Walmart Expands Financial Services to Customers

Walmart, in an effort to expand its services to customers, is broadening their service by offering a prepaid debit card.

This prepaid debit card is called Bluebird and is a joint venture with American Express.

This service is expected to be available in Walmart stores and through their on line website starting next week.

In a statement released from Walmart headquarters, located in Benton, Arkansas, the company said that the added financial services will include remote check deposits utilizing a smart phone application, direct deposit and automatic bill pay option. The card being offered will have no annual or monthly fees and will not require the customer to maintain a minimum balance. The company also added that this service being offered to their customers is a savings option for those customers who currently have a checking account and are realizing various fees associated with having that checking account.

This added service is a further effort of Walmart’s attempt to push into the financial service market. In 2007 Walmart endeavored to start its own bank, but was met with stiff opposition from other financial institutions including political push back. Undaunted, however, Walmart has aggressively moved into this area and recently experimented with shoppers utilizing the Square technology.

This continual movement into the financial services arena is precipitated by Walmart strategists and marketers due to the fact that in-store sales have declined for the last two straight years.

It is anticipated that Bluebird will have basic financial appeal to those customers who would be classified as lower income consumers. This segmented marketing and financially driven action is mainly due to the fact that Walmart appeals to lower income based shoppers. However, it may be that this added financial service may have even broader appeal.

Some analysts have indicated that the reason why Walmart sales have decreased is that it has become less of a one-stop shopping experience for consumers. Now with this anticipated move into the financial service market, it is anticipated that one stop shopping convenience may bring consumers back and provide that impetus needed to bolster retail sales. Most analysts agree that this action will help to strengthen sales and therefore make Walmart a good investment.

Also benefiting from this strategic plan of operation is American Express. It is anticipated that American Express will broaden its customer base and incorporate that segment of the population that would be classified as lower income. Together with American Express, Daniel Eckert (vice president of financial services for Walmart) stated that a national marketing campaign will unfold utilizing national television ads.

For a customer to take advantage of this service, they can purchase the starter kit in Walmart locations that offer this service. The purchase price for the starter kit is five dollars. However, online registration will be offered to interested customers and will be at no cost.

Recent shares of Walmart stock rose by 2% to a level of $75.25. Stocks of Walmart have gained in value by 26%.

It is also the goal of Walmart to regain some of the customer base that has been lost to other stores that provide product at a lower cost. Some of those stores include Dollar General and Family Dollar stores.