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Walgreens to offer financial services, introduces Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Monday announced Balance Financial, a full suite of integrated financial services that will be launching in phases over the coming months, all built around its new Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard.

“To be America’s first choice for health and daily living, Walgreens plans to offer the kinds of financial services that are a true necessity for today’s daily life,” stated Jason Dubinsky, Walgreens VP and treasurer. “Millions of Americans do not have — or want alternatives to — traditional checking accounts and debit cards. For them, Balance Financial will represent safety, convenience, value and rewards. With Balance Financial as our platform, over time we plan to add more features and functionality that give our customers even more powerful financial tools to get, stay and live well.”

Balance Financial is currently offered to customers across more than 250 Walgreens locations in Detroit, Milwaukee and Nashville, with a nationwide card rollout expected before year-end and additional financial services in 2014.  

The Balance Financial Prepaid MasterCard is an alternative to cash for the millions of customers without a traditional bank account or those who want alternatives to debit cards and checking accounts. The card can be reloaded at any of more than 8,100 Walgreens or Duane Reade stores. And the card features no-fee ATM withdrawals for Balance Financial cardholders at most Walgreens or Duane Reade stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Balance Financial cardholders will have the ability cash checks across the initial 250 Walgreens stores. Cardholders will be able to deposit payroll, tax refund and government benefit checks and can receive from a Walgreens cashier up to $100 in cash from their card account. Additional cash can be accessed without a fee at a Walgreens ATM.

And cardholders will be able to earn Balance Rewards points just for using the Balance Financial card. By linking the card to a Balance Rewards account, users earn 10 points for every $1 spent at Walgreens or Duane Reade stores, 1,000 points for the first direct deposit and more points for in-store reloads and monthly direct deposits.  

A multichannel offering — including website, mobile app and in-store kiosks — will allow Balance Financial cardholders to check a balance, view transaction history or move funds from one card to another cardholder’s account.

“In bringing together leading financial services partners, we have developed an easier way for millions of customers to manage their money in-store, online or with a mobile device,” Dubinsky said. “On top of the convenience and robust features, the ability to earn Balance Rewards points makes this service uniquely valuable to our customers.”

Balance Financial is a collaboration of Walgreens, MasterCard, Galileo and FIS.  In addition, Western Union services are expected to be available in 2014.

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Dollar General opens store No. 11,000

BY Michael Johnsen

GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. — Dollar General on Saturday opened its 11,000th store, further distinguishing the dollar-store operator as the retailer with the most stores in the United States, the company announced. 

"The opening of our 11,000th store is another exciting milestone for Dollar General," stated Rick Dreiling, Dollar General chairman and CEO. "I would like to thank our more than 100,000 employees for all they do every day to serve our customers as we continue to grow," he said. "We see a lot of exciting opportunities to expand our business, create new career opportunities for our employees and make a difference in our customers’ lives."

As part of the day’s community celebration, Dollar General presented $11,000 in donations to local schools and community organizations in support of literacy initiatives.

The new store is located in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Dollar General anticipates opening 650 new stores in 2013. The company plans to create 6,000 new jobs in 2013, and Dollar General’s continued growth has created nearly 30,000 new jobs since 2007.

 

 

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Exchange pledges to remain open during government shutdown

BY Michael Johnsen

DALLAS — Although many services on military installations have closed or curtailed operations as a result of the federal government shutdown that began on Oct. 1, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service remains open to support service members, retirees and their family members, the Exchange announced Friday. 

“Some of our military installations are located in rural areas, with a few located as far away as a two-hour drive to a major metropolitan area," stated Exchange deputy director Maj. Gen. Joseph Ward. "So when, as result of the government shutdown, the on-base commissaries and other appropriated funded services close, the Exchange is able to step up and provide an outlet for service members to purchase essential items," he said. “The Exchange has worked with its vendors to keep Express convenience stores well-stocked with customer essential items, such as diapers, bread, milk and frozen food, during this period of higher demand as a result of commissary and dining hall closures.”

“The Exchange is largely unaffected by the shutdown as it is a non-appropriated funded instrumentality,” reported Exchange chief of staff Col. Tom Ockenfels. “This means nearly 97% of the Exchange’s funding is generated by sales and 3% from tax dollar support," he said. “By operating the Exchange as a non-appropriated funded instrumentality … while providing dividends back to help service members and their families and to support quality life programs, we saved American taxpayers $688 million last year.“ 

The Exchange operates facilities for service members, retirees and their families in more than 30 countries, 50 states and five U.S. territories. 

The Exchange’s worldwide facilities, including 131 main stores, 174 military clothing stores, 72 movie theaters, 850 specialty stores (Express convenience stores, gas stations, troops stores, Class Six outlets, bookstores, etc.) and 1,590 quick serve restaurants, such as Taco Bell, Subway, Burger King, Popeye’s and Starbucks, remain open to support service members and their families during this shutdown.

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