T-Mobile is getting a lot of attention following the introduction of Mobile Money, which aims to help consumers who don’t have bank accounts manage their money. The service, which will launch next month, will allow consumers to create accounts that will be manageable through a smartphone app and accessible with a Visa debit card at the carrier’s retail locations as well as outlets of Safeway and other chains. T-Mobile is positioning the offering as an alternative to traditional check-cashing businesses that typically charge hefty fees. And while it will be available to all consumers in the U.S., the operator will waive monthly fees for its mobile customers.
Even if T-Mobile doesn’t generate any profits from its banking business — which is a very plausible scenario — I think this is a brilliant move on a few levels. It gives the carrier a chance to position itself as a consumer-friendly alternative to the check-cashing industry, which has garnered criticism for practices that are often viewed as predatory. It will make it easier for T-Mobile customers pay their bills over their phones, and should ramp up traffic in the carrier’s retail locations. And it’s a good fit for the young, budget-conscious users that have provided much of T-Mobile’s momentum over the last year. Mobile Money may not affect the bottom line with a new revenue stream, but it should help grow the carrier’s customer base.