Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is taking another step deeper into banking, rolling out a new money-transfer service that undercuts rivals including Western Union Inc. and MoneyGram International Inc. with lower and simplified fees.
The giant retailer on Thursday unveiled the new service, Walmart-2-Walmart, which will allow customers to send and receive up to $900 at a time at more than 4,000 stores. The new service applies only to payments that are sent and received in the U.S.
It aims to take a bite of the roughly $900 billion in so-called person-to-person payments made each year in the U.S., often in the form of cash or checks.
“This is a relatively easy service for Wal-Mart to develop, because it fits with the customer base that they already have, and they don’t have to spend a lot of money to create, implement or market the service,” said Ron Shevlin, a senior analyst at Aite Group, a consulting firm that specializes in the payments industry.
The service launches April 24. Wal-Mart said the service fees – $4.50 for transfers up to $50 and $9.50 for transfers up to $900 – are 50% or more below the cost of existing offerings. For its new service, Wal-Mart is partnering with Euronet Worldwide Inc.’s Ria Money Transfer subsidiary.
The money-transfer business carries substantial regulatory burdens aimed at preventing money laundering. Wal-Mart has been registered with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network as a money-services business since 2011, according to FinCen’s public database. The move also could place Wal-Mart under the scrutiny of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was set up after the financial crisis to police the lending industry for abusive practices involving consumers. The CFPB already has proposed supervising nonbank providers of international money transfers. The vast majority of U.S. money transfers involve sending money overseas, according to payments experts. The U.S. is the largest sender of such payments, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the $529 billion in remittances that international migrants sent to their home countries in 2012, according to the World Bank.
In addition to competing with Western Union and MoneyGram, Wal-Mart also is taking on banks that allow their customers to transfer money to other customers. In 2011, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. formed a joint venture to let people use their checking accounts to send each other money with an email address or cellphone number.
“The banks have failed miserably in capturing the person-to-person payments business,” said Mr. Shevlin, the payments analyst.