Can Walmart’s sweepstakes game teach the unbanked to ‘bank’ their money?
In order to let the unbanked and underbanked portion of its customer base take part in things like online shopping, Walmart has launched programs that make the retailer look a bit like a bank itself. But with its Prize Savings program, Walmart has taken a step that banks have not — Walmart is incentivizing its customers to save.
Last year, Walmart introduced the Prize Savings program as part of its MoneyCard offering, as discussed in an article on Good. The program gives users the chance to win cash prizes in a monthly sweepstakes if they place money into the “Vault” portion of the MoneyCard pre-paid debit account. Since Walmart introduced the Prize Savings program, the number of customers keeping money in their Vaults has increased 130 percent to 100,000.
Though the Vault was introduced based on research that indicated Walmart customers were not saving their money, the user agreement for the Vault specifies that it is not a savings account and does not pay interest. Nevertheless, as a savings account-like service, the Vault encourages users to deposit — or “stash” — money they cannot spend immediately. The funds in the Vault are available only via transfer.
From one perspective, the Vault appears to give its users a lesson in financial responsibility. The casual language and gamification, as pointed out in the Good article, promotes saving to a customer base otherwise suspicious of financial institutions and the small print and jargon they’re known for. On the other hand, the Vault keeps users within Walmart’s shopping ecosystem and offers no interest, while the long-term stability of the service remains to be seen.
Walmart isn’t the only retailer that has been trying to open up otherwise closed segments of the economy to the unbanked and underbanked.
Amazon.com, for instance, recently rolled out Amazon Cash. The program allows a customer to use an account-associated barcode at the cash register of a participating retailer in order to deposit cash into an existing Amazon account. PayPal has a similar offering, PayPal MyCash, which may have been the inspiration for Amazon Cash. But Walmart may be the first notable retailer to offer a savings-like account.
- Welcome To Your New Bank: Wal-Mart – Good
- Walmart Money Card – Walmart
- Can Amazon Cash open e-commerce up to millions of underbanked consumers? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What are the positives and negatives of Walmart introducing incentives to get its customers to save money in its Vault? Would it make sense for other retailers to offer savings-like accounts with incentives similar to Walmart’s?