Wal-Mart to finally get a bank license?


The banking industry over the years has worried a lot about Wal-Mart, which has edged closer to seeking a full commercial bank license for years. Is the big retailer now taking a definitive step in that direction? Last week, it emerged that the company had taken an ownership stake in Green Dot, which manages the retailer's prepaid debit cards. Green Dot is currently seeking regulatory approval to acquire a small Utah-based bank for $15.7 million, notes Fortune.

Wal-Mart has tried and failed on several occasions to garner a banking license, always in the face of noisy opposition from the industry. In 2007, it dropped plans to gain an industrial-bank charter in Utah. Most people assume it is only a matter of time before Wal-Mart takes the plunge, damn the opposition. The marketing advantages would be awesome, and banks are right to fear such a move.

The time would appear to be ripe. Americans are generally dissatisfied when it comes to credit and debit card practices, not to mention mortgage practices. Wal-Mart has the kind of heft that would allow it to make a huge, consumer-friendly splash. But the industry will not take this sitting down. If you thought local retailers in many areas fought hard, just wait until national banks train their sights on the firm. 

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