NEW YORK (AP) — 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 money-transfer companies MoneyGram and Western Union slid Thursday.
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. In 2007, it abandoned those plans, but it has been creating an expanding menu of financial offerings for customers, aimed particularly at those with limited access to banks. Wal-Mart already offers prepaid cards, check cashing services and tax preparation services.
Shares of MoneyGram International Inc., which could get hit the hardest, fell 18 percent to close at $14.81. MoneyGram is the company that currently provides money transfers to Wal-Mart. The stock of Western Union Co., its rival, fell 5 percent to $15.25.
MoneyGram is not "taking any pricing actions" at Wal-Mart or at any other U.S. location in response to Wal-Mart's actions, MoneyGram said in an emailed statement. It said that Wal-Mart is its single largest corporate customer, but has been decreasing as a percentage of its revenue for the past five years.
In a statement emailed to The Associated Press, Western Union said, "Our retail product and service offerings today are already quite diverse. "