Wal-Mart jumps into the money transfer biz, loudly

NEW YORK – Wal-Mart is delving deeper into financial services at its stores and shaking up the money transfer business.

The world’s largest retailer introduced a new money transfer service Thursday that it says will cut fees for its low-income customers by up to 50 percent compared with similar services elsewhere. The Walmart-2-Walmart service is being rolled out in partnership with Ria Money Transfer, a subsidiary of Euronet Worldwide Inc.

Shares of MoneyGram and Western Union plunged almost immediately Thursday after the announcement.

The service, which will be available starting April 24, allows its customers to transfer up to $900 to and from more than 4,000 Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. It’s a huge footprint that could reshape that industry and is likely to set off a pricing battle.

Customers can transfer up to $50 for a $4.50 service fee and up to $900 for $9.50.

Comparable services elsewhere cost up to $70 when transferring less than $1,000, according to Wal-Mart.

Western Union on its website puts the price of transferring $900 in New York between $20, if using a bank account, to $85 if using a credit or debit card.

Wal-Mart’s announcement is the latest way it’s acting more like a bank. About a decade ago, Wal-Mart applied unsuccessfully for an industrial bank charter. Those efforts were blocked even though the retailer vowed it would not open retail branches but wanted to use its bank to process card transactions.