Tuesday October 6th, 2015 6:52PM

Wal-Mart jumps into the money transfer biz

By The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) -- Wal-Mart is delving deeper into financial services at its stores and shaking up the money transfer business.

The world's largest retailer introduced a new money transfer service Thursday that it says will cut fees for its low-income customers by up to 50 percent compared with similar services elsewhere. The Walmart-2-Walmart service is being rolled out in partnership with Ria Money Transfer, a subsidiary of Euronet Worldwide Inc.

Shares of money-transfer companies MoneyGram and Western Union slid Thursday.

The service, which will be available starting April 24, allows its customers to transfer up to $900 to and from more than 4,000 Wal-Mart stores in the U.S.

It's a huge footprint that could reshape that industry and is likely to set off a pricing battle.

Customers can transfer up to $50 for a $4.50 service fee and up to $900 for $9.50.

Comparable services elsewhere cost up to $70 when transferring less than $1,000, according to Wal-Mart.

Western Union on its website puts the price of transferring $900 in New York between $20, if using a bank account, to $85 if using a credit or debit card.

Wal-Mart's announcement is the latest way it's acting more like a bank. About a decade ago, Wal-Mart applied unsuccessfully for an industrial bank charter. Those efforts were blocked even though the retailer vowed it would not open retail branches but wanted to use its bank to process card transactions. In 2007, it abandoned those plans, but it has been creating an expanding menu of financial offerings for customers, aimed particularly at those with limited access to banks. Wal-Mart already offers prepaid cards, check cashing services and tax preparation services.

Shares of MoneyGram International Inc., which could get hit the hardest, fell 18 percent to close at $14.81. MoneyGram is the company that currently provides money transfers to Wal-Mart. The stock of Western Union Co., its rival, fell 5 percent to $15.25.

MoneyGram is not "taking any pricing actions" at Wal-Mart or at any other U.S. location in response to Wal-Mart's actions, MoneyGram said in an emailed statement. It said that Wal-Mart is its single largest corporate customer, but has been decreasing as a percentage of its revenue for the past five years.

In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, Western Union said, "Our retail product and service offerings today are already quite diverse. "

Western Union noted that people have the flexibility to send money in minutes or next day from a retail agent location or online and they can also send money directly into a bank account.

"The company is well positioned in the U.S. domestic money transfer space, having offered a fee of $5 for $50 since 2009," Western Union added.

Wal-Mart is aggressively trying to increase foot traffic in its stores after seeing comparable-store sales decline for four consecutive quarters.

The Walmart-2-Walmart service may help stem that trend, giving customers just one more reason to spend more time inside Wal-Mart.

Daniel Eckert, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of services, said that the move into the money transfer business gained momentum after company officials heard complaints from customers about high fees elsewhere. He acknowledged in a conference call Thursday that the program could bring more customers into stores, but he insisted that the goal is to offer shoppers more financial choices.

Eckert told reporters that it didn't alert MoneyGram that it was teaming up with Ria, but said that for more than a decade Wal-Mart has had a strong partnership with MoneyGram and that it renewed its contract in 2012. He pointed out that MoneyGram has no money transfer limits and customers can transfer funds outside the U.S. using its services.

"Walmart-2-Walmart brings new competition and transparent, everyday low prices to a market that has become complicated and costly for our customers," Eckert said.

According to a 2011 study conducted by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., 29 percent of American households do not have a savings account, while about 10 percent do not have a checking account.

Shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., based in Bentonville, Ark., rose 44 cents to $77.66 Thursday.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 9 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 9 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 9 months ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 9 months ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 9 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 9 months ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 9 months ago )
Local/State News
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 week ago )
Stunning Congress, House Speaker Boehner announces plans to resign; tea party declares victory
WASHINGTON (AP) — Plunging Congress into deeper turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a tea party drive to depose the nation's highest-ranking Re...
6:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Tornado heavily damages 10 homes but causes no injuries on island in South Carolina
JOHNS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A tornado quickly blew through a neighborhood on the South Carolina coast early Friday and blew out windows, knocked down trees and heavily damaged ten homes.The tornado touc...
5:08PM ( 1 week ago )
Caterpillar says it may cut more than 10,000 jobs by 2018, lowers 2015 revenue expectation
Caterpillar is planning another round of job cuts that could exceed 10,000 people through 2018, as the construction and mining equipment maker adjusts to downturns in key markets.That could amount to...
10:06AM ( 1 week ago )
Escaped tarantula grounds Atlanta-bound flight in Baltimore
An eight-legged creature that escaped in the cargo hold of a passenger flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International grounded the plane and sent passengers onto another flight.
By The Associated Press
9:06AM ( 1 week ago )