Home Depot does remittances

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ImhhomedepotThe Home Depot, the large U.S.-based chain of home improvement stores, has quietly begun a new program that may make remittances cheaper and more convenient. Its MiCash card comes in packages of two, 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 DC area so far), and recipients can use a variety of ATM networks to withdraw the remittances in local currency.

Home Depot parking lots across the U.S. are well-known gathering places for laborers hoping for a day’s wages on a light construction or other job. Many of these workers are immigrants, and Home Depot seems to be targeting them in particular with a well-conceived service. Besides sending remittances, the cards can be used to receive direct deposit of paychecks, to pay utilities or as a debit card for daily purchases. I’m sure commercial banks will be watching closely.

Looks like the project is still in some flux – I've seen conflicting information on the site over the past few days about the pricing structure. As of today, it costs about $8 to send one remittance. (Most estimates put the average remittance to Latin America at around $300, and wire transfer fees can reach $30.) Hopefully the program will provide immigrant workers with a convenient and lower cost alternative to wire transfers and other remittance mechanisms.

According to NextBillion, the program will be extended to Tampa, Florida later this month.

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