Americans who are mad as hell and not going to take banks' outrageous fees anymore are heading straight to ... that little mom 'n pop shop known as Walmart, reports the New York Times. The retail juggernaut—which four years ago ditched plans to get a banking charter amid an outcry from, well, banks—is now a veritable bargain with a slate of a la carte financial services. Its MoneyCenters, whose services include check-cashing starting at $3, are seeing a run of cash-poor customers and the "unhappily banked," as one Walmart exec put it.
Walmart says it's simply extending the same high volume, low-cost formula it uses on socks and candy, but competitors and industry-watchers are skeptical. "It’s the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent,” says a banking association exec. “Once they get in and offer some financial services, they will continue to push for other products." Walmart does in fact have banking charters in Mexico and Canada, though it says it has no intention of obtaining one in the US—and its lack thereof allows it to largely skirt federal regulations, while becoming an increasingly big player. "They've been very, very successful," says a JP Morgan analyst.