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Wal-Mart Brings a New Way to Pay Bills the Old Way

Friday, 28 Aug 2009 | 3:45 PM ET

With so many folks paying their bills online, or electronically through an automatic checking account deduction, it's hard to imagine that a good slice of consumers are still paying some of their bills in person.

But in fact, a study conducted by Aite Group that Wal-Mart commissioned showed that about 21 million households pay at least one of their bills in person each month.

To better serve those customers, many of whom are lower-income consumers without a checking account, Wal-Mart Stores has teamed with Firserv to provide a walk-in bill paying system.

Using the CheckFreePay Service, customers can pay household bills such as utilities, mobile phones, auto loans and credit cards. The fee for the service varies depending on when the bill must be paid. For bill payments delivered within three business days, Wal-Mart will charge 88 cents, but same-day bill payment begins at $4.50.

"I think this is a segment of the population [for whom paying in-person] is mainstream for them," said Jane Thompson, president of Walmart Financial Services. "They are running around town paying their bills. It takes a lot of time and energy to do that."

  • To Hear More from Walmart Financial Services' Jane Thompson, click here.

According to Thompson, many of these consumers — who are typically 45 years or older, without a college degree, and making less than $30,000 a year — can spend more than an hour and a half traveling from place to place to pay their bills.

Despite the costs of the service, Wal-Mart said it believes families who use the service could save money compared with other third-party payment services.

"This is a service that is part of our effort to continue to focus on customers who are living paycheck-to-paycheck," Thompson said. These customers may use the service in order to be able to delay the payment of the bill as long as possible as they wait for their next paycheck to arrive.

More from Consumer Nation:

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

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