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MONEY

Why T-Mobile's Expansion Plans are Spot on
 

The carrier that wants to pay you to drop your existing phone policy is branching out into financial services. Could a similar growth model work for your company?

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Chalk up another one in the "banks are dinosaurs" column. 

T-Mobile announced it's rolling out a financial services program called Mobile Money for customers as well as non-customers, and if you're tired of paying excessive bank fees you might be interested in signing up.

"Millions of Americans pay outrageous fees to check cashers, payday lenders and other predatory businesses, just for the right to use their own money," John Legere, president and chief executive officer of T-Mobile said in a press release. "Mobile Money shifts the balance of power for T-Mobile customers and keeps more money in their pockets."

At a time when currencies are increasingly going digital--and businesses are clamoring to expand their offerings among existing customers--T-Mobile's move offers a lesson against complacency. Similarly, if you want to grow, the proverbial call to "go west" should be resonating loud and clear.

The program includes a prepaid debit Visa card, cash access at 42,000 ATMs, and the ability to send cash to other card-holders, as well as remote check deposit. The card will also let customers receive government benefits and tax refunds, among other features.

Note that for customers without T-Mobile accounts, you'd better mind the fees. There's a $5 monthly service fee for accounts with less than $500 and $4 for each retail purchase, as well as fees for loading more value onto the card and fees for using out-of-network ATMs. Most of these fees are waived for T-Mobile customers.

T-Mobile's prepaid debit cards will be available starting today at T-Mobile stores, and February in Safeway supermarkets.

In an earlier growth-oriented move, this month, T-Mobile launched the latest iteration of an aggressive campaign, dubbed the Uncarrier, to sign up new customers. It's offering to pay off up to $650 for early termination fees from other carriers.

Mobile Money is different from T-Mobile's participation in Isis, a consortium of telecommunications companies that are developing an electronic wallet for smart phones.

The Bancorp Bank is T-Mobile's financial services partner for Mobile Money.

IMAGE: iStock
Last updated: Jan 22, 2014

JEREMY QUITTNER is a staff writer for Inc. magazine and Inc.com. He previously covered technology for American Banker and entrepreneurship for BusinessWeek.
@JeremyQuittner




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