Discover (DFS) customers have long awaited checking accounts from the credit card issuer, and it seems like the wait is over.
The move to offer a checking account has been expected, and now it is being offered to a limited amount of customers, with plans to offer it to all customers and even non-existing customers in the not-too-distant future.
One of the most attractive parts of the accounts is that customers will be able to enjoy $0.10 back on every online bill they pay, each check they write, and even on debit-card transactions tied to their account.
The product seems like a great idea, and appears to tap into exactly what customers want the most from a checking account.
While the rewards that the accounts offer are attractive enough, there are other reasons why this new program is likely to be a success, and pose a serious challenge to American Express (AXP), which already offers pre-paid debit cards via its Bluebird cards that are sold in Wal-Mart (WMT) stores.
In addition to the rewards, the account holders will not have to maintain a minimum balance, and they will receive free checks, two things that customers of most major banks do not currently enjoy.
Perhaps the most attractive aspect of these accounts is that there will not be any monthly fees.
Many people have helplessly watched their checking account fees rise in recent years, as banks try to make up for reduced fees they are allowed to charge merchants for processing debit-card transactions.
Since Discover is able to offer this service solely online, it can do it cheaper than big banks. Discover is under no impression that its checking account business will be a huge money driver for the company, but that is not the reason it is offering the service.
What is expects from the service is to grow its money available to use for making loans. The company's Chairman and Chief Executive, Devid Nelms, stated that he expects the new service to provide the company a "good, low-cost, stable source of funds."
With a player as big as Discover coming into the checking business, we could see a chain-reaction across the industry of lower fees. Whether or not you are a Discover customer, or even plan to give their checking account a try, in the long run you will most likely benefit from the program as other financial institutions are forced to lower fees in order to retain clients.
Michael Fowlkes is a financial writer who has been with the Fresh Brewed Media family since 2004. Over the course of his tenure with Fresh Brewed Media, he has worn many hats, including portfolio manager, options analyst, and writer. Michael received his undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech in Accounting and got his start in finance working as a stock trader for six years at Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Va. His articles typically cover big-picture events and forecasting what impact they will have on the stock market. In addition to writing for Fresh Brewed Media, Michael also wrote for AOL's BloggingStocks for three years, focusing most of his attention on the energy and technology sectors. Follow him on Twitter at @MFatMICenter.