Amazon in talks with JPMorgan over checking accounts, report says

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Amazon.com Inc. is in talks with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Capital One Financial Corp. about offering the tech giant’s customers a product similar to a checking account, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The target is younger consumers and people without checking accounts, according to the newspaper, which cited people familiar with the matter. The strategy would help Amazon lower fees it pays to financial firms and give it a bigger window into customers’ income and spending habits, according to the report.

Amazon already has a co-branded credit card with JPMorgan, and the two companies’ chief executive officers are working together, along with Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., on finding ways to bring down the cost of health care for their employees. It’s too early to say whether the checking-account venture would include bill-paying services or access to nationwide ATMs, the Journal said.

Companies such as Amazon, Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc. have already proven adept at upending industries from telecommunications to advertising, and Amazon in particular is often blamed for the troubles of brick-and-mortar retailers. A fear in finance is that major tech companies might try to sideline banks by handling more of their customers’ electronic payments, offering financing or accepting deposits — even if those services open them up to more regulation.

While U.S. policy makers have for years been skeptical of letting big companies move into banking services, that may be changing. Keith Noreika, the former acting comptroller of the currency, said last year that it’s time to reconsider whether the traditional separation between lending and retailing should be maintained.

Sie Soheili, a spokesman for Capital One, and JPMorgan spokeswoman Trish Wexler didn’t immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment. Amazon didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment outside of normal business hours in Seattle.

Bloomberg News