Adds Checking Accounts to Payment Options

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Grabbing yet another tool to snare more market share, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is allowing U.S. customers to make purchases on its Web site using their checking accounts.

The move at was prompted by customer requests. But it offers yet another incentive for consumers to shop with Wal-Mart if they do not want to use their credit card online.

"Thus far, customer response has been very good," said Cynthia Lin, a representative at Wal-Mart's Brisbane, CA, online division. "Initial data show we're reaching customers who have not bought from us before."

Lin would not disclose how many customers have started exercising this option.

Transactions paid by check online have the same security features as in Wal-Mart's stores nationwide. The payment process verifies the identity of the account holder, encrypted in a manner similar to card transactions. Items can be mailed back to or returned to a local Wal-Mart store for a refund.

"We know that many Wal-Mart store customers pay by check, which is why we anticipate we'll be able to serve an even broader customer base now that we offer the online payment option," Lin said. previously accepted only credit cards or Wal-Mart shopping cards.

The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart last year reported $244.5 billion in sales from more than 2,870 discount stores, Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets as well as 520 Sam's Clubs. Overseas, it has 1,275 stores. It employs 1.3 million people worldwide.

Wal-Mart slowly and steadily is becoming one of the most popular e-commerce sites among the mass merchandiser brands. Its checking option makes it a rarity among discounters of its class.

"As far as we know, we may be the first mass retailer offering this payment option online," Lin said, "although there are certainly some other Web sites that do provide a check payment option."

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