Walgreens Encourages Healthy Finances with GPR Card (October 2013)
By Bill Grabarek, Senior Editor
Walgreens, the Deerfield, Ill.-based drugstore chain, will soon find out if its suite of financial services is just what the doctor ordered for the millions of unbanked and underbanked consumers in the U.S.
Earlier this month, Walgreens, the largest drugstore retailer in the U.S., launched Balance Financial in more than 250 locations in Detroit, Milwaukee and Nashville, Tenn. The company expects to roll out the program nationwide by the end of this year and phase in additional financial services, such as bill payment services, next year.
“Walgreens has been one of the largest sellers of prepaid card products from other companies,” Emily Hartwig, Walgreens corporate spokesperson, tells Paybefore. “As the market for reloadable prepaid cards continues to grow, we see a great opportunity to design and create our own prepaid card.” Walgreens will continue to sell GPR prepaid cards offered by other vendors, she adds.
Features and Footprint
The program’s features currently include the Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard, free ATM withdrawals at most Walgreens and Duane Reade stores, and a check-cashing feature in which cardholders can direct deposit payroll, tax refund and government benefit checks and receive from a Walgreens cashier up to $100 from their account. The program also includes card-to-card transfers and the ability to check balances and transaction history online or using a mobile phone app. Many of the services will be accessible at in-store financial services kiosks.
|“[A] key differentiator is that the program sets the value bar high in terms of low fees and the services delivered.”
—Clay Wilkes, Galileo
Walgreens also has tied in its Balance Rewards loyalty program, which has approximately 85 million members. Cardholders who link their Balance Financial prepaid cards to their Balance Rewards accounts 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.
“Integrating the Balance Financial prepaid card with our highly successful Walgreens Balance Rewards program represents opportunities for dollar savings when shopping,” Hartwig says.
Critical to improving chances for success in a crowded field of GPR cards is consumer convenience in terms of the number of locations, and Walgreens’ footprint is nothing to sneeze at with more than 8,100 stores across the country—which equates to “nearly two-thirds of Americans living within three miles of a Walgreens or Duane Reade store; these services will be easily accessible,” Hartwig says.
Financial Services Partners
|At a Glance: Balance Financial GPR Card Fees
One-time initial fee of $2.95
Bill pay service is $0.95
Withdrawals are free using ATMs at Walgreens/Duane Reade locations
In-store reload fee of $2.95
Direct deposit is free
Reviewing balances and transaction histories are free via the Web, mobile or in-store
Card-to-card money transfers are free
“Our vision as a company is to be the first choice for health and daily living for everyone in America, and today financial services are a necessity of daily life,” she continues. “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.”
Galileo is the program manager and processor, FIS is the financial and payments technology provider for the check-cashing solution, The Bancorp is the card issuer and Western Union is the in-store provider of money remittance and bill payment services.
“Balance Financial is a platform of alternative financial services that Walgreens is rolling out and we are providing the expertise and technology which will be at the hub of the offering,” says Clay Wilkes, CEO at Salt Lake City-based Galileo, which was selected by Walgreens from 14 other companies.
“Galileo is the technology that powers the consumer experience with the card, and whereas the card becomes the central component to all services, we also are providing integration with Walgreens and the other partners to deliver an industry leading set of services,” Wilkes says.
As Walgreens takes its place among a new crop of GPR cards in the market, Wilkes says the program will be successful for several reasons.
In addition to the number of Walgreens locations and Balance Reward members, “there are a number of in-store benefits for consumers using this product compared with [others],” he says. “Another key differentiator is that the program sets the value bar high in terms of low fees and the services delivered.”