T-Mobile Wants To Do For Bank Accounts What It's Doing For Phone Contracts

The service provider announced Mobile Money, a new banking service that allows T-mobile customers to skirt annoying fees.

Ever since T-Mobile started carrying the iPhone, the carrier has shown it's willing to play loose and fast with the rules to win over new customers. The self-anointed "uncarrier"--which already lets customers upgrade their phones twice a year for a fee, offers unlimited global data roaming, and will even pay your current plan's early termination fees if you switch over--just unveiled its newest, and perhaps boldest venture yet...

T-Mobile is becoming a bank.

The initiative, "Mobile Money," basically transforms T-Mobile into a bank like Chase or Bank of America. Its bright pink retail stores are your branches; T-Mobile employees are now tellers. After a nominal cash deposit, T-Mobile will give you a free checking account and mail you a Visa debit card.

"Millions of Americans pay outrageous fees to check cashers, payday lenders, and other predatory businesses--just for the right to use their own money," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere in a press release. "Mobile Money shifts the balance of power for T-Mobile customers and keeps more money in their pockets."

T-Mobile claims the big draw of Mobile Money is that customers won't be peppered with the typical charges that can make banking an annoying hassle--an overdraft here, a maintenance fee there. There's no minimum balance, and customers can use the Money Mobile app to find one of 42,000 in-network ATMs to skip pesky withdrawal fees altogether.

It's a brave move, to say the least, and you have to wonder if potential customers will trust T-Mobile with something as valuable as their checking accounts. Especially in light of recent incidents suggesting a security breach.

[Image: T-Mobile]

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  • Correction: It's not a debit Visa card, it's a pre-paid Visa card. Notable because a pre-paid card requires some level of manual interaction to maintain, which is a less appealing proposition. And it also more narrowly specifies a target market.