Talking tech since 2003

The term “unbanked” typically refers to those who do not have, or are unable to open, a checking account. When you can get such an account with the self-proclaimed “uncarrier,” though, the word takes on a slightly different meaning. News broke very early this morning (via Business Insider) that T-Mobile plans to give banks a run for their money* by offering free checking accounts, turning each T-Mobile retail location into a bank, of sorts.

t-mobile-300x98How does this service, called T-Mobile Mobile Money, work exactly? For starters, you walk into a T-Mobile store and ask to open a checking account. You make a cash deposit and T-Mobile provides you with a prepaid debit card. This card will hold you over until you get your actual check card. Once your account is open, you can deposit checks at a T-Mobile location or by using T-Mobile’s Mobile Money app, which is available on both iOS and Android (sorry, Windows Phone users).

When you need to take money out of your account, you can do so by accessing one of 42,000 ATMs in T-Mobile’s network. These ATMs are fee-free, which means you won’t have to pay the $2 or $3 to take cash out of your account.

Another neat perk of the T-Mobile checking account is that you can easily send money to other T-Mobile users. You will need to know the person’s T-Mobile phone number as well as the last four digits of their debit card number, so you won’t be able to send money to just anyone. If that’s what you’re after, you’re better off using something like PayPal or Square Cash.

T-Mobile Mobile Money (I wish they’d drop that other “Mobile” from the name) isn’t all that different from the other “unbanked” debit card programs out there. When  it comes down to it, the carrier is just offering a reloadable debit card. There are no other account types to speak of — no savings or money market accounts — and checks can’t be written from the account. Still, if you don’t currently have a similar account and you make frequent trips to a T-Mobile store to pay your bill, the service may be worth checking out.

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