Wal-Mart's 'Plastic' Push

Wal-Mart (WMT) is widening the focus of its massive financial-services operation.

The country's No. 1 retailer is expected to roll out its much-anticipated Wal-Mart Discover card today — complete with a 3-cent per gallon discount at company gas stations and interest rates as low as 9.87 percent.

The Wal-Mart Discover card is the latest blow to the Visa and MasterCard's credit-card dominance.

Last year, the Supreme Court (search) let stand an antitrust ruling that forced the two giant credit-card brands to allow customers to offer rivals cards.

The new Wal-Mart card will have no annual fee, be usable both inside and outside the discount retailer's stores and offer customers up to 1 percent cash back on all purchases.

The Discover card deal also signals a move by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to raise its sights in the financial-services sector.

"Our focus to date has been on basic money services for those without credit cards and checking accounts," said Jane Thompson, president of Wal-Mart Financial Services.

Wal-Mart already offers its own branded credit card.

The Wal-Mart Discover card will be issued by credit card giant GE Consumer Finance, which is a unit of the General Electric Co. (GE). Discover is a unit of big Wall St. investment firm Morgan Stanley (MWD).

Wal-Mart, with 3,600 stores in the U.S., has offered discount money orders, payroll check cashing and utility-bill payment services for years.

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