First the "Golden Dollar," now tax rebate checks.

Wal-Mart Stores, which rankled banks last year when it struck a deal with the U.S. Mint to distribute the new Golden Dollars, is running a promotion to cash tax rebate checks at no charge to customers.

As the federal government began to mail more than 91 million tax rebates totaling $38 billion last week, the discount retailer stood ready to help consumers spend them by offering to convert the checks to shopping cards or to accept them as payment for store merchandise.

The banking industry objected loudly last year when the retail giant horned in on what is considered bank territory but seems less concerned about the rebate checks.

Diane M. Casey, the president and chief executive officer of America's Community Bankers, said she has not heard of any banker resentment. She acknowledged, though, that encouraging consumers to spend the rebate does "fly in the face of what our bankers are telling customers, which is to use the rebate to pay down debt" or invest the money.

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