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T-Mobile Wants To Be Your "UnBank" Too, Reaches Out to Latino Families with Mobile Money

First Posted: Jan 22, 2014 09:59 PM EST
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Photo : Wikimedia: WhisperToMe

T-Mobile has now become notorious for upending the wireless industry with its "Uncarrier" plans (plus other shenanigans from CEO John Legere), and now the company is planning to "un" bank your finances. After surveying the market and finding that banks were charging too many fees and weren't appealing enough to customer needs -- including U.S. Latinos -- T-Mobile has decided to shake up the banking industry as well with a service called "Mobile Money".

"We've already transformed how Americans use and pay for phones, tablets and wireless service; why stop there?" said John Legere, president and chief executive officer of T-Mobile in the company's release. "Millions of Americans pay outrageous fees to check cashers, payday lenders and other predatory businesses -- just for the right to use their own money. Mobile Money shifts the balance of power for T-Mobile customers and keeps more money in their pockets."

Latinos and Banking

T-Mobile's research found that ATM, overdraft and monthly maintenance fees were at an all-time high in 2013. The company also found, through a T-Mobile-commissioned survey by research company Kelton Global, that Latinos weren't happy with their finances and banking choices.

Only 32 percent of Latinos felt "in control" of their money, which may be exacerbated by the finding that, on average, it took people three days to gain access to their money after receiving a check made out to them.

Banking fees affected Latinos as well, according to T-Mobile's survey, which found that 40 percent of consumers have to pay at least one type of fee in order to cash a check made out to them, with an average of more than $560 per year spent on managing or accessing money. Over 20 percent of respondents said that money would go towards groceries if they didn't have to spend it on banking -- making it the number one answer.

For the sake of convenience, even though it's not a better deal, more than half of Latino respondents said they had used a check-cashing store and 36 percent said they had used a money order before. Latinos who didn't have a bank account cited cash availability, banking fees, not meeting minimum balance requirements, and not wanting to accumulate debt as reasons to avoid banks. But six in ten said it was harder to cash a check without a bank than purchasing from retailers that don't accept cash.

"It's ridiculous that families, especially those who can least afford it, have to pay so much for basic check cashing services that many of us take for granted," said Mike Sievert, chief marketing officer for T-Mobile. "Mobile Money levels the playing field to put money back in consumers' pockets for important things - like bills, groceries or vacations. The typical household using a check casher to cash their paychecks could save about $1,500 per year, and customers tired of getting hit with overdraft fees can switch and save an average of $225 a year."

Mobile Money - Another Incentive to Switch

For Latinos, and anyone else that finds banking a pain, T-Mobile's Mobile Money hopes to lure in customers with the promise of fewer rules. Mobile Money has no activation, monthly maintenance, in-network ATM withdrawal, or card replacement charges, and no minimum balances are required. T-Mobile, being a technology company, allows depositing checks from smartphone cameras, along with the traditional things customers would do with a checking account and debit card.

The only hitch is that Mobile Money is only available to registered T-Mobile wireless customers, making the "unbanking" system another lure -- in addition to the recently-announced "Uncarrier 4.0" "Get Out of Jail Free Card" incentive, which offers to pay other wireless companies' early termination fees for switchers -- to win over customers, especially families on a budget.

T-Mobile isn't the first to offer no-strings-attached internet banking -- Ally and GoBank are just a couple of other examples -- but if Mobile Money doesn't "transform" the banking industry, it at least puts yet another weapon in T-Mobile's arsenal.

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