Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wal-Mart Has it Right

One thing I've learned in my dealings with the poor and disadvantaged:  when facing a problem, they often lack resources and options. If I were ever short of cash, I have a lot of friends and family members who'd help me out. I'd do the same for them. But what if everybody else I knew was also financially challenged? Perhaps the only choice I'd have would be to use a payday lender or face eviction. What looks like a foolish decision becomes one of survival.

Those of us who use the banks have noticed that we are being "fee-d to death." When Citibank recently sent a letter informing us that we had to maintain a certain large balance or face a $15 monthly charge, we bolted to our friendly credit union. Just like us, the poor and disadvantaged, who want to responsibly use banking services, are bolting to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets, or rather, on their debit cards. Enter Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart is providing fixed-cost, modestly priced debit cards. Of course owners of the cards are more likely to shop at Wal-Mart, but they don't have to. They can use the cards in other places and online.

Yes, I know it's fashionable to decry Wal-Mart as the "big box" that is ruining Main Street, but Main Street banks were more than willing to exploit the poor and not-so-poor with fees. Wal-Mart saw a need, and met this need at a reasonable price. They are good at that. Kudos Wal-Mart.

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