Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has sold 1 million prepaid Visa cards since it launched the program nearly a year ago, and cardholders have loaded more than $1 billion on those cards, Jane Thompson, president of Wal-Mart Financial Services, told attendees today at the third annual Underbanked Financial Services Forum in Miami. The card sells for $8.94 in stores, has a monthly maintenance fee of $4.94 and can be reloaded for $4.64 , according to a Wal-Mart Fact sheet. Wal-Mart waives the monthly fee for the following month when consumers load at least $1,000, and it waives the reload fee if customers use direct deposit or load funds from a check cashed at Wal-Mart, according to the fact sheet. Wal-Mart uses the cards to reach underbanked or unbanked consumers, Thompson said. To continue to market to those customers, the company, which is based on Bentonville, Ark., plans to increase the number of Money Centers in its stores where consumers can buy money orders, wire funds and cash checks, Thompson said. The company operates 500 Money Centers and plans to have 780 open by yearend and 1,000 by early next year. Wal-Mart also offers online bill payment for its prepaid card customers and has started to support bill payment at its stores, said Thompson. Wal-Mart offers CheckFree Corp.'s bill-payment service in 400 stores and plans to roll out the service to 3,600 stores over the next 90 days, Thompson told CardLine after her presentation. CheckFree is based in Wallingford, Conn. Thompson says Wal-Mart does not plan to pursue a bank charter but instead will look for partners to help it offer expanded financial services, including savings products.

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