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Sam’s Club plans loans for small businesses

Associated Press / July 7, 2010

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NEW YORK — Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club chain is teaming up with a lender to offer loans of up to $25,000 to its small business members.

The program is one of several moves the retail giant has made to offer bank-like financial services to customers, in part to help them spend. It also comes as the retailer tries to improve profitability at its warehouse-club chain.

The division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is based in Bentonville, Ark., is testing a program with Superior Financial Group, one of 13 federally licensed nonbank lenders, and will offer $5,000 to $25,000 loans to members who qualify. They don’t have to spend the money at Sam’s Club.

Sam’s Club members who apply for a small business loan during the pilot will receive $100 off the application fee, a 20 percent discount, and a discount on interest rates.

Businesses can pay $35 for a membership to Sam’s Club that includes three annual membership cards that allow them to shop at 600 Sam’s Clubs in the United States.

The loan program isn’t Wal-Mart’s first attempt to offer financial products. In 2007 it tried to establish a bank, but dropped the bid after heated debate over whether the world’s largest retailer should be allowed to gain the added financial power of a federally insured bank.