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Google wants to be your banker, although its checking account may come with fees

Google to offer checking accounts

Google plans to launch a checking account aimed at individuals as soon as next year. The search giant will tie the accounts to its Google Pay offering, which already has 100 million users around the globe, a person with knowledge of the project told CBS MoneyWatch.

Google, though, isn't launching its own bank. Rather, it's partnering with Citigroup and a San Francisco University credit union to offer the accounts. That means the accounts will likely carry fees.

The details of the accounts have not been finalized. But the Google Pay accounts would likely have rules similar to a typical Citi checking account, according to the person with knowledge of the joint project. A recent article from mybanktracker.com said Citi's basic checking accounts charge a $12 monthly fee, a $34 fee per overdraft and a $2.50 charge to withdraw money from a non-Citibank ATM.

Google's move into checking comes at a time when other Big Tech companies like Apple and Facebook are looking to dive deeper into consumer banking and financial services. It's also happening at a time when consumer watchdogs and lawmakers increasingly warn that those same companies are getting too large and may have too much control over Americans' personal data.

"When competition expands that's a good thing," said Mike Moebs, a financial services consultant who specializes in bank accounts. Google has been working on the checking accounts for at least three years, he added.

"Big question that it raises is will Google share that data, and that is a big privacy concern," Moebs said.

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Earlier this week, Apple and its partner Goldman Sachs ran into trouble with Apple Card after a prominent user accused the two companies of gender bias in the card's credit decisions. Facebook is working on a cryptocurrency called Libre that it hopes could supplant the use of dollars for online purchases, something Congress and central bankers have said is a cause for concern.

Checking accounts could offer Google plenty of new consumer data, including how much people are paid, how much they spend and where and when they spend. Google told the Wall Street Journal it won't sell that user data to others, but it does plan on using whatever information it can mine from the accounts to partner with other companies for things like loyalty programs.

"High-tech companies are experts at data exploitation and monetization," said Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, which generally pushes for tighter banking regulation.

Kelleher cited recent revelations about Google's secret collection of detailed health care data on 50 million Americans as a reason for concern regarding its push into finance. "It's not clear that anyone other than high-tech companies would benefit from allowing commercial companies to provide those products and services, rather than financial companies."

Google did not return a request for comment, but Citigroup confirmed to CBS MoneyWatch it was partnering with Google on the accounts.

"We are pleased to explore providing checking accounts nationwide through Google Pay," said Elizabeth Fogarty, a Citi spokesperson. "This agreement has the potential to expand the reach and breadth of our customer base while complementing our continued investments in digital, particularly our market leading Citi Mobile app."

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