Others say the bank account fees are too high and too unpredictable, according to the most recent FDIC survey of unbanked and underbanked households.

Roughly 7 percent of U.S. households didn’t have a bank account in 2015, the most recent year data was collected. Beyond that, an additional 20 percent of U.S. households were underbanked, a term used to describe people who have a bank account but also rely on other non-banking institutions (like check cashing services).

Enter Walmart. Walmart now offers a reloadable prepaid MoneyCard.

While it is not a traditional bank (sorry, no free toasters), it allows you to deposit paychecks, access cash and, of course, easily shop at Walmart. You can also use it to write checks, pay bills online, send money to other people who are using the card and deposit checks with your smartphone.

It even encourages you to build up your savings with a “Vault” feature that offers a chance to win cash. Every month, one person wins $1,000 and hundreds of others win $25, just for saving their money via the card.

Many of the same downsides

But there are some downsides of Walmart’s MoneyCard.

NerdWallet.com says while cash withdrawals are free at a Walmart store, you’ll pay a $2.50 fee to use an ATM elsewhere.

It really makes sense, then, if you live or work near Walmart and will make all your ATM withdrawals there, to avoid extra fees.

Another downside: You will still be hit with a $5 monthly fee for not keeping $1,000 in your account, just like with big banks. There’s also a $3 fee every time you use cash to reload the card, though it’s free to reload the card via direct deposit.

It’s also free to reload the card if you use Walmart’s check cashing service, though you’ll have to pay $3 to $6 for every check you cash.

However, NerdWallet says its fees are “on the low side” compared with many other prepaid cards and you can earn up to $75 in cash back rewards every year.

The bottom line

Obviously many people have no interest in banking with a store where they shop.

But for the millions of people who don’t have an account at a standard bank, many of them Walmart customers, it’s an interesting proposition.

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