T-Mobile's 'Mobile Money' blends prepaid Visa cards and no-fee checking features

T-Mobile's latest service seems to fit its 'UnCarrier' agenda perfectly, since it has little connection to wireless and doesn't actually require users to have the company's phone service. Called Mobile Money, the personal finance product combines a smartphone app (iOS or Android) with a branded prepaid Visa card. Without paying a single fee, T-Mobile wireless customers can deposit checks into their Mobile Money account by taking a picture of them with their smartphone, withdraw money from 42,000 in-network ATMs and reload the cards with cash at T-Mobile stores (non-T-Mobile customers would pay additional fees). There are also no maintenance fees, minimum balances or activation fees.

While many already have free checking accounts with their bank or credit union that offer similar features, this is aimed at people who for various reasons can't get a traditional checking account, and rely instead on check-cashing or payday loan services that charge high fees. It's very similar to the service Boost Mobile launched last spring with a similar focus, and T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert says households currently using check cashers can save up to $1,500 per year in fees. What it isn't however, is a mobile payment service like Isis Mobile Wallet, which it has no connection to. Interested customers can sign up now online or in T-Mobile stores, and next month it will expand to include Safeway locations.