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Wal-Mart tries new payment system

A Wal-Mart store sign in Miami

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: This month, Wal-Mart starts rolling out a new program: the retailer won't issue any more paper checks. Employees can either get paid through direct deposit, or they can get their money loaded onto a pre-paid debit card. Marketplace's Alisa Roth reports on what this means for Wal-Mart workers.


Alisa Roth: Wal-Mart is pitching the new program as a winner for everybody. Workers get their money more quickly and Wal-Mart saves money on payroll, though it won't say how much.

Kimberly Gartner works with people who have limited access to traditional banks. She sees the new program -- and others like it -- as a boon.

Kimberly Gartner: The pre-paid cards provide a really solid option that in many ways have the same opportunities or features and functions as a checking account does.

But some consumer advocates worry the move toward pre-paid cards pushes people away from traditional banks. And helps create a kind of two-tier financial system.

Deyanira Del Rio is with an economic justice resource center in New York. And she says companies should help employees get access to regular accounts.

Deyanira Del Rio: Our concern is essentially that pre-paid cards on a whole are just a very expensive way for most people to conduct financial transactions.

Wal-Mart isn't the first to use these cards for payroll. Several other companies have made the switch. And last year, the federal government started using similar cards to pay social security benefits.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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Not trying to be facetious, but what will they do for all their illegal immigrants? And then what about their in-store banks that offer check cashing services?

A newspaper article about this stated that the first transaction was free, and that after that there would be a fee for using this card. You didn't report anything about that aspect.

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