Over the coming months, Walgreen Co. is launching a package of financial services anchored by a co-branded cash card that can be linked to its Balance Rewards customer loyalty card.

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Walgreens rolls out suite of banking services

October 7th, 2013

DEERFIELD, Ill. – Over the coming months, Walgreen Co. is launching a package of financial services anchored by a co-branded cash card that can be linked to its Balance Rewards customer loyalty card.

Plans call for a national rollout of Balance Financial before the year's end, with more services set for 2014.

Dubbed Balance Financial, the services are built around the Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard, designed to provide a safe alternative to cash for customers who don't have a bank account or want options to debit cards and checking accounts, Walgreens said Monday. The card can be used anywhere Debit MasterCard is accepted to shop or pay bills, including online, and customers can reload the card at any of the 8,100-plus Walgreens or Duane Reade stores nationwide.

The drug chain reported that Balance Financial is now available at more than 250 Walgreens stores in Detroit, Milwaukee and Nashville, Tenn. Plans call for a national rollout of the card before the end of the year, with more financial services slated for 2014.

Balance Financial is powered by Galileo, a provider of payment processing solutions. Also partnering with Walgreens on the financial services offering are MasterCard and FIS, a provider of banking and payment technologies.

"To be America's first choice for health and daily living, Walgreens plans to offer the kinds of financial services that are a true necessity for today's daily life," Jason Dubinsky, vice president and treasurer at Walgreens, said in a statement. "Millions of Americans do not have — or want alternatives to — traditional checking accounts and debit cards. For them, Balance Financial will represent safety, convenience, value and rewards. With Balance Financial as our platform, over time we plan to add more features and functionality that give our customers even more powerful financial tools to get, stay and live well."

Along with the prepaid payment card, products and services now offered by Balance Financial include the following:

• No-fee ATM withdrawals for Balance Financial cardholders at most Walgreens or Duane Reade stores.

• Check cashing for cardholders in the initial 250 Walgreens stores. Cardholders will be able to deposit payroll, tax refund and government benefit checks and receive from a Walgreens cashier up to $100 in cash from their card account. Additional cash can be accessed without a fee at a Walgreens ATM.

• Free reloads with direct deposit. Enroll a Balance Financial account in direct deposit and cardholders can have their payroll, tax refund or government benefits checks deposited to their Balance Financial account.

• The ability to earn Balance Rewards points just for using the Balance Financial card. By linking the card to a Balance Rewards account, customers can earn 10 points for every $1 spent at Walgreens or Duane Reade stores, 1,000 points for the first direct deposit and more points for in-store reloads and monthly direct deposits.

• Multichannel access to Balance Financial services, including via the web (walgreens.com/balancefinancial), mobile application and in-store kiosks that enable cardholders to check a balance, view transaction history or move funds from one card to another cardholder's account. 

Other services are planned for 2014 include Western Union Money Transfer and expedited bill payment services, according to Walgreens.

"In bringing together leading financial services partners, we have developed an easier way for millions of customers to manage their money in-store, online or with a mobile device," Dubinsky added. "On top of the convenience and robust features, the ability to earn Balance Rewards points makes this service uniquely valuable to our customers."

Walgreens noted that one U.S. household out of four, about 60 million adults, isn't served or is underserved by a bank or other financial institution, and many are looking for a secure, convenient way to deposit paychecks, pay bills, move funds and shop instead of having to make transactions in cash.

"MasterCard and Walgreens will combine our expertise and resources to better serve customers and deliver on business goals," stated Craig Vosburg, group executive of U.S. market development at MasterCard. "We are also long-standing champions of financial inclusion and welcome the opportunity to help millions of Walgreens customers enter the economic mainstream."

Another large drug chain, Toronto-based Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., launched co-branded financial products with Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Canada's largest bank, in early 2012. The products, tied into the chain's Shoppers Optimum rewards program, include the RBC Shoppers Optimum banking account and debit card and the RBC Shoppers Optimum MasterCard credit card. And this past February, Shoppers Drug Mart began selling via its website co-branded travel insurance products from RBC Insurance.