Retailers Begin Offering Banking Services to Atlanta Customers

How about a bank account with that new pair of socks and order of McNuggets? It's possible at Wal-Mart.

Wal-Mart has always been known for being a one-stop shop, but now the retailer - along with a number of other big-box stores - is taking the designation literally by offering financial services from prepaid cards to check cashing, say Atlanta bankruptcy attorneys. Retailers hope to lure the millions of shoppers who either don't have a banking account or are fed up with the customer service at a big bank. And with Wal-Mart's Money Centers generating between 3 million and 5 million transactions per week, according to MSN Money, it seems to be working. But is it a good change for consumers?

That depends. One the one hand, stores like Wal-Mart, Kmart and Best Buy are providing a way for people without traditional bank accounts to handle their finances, from cashing checks and loading money onto prepaid debit cards to transferring money and paying the bills. Life without a bank account no longer means keeping all your cash under the mattress.

On the other hand, some of these alternative banking services come with fees awfully similar to traditional banking. For example, while prepaid cards don't come with the interest of credit cards or overdraft fees of debit cards, they aren't immune to activation fees, account fees, dormancy fees and more. And cashing that paycheck rather than depositing it in a bank account could cost you 3 to 5 percent of your check's value.

When deciding whether you should forgo a classic checking account, think about what you're looking for. Is it freedom from fees? Freedom from poor customer service? Or freedom from debt?

If you're fed up with fees, consider opening a free checking account online - in many cases, you can have your fees waived in exchange for giving up access to a teller. If you're tired of talking to a computer when you call your large national bank, maybe consider switching to a small community bank that's willing to work with you one-on-one. Of course, if it's credit card debt and overdrawn accounts that you're trying to escape from, switching to another bank - or banking system - may not solve the problem. You need to get to the root of the issue - and in many cases, that means lowering debt through bankruptcy. At DebtStoppers, our Atlanta bankruptcy attorneys can take a look at your personal finances and determine if a bankruptcy plan is right for you when you sign up for a free one-on-one debt analysis.

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