Convenience in the Balance

Published in CSP Daily News

Walgreens leveraging low-cost financial services via rewards to draw in "unbanked"

DEERFIELD, Ill. -- As part of its ongoing strategy to become a daily destination not only for health and wellness, but also for convenience merchandise and services, Walgreens has announced Balance Financial, a full suite of integrated financial services launching in phases over the coming months, all built around its new Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard.

Walgreens currently offers Balance Financial to customers at more than 250 locations in Detroit, Milwaukee and Nashville, Tenn.; the drug store chain said that it expects to begin a nationwide card rollout before the end of the year and additional financial services rollout in 2014.

Balance Financial is powered by Galileo, an industry leader in advanced payment processing solutions.

Balance Financial currently offers the following products and services:

  • The Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard, a safe alternative to cash for the millions of customers without a traditional bank account or those who want alternatives to debit cards and checking accounts.
  • Easy reloading of the Balance Financial card at any of more than 8,100 Walgreens or Duane Reade stores.
  • No-fee ATM withdrawals for Balance Financial cardholders at most Walgreens or Duane Reade stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Check cashing for Balance Financial cardholders in the initial 250 Walgreens stores. Cardholders will be able to deposit payroll, tax refund and government benefit checks and can receive from a Walgreens cashier up to $100 in cash from their card account. Cardholders can access additional cash 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.
  • Earn Balance Rewards points for using the Balance Financial card. By linking the card to a Balance Rewards account, they 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. Cardholders can enjoy all the other benefits of Balance Rewards membership, including dollars off future purchases. Multichannel offering includes website, mobile app and in-store kiosks that allow Balance Financial cardholders to check a balance, view transaction history or move funds from one card to another cardholder's account.
  • Pay bills online via the Balance Financial cardholder website.
  • Members can use the Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard everywhere that accepts Debit MasterCard to shop or pay bills, including online.

Walgreens said it is planning additional services for 2014, including Western Union Money Transfer and expedited bill payment services.

"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," said Jason Dubinsky, Walgreens vice president and treasurer. "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."

One American household out of four--60 million adults--is not served or is underserved by a bank or other financial institution. Rather than conduct transactions in cash, many of these "unbanked" individuals seek a secure and convenient way to deposit paychecks, pay bills, move funds and shop.

"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," said Dubinsky. "On top of the convenience and robust features, the ability to earn Balance Rewards points makes this service uniquely valuable to our customers."

Balance Financial is a collaboration of Walgreens, MasterCard, Galileo and FIS.

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

"We are thrilled to have forged a strategic relationship with Walgreens," said Clay Wilkes, CEO of Galileo. "The Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard shows Walgreens foresight and commitment to a valuable product for its customers, while demonstrating Galileo's ability to support Walgreens by leveraging our unique platform, vast connectivity infrastructure, innovative solutions and focus on the end-consumer. Galileo will deliver a premium payments experience."

As the nation's largest drugstore chain with fiscal 2013 sales of $72 billion, Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens provides more than six million customers with convenient, multichannel access to consumer goods and services and pharmacy, health and wellness services and advice. The company operates 8,123 drugstores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.