T-Mobile launches 'Mobile Money,' offers checking accounts to those without

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) is launching a service called "Mobile Money" that is designed to provide the benefits of a checking account to those who do not have one. The service, through which the carrier is clearly branching out beyond traditional wireless service offerings, appears aimed at low-income customers who have not traditionally had access to bank accounts and who use check cashing services.

T-Mobile's Mobile Money will include a Visa card.

Mobile Money combines a smartphone money management app with a reloadable T-Mobile Visa Prepaid Card that the carrier said "offers many reduced fee or $0 cost services for registered T-Mobile wireless customers." Starting today, individuals can register for the card at https://t-mobilemoneyservices.com/. The cards will also be available in participating T-Mobile retail locations and, beginning in February, will be available in Safeway grocery stores across the country.

Using Mobile Money, customers can access services including direct depositing paychecks, depositing checks from capable smartphone cameras, making retail purchases, paying bills and withdrawing cash from more than 42,000 in-network ATMs nationwide with no ATM fees. Customers who withdraw from ATMs outside the network will pay fees.

T-Mobile said there is no charge for activation, monthly maintenance, in-network ATM withdrawals, or for replacing lost or stolen cards. The carrier said the cards do not require a minimum balance and won't charge overdraft fees.

T-Mobile CMO Mike Sievert said the service could save the "typical household" using a check casher to cash their paychecks "about $1,500 per year." (That claim is based on 3 percent check-cashing fee imposed on the median annual household income of $50,054 as calculated by the 2011 U.S. Census.)

As CNET points out, the T-Mobile service is similar in many respects to a service that Sprint (NYSE:S) prepaid brand Boost Mobile launched last year called Boost Mobile Wallet, which is powered by Wipit. The Boost service lets customers load cash to the wallet account at participating Boost Mobile authorized dealers; send money to more than 135 countries; pay more than 3,500 billers nationwide; top-up domestic and international prepaid wireless accounts; transfer funds almost instantly between accounts; and load checks directly from a phone with instant access to approved funds.

"Mobile Money is the first sign we've had that T-Mobile is interested in going beyond the traditional wireless services business," said Jan Dawson, an analyst at Jackdaw Research, told CNET.

For more:
- see this release
- see this CNET article
- see this The Verge article

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