Online and Unbanked? Walmart.com Lets You Pay With Cash

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Walmart online cashIf you don't have a bank account, Walmart wants your business.

In recent months, the world's largest retailer has expanded its inexpensive check cashing service, made it easy for the unbanked to cash their tax refund checks, and given them access to plastic with its cheap prepaid debit cards.

Now, Walmart (WMT) wants to make shopping online simpler for the many Americans who don't have a credit card or checking account by giving customers the option of paying in cash for online orders.

Via the "Pay with Cash" program, launched last week, shoppers can visit Walmart.com place an order and, during the online checkout process, select the cash option and their shipping preference. The customer then has 48 hours to pay for the order at any Walmart store or at a Walmart Market, its small-format subsidiary.

The program gives the unbanked access to the hundreds of thousands of items Walmart.com offers that aren't always available in stores, among them baby products, health and beauty items, toys, home decor, electronics, home appliances and more, the company says.

Pay with Cash, which clearly targets the retailer's core audience, is being launched as Walmart works to re-emphasize its value message, which has gotten muddled in recent years, and expand its mix of low-price merchandise.

According to the FDIC, one in four U.S. households is "unbanked or underbanked," meaning its members either don't have a bank account or credit card, or have limited banking options, so they mostly pay for purchases in cash, Walmart said in a statement.

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"However, many of [these consumers] are online, with 81% of the unbanked and 63% of the underbanked having Internet access."

Walmart says the program also targets shoppers who are hesitant to pay for their purchases online. The majority of transactions at the chain's stores are paid for in cash or with a cash equivalent, such as a debit card.

Some industry analysts said the Pay with Cash program could become a valuable service to cash-strapped shoppers, akin to layaway.

"This may be a surprising success as it taps into an untapped e-commerce market of the unbanked," said Ed Dunn, founder of Stealth Operation, on RetailWire's online forum on the topic.

"What I love about this is that it is so counter to the consensus about a cashless society," said Joel Rubinson, president of Rubinson Partners, during the forum. "It is bold, and I think Walmart is right to try."

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