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Wal-Mart introduces contract-free postpaid plans

When we talk about prepaid we normally mean services that require users to pay for service before they use it. This allows the provider to avoid running a credit check, which is a major hindrance for some potential customers. A cell phone contract is in reality a line of credit, since customers use the service before receiving a bill at the end of the month. But Walmart is going to do things differently. Yesterday they announced an unlimited postpaid calling plan that will rival the services it already sells.

The plan, dubbed Walmart Family Mobile, will provide unlimited voice, unlimited text, and 100MB of data per month. It will cost $45 for the first line and $25 for each additional line. Any unused data from the initial 100MB will roll over from month-to-month. Users can also purchase additional data: $10 for 200MB, $25 for 500MB, or $40 for 1GB. Any unused data from an add-on purchase will not roll over. Service will run on the T-Mobile network.

Here’s the strange part: Walmart will collect on the service at the end of the month, but won’t require a contract or credit check to qualify. In other words, they’re essentially extending customers a line of credit without checking on their ability to pay up. That seems like a risky proposal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this changed if Walmart ends up getting stiffed on a number of bills. It almost seems inevitable.

Walmart Family Mobile will compete directly with Straight Talk, a service offered only online and at Walmart stores and which runs on the Verizon network. That also costs $45 and provides unlimited talk and text, but also has unlimited data. There is also a $30 plan, apparently the more popular of the two, that provides 1,000 minutes, 1,000 messages, and 30MB of data.

Starting on September 20 you can try Walmart Family Mobile at one of 2,500 stores, or at Walmart.com.