Home Depot Extends Into Financial Services

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Home improvements giant Home Depot, which has applied for a bank-like industrial loan company charter, said last week it has entered the foreign remittances market in direct competition with credit unions, banks and other financial services providers.

Under the company's MiCash program, introduced first in the Washington, D.C., area, Home Depot will issue two cards, one for the worker in the U.S. and the other for his or her family back home. Users load money onto the card at ATMs or participating Home Depot stores (all in the metro D.C. area so far), and recipients can use a variety of ATM networks to withdraw the remittances in local currency. The cost of a remittance has been set at $8.

Sources say the remittance program is aimed at the thousands of immigrant laborers who hang out near Home Depot stores in hopes of finding construction or related work.

Home Depot has agreed to acquire an ILC charter of EnerBank, which it plans to use to provide financing for contractors and homeowners engaged in remodeling and other large-scale purchasers. The charter must still be approved by the FDIC. Expansion of Home Depot into financial services comes as an application by Wal-Mart Stores to open an ILC has attracted vast opposition by lenders and community activists across the country.

Ed Roberts can be reached at robertscuj cujournal.com

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