Walmart has just announced it is moving forward this October with its latest evil plan to immiserate the American people: giving lower-income Americans cut out of the banking system access to a cheap checking account. The NYT:
Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, is teaming up with Green Dot, known for its prepaid payment cards, to supply checking accounts to almost anyone over 18 who passes an ID check.Daniel Eckert, senior vice president at Walmart, said on Tuesday that the accounts would be available nationwide by the end of October. The accounts are intended to be low-cost alternatives to traditional bank checking accounts, with no fees for overdrafts or bounced checks and no minimum account balance.In comparison, a basic checking account at Citibank charges $12 if a check is returned and $34 for overdrafts.The new accounts from Green Dot, called GoBank, will cost $8.95 a month if they have direct deposits totaling less than $500 a month. Mr. Eckert said that most people on Social Security or fixed pensions would qualify.
As many as 10 million American households don’t have access to traditional checking accounts because of bad credit, and many avail themselves outfits that offer short-term, unsecured loans for smaller sums but charge very high interest rates on them. Recourse to these kinds of options can trap people already locked out of banking into an ugly downward spiral.
To some, Walmart is the very image of the evils of corporate America—and yet here, once again, the company is showing itself a force for good by offering a service that no one else has deigned to, and at an approachable price no less. Of course, this isn’t charity: Walmart is looking to win customer loyalty as it faces stiff competition from other low-price retailers in the space. Nevertheless, the move will expand access to banking for millions of Americans previously cut out of the system, and could help many of them avoid further impoverishment. That’s a good thing, any way you slice it.