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Tech by VICE

T-Mobile Wants to Crash the Banking Industry's Party

T-Mobile CEO and infamous party-crasher John Legere yesterday announced a new personal finance service. It's further evidence the industry is ripe for disruption.

by ALEC LIU
Jan 23 2014, 11:00am
via Flickr/Thomas Hawk

T-Mobile's punk rock CEO John Legere famously crashed the AT&T party at CES (before being unceremoniously tossed out by bouncers). Now he’s crashing an even bigger party. 

Not content to push the buttons of AT&T and Verizon, he's set his sights on the banking industry, further blurring the lines that define what it means to be a mobile carrier.

The development is yet another reminder that the companies handling our money are beginning to look less and less like traditional banks.

In a move that aggressively vibes with Legere’s “Un-Carrier” movement for the underdog wireless provider, T-Mobile US has unveiled Mobile Money, a new service that provides personal finance in the form of an app, a prepaid Visa card, and what essentially amounts to a free checking account. In other words, T-Mobile is pretty much a bank.

The service will be available to all T-Mobile wireless customers free of charge. Customers can deposit checks directly into their account or use the app to snap a photo with their smartphone and withdraw cash from 42,000 ATMs without additional fees. There’s no minimum balance requirements or additional fees for most transactions either.

Working with the Bancorp Bank, T-Mobile is targeting customers who can’t get a traditional checking account through their bank or local credit union and are often victims of high fees for check cashing and payday loan services.

"We've already transformed how Americans use and pay for phones, tablets and wireless service; why stop there?" Legere said in a statement. "Millions of Americans pay outrageous fees to check cashers, payday lenders and other predatory businesses - just for the right to use their own money. Mobile Money shifts the balance of power for T-Mobile customers and keeps more money in their pockets."

Being able to easily score a bank account through your mobile provider is a big deal. According to a report by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 10 million households didn’t have an account in 2012, many of which didn’t have the funds to open or maintain one. Others said they didn’t find it necessary or were afraid of fees such as the dreaded overdraft charge.

It’s a bigger deal because banking options are probably the last thing on the your mind when considering your next carrier. The fact that Legere and T-Mobile are stepping on the toes of traditional banks is yet another sign that the industry is ripe for disruption, either from established companies expanding their services or through revolutionary innovations like we've seen with cryptocurrencies.

How we view money is morphing before our eyes in unimaginable ways and it's clearer by the day that the traditional gatekeepers of finance—mainly the banks—are being cut out from all angles.

@sfnuop