(Bloomberg) -- In its quest to stand out from U.S. rivals, T-Mobile US Inc. is adding an unusual perk: a checking account.

The carrier is rolling out a new T-Mobile Money app that provides access to no-fee checking accounts managed by BankMobile, part of Customers Bancorp. Monthly wireless subscribers who deposit at least $200 a month will be able to get 4 percent interest on up to $3,000, and 1 percent interest on sums above that. The service debuts nationwide on Thursday.

The idea is to keep customers loyal in a market where T-Mobile is battling two much-larger competitors, Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. The carrier also is trying to get regulators to approve its $26 billion takeover of Sprint Corp., and showing that it has innovative services in the pipeline can’t hurt.

“Happy customers are good for business,” Tiffany Minor, a marketing director for T-Mobile Money, said in a phone interview. “They stay longer. We absolutely like that construct.”

The account will come with a mobile app, which can connect to services like Venmo and Apple Pay, and a plastic debit card. It also lets customer overdraw their account up to $50 with no fees if the amount is paid within 30 days.

‘Pain Points’

Customers who aren’t monthly subscribers -- and even people who don’t use T-Mobile’s service at all -- will be able to get accounts with 1 percent interest.

The approach pits T-Mobile against banks, which may be offering lower interest and less functionality in their mobile apps. But T-Mobile hopes to gain an edge by making the process easy, Minor said.

“We thought there were pain points, and we thought there was a better way,” she said. “We believe we’ve solved those pain points and delivered a great experience.”

The new service is launching at a tumultuous time for T-Mobile, which is trying to get its merger with Sprint past regulators. The combination would unite the third- and fourth-largest U.S. wireless carriers, sparking fears about its effect on competition. T-Mobile Chief Executive Officer John Legere has argued that the merged company would be a stronger rival to Verizon and AT&T.

Overseas, it’s not uncommon for carriers to get involved in finance. In Africa and other regions, mobile services are already active participants -- and sometimes even leaders -- in their local banking. In Kenya, people use their mobile phones to receive and send payments, for example.

To contact the reporter on this story: Olga Kharif in Portland at okharif@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net, Dan Reichl

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