NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is lowering its fee that shoppers pay for its interest-free pay-over-time program for the winter holidays.

The fee to open up a layaway account will now be $5 instead of $15, the world's largest retailer said Tuesday.

The announcement comes a day after Toys R US announced it was waiving the upfront service fee for layaway orders created in store from Sept. 4 through Oct. 31. After Oct 31, a $5 service fee will apply. Also, there will be no minimum purchase price. Customers have until Dec. 16 to pick up their orders.

Wal-Mart says the move wasn't in response to the Toys R Us announcement, but rather in reaction to customer feedback on its Facebook page since announcing last month its plans to bring back its layaway program for the Christmas season. The new program, which starts Sept. 16 and runs through Dec. 14, will last a month longer than last year's and will include more items than the toys and electronics featured last year.

"When our customers speak up, we listen," said Duncan MacNaughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer at Wal-Mart's U.S. namesake division, in a statement. "We believe this rollback strengthens our layaway offering. It's even more attractive to our customers and makes Wal-Mart more competitive in the marketplace."

The discounter, based in Bentonville, Ark., reiterated that shoppers who make their final layaway payment will get a full refund of the fee in a form of a Wal-Mart gift card.

Like last year's program, Wal-Mart is still requiring that each item is priced at $15 or more, and the total layaway purchase must be at least $50.

A down payment of 10 percent or $10, whichever is greater, is required and will be applied to the purchase, the same terms as last year. If the order is cancelled or not paid in full, the fee is not refunded, but no additional cancellation fee will be charged, as was the case last year.

Layaway became popular during the Great Depression. Before the most recent recession, easy credit had made it largely a thing of the past. But when credit dried up and the job market soured, Sears, Toys R Us and other merchants added back or expanded the service.

Toys R Us introduced its layaway program in stores in 2009 for bigger items like bikes, swing sets, and play kitchens, and has added more categories each year. In 2011, layaway was expanded to include all items at Toys R Us and most items at Babies R Us.

Citing increased costs and lower customer demand, Wal-Mart phased out its layaway in September 2006 – roughly a year before the recession began – with the exception of jewelry. But the discounter faced criticism because it built its reputation on helping the low-income shoppers.

___

AP Retail Writer Mae Anderson in New York contributed to the report.

.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Prosecution For Financial Fraud Hit A 20-Year Low During The Obama Administration

    Despite Obama's <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/05/06/why-can-t-obama-bring-wall-street-to-justice.html" target="_hplink">promises to crack down</a> on Wall Street, federal prosecutions of financial fraud hit a 20-year low last year, according to a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/15/financial-fraud-prosecution_n_1095933.html" target="_hplink">November study from a watchdog group</a>. The number of these types of prosecutions has been falling every year since 1999 -- in other words, there were more prosecutions during every year of George W. Bush's presidency than during every year of Obama's.

  • Income Inequality Is Worse Under Obama Than Under Bush

    The rich took home a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/11/income-inequality-obama-bush_n_1419008.html" target="_hplink">greater share of America's income pie</a> from 2009 to 2010 than they did between 2002 and 2007, according to an April analysis from Emmanuel Saez, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. That means the gap between the rich and the poor was more pronounced under Obama's presidency than under George W. Bush's.

  • Obama Wants To Lower The Corporate Tax Rate

    Some of America's most profitable companies used a variety of loopholes to pay <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/03/major-corporations-tax-subsidies_n_1073548.html" target="_hplink">less than zero in taxes</a> between 2008 and 2010, according to a November 2011 report from the Center for Tax Justice. But the Obama administration wants to make it even easier for corporations to have a smaller tax bill; Obama proposed a tax overhaul that would <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/22/barack-obama-proposing-to_n_1292939.html" target="_hplink">cut the corporate tax rate</a> from 35 percent to 28 percent.

  • Health Care Reform Won't Make Health Care Cheaper For Most Americans

    Once the health care law takes effect, insurance companies will be footing the bill for millions of previously uninsured Americans and for those who were denied coverage for pre-existing conditions. And health insurance companies will <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/health-care-costs-rise_n_1440584.html" target="_hplink">likely pass on to consumers the cost</a> of insuring the new patients. After Massachusetts enacted a similar health care plan in 2006, premiums for an individual plan in the state <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/28/health-insurance-ruling-supreme-court-costs_n_1634555.html" target="_hplink">rose 18 percent</a> over three years.

  • Obama's Housing Programs Have Largely Been A Failure

    In 2009, Obama announced the Home Affordable Mortgage Program, promising to help 3 to 4 million borrowers, but as of January -- more than three years into the program -- HAMP had <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/27/hamp-loan-modification-expands_n_1237169.html" target="_hplink">only reached 1 million borrowers</a>. In an aim to give the program legs, administration <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/27/hamp-loan-modification-expands_n_1237169.html" target="_hplink">officials changed the rules</a> in January to make more borrowers eligible. Still, the fixes were likely too little too late, experts said at the time.

  • Homeowners Haven't Seen Much Out Of That Huge Mortgage Deal

    The Obama Administration touted the $25 billion mortgage deal it reached with 49 states and the big banks to settle allegations that banks mishandled mortgages. As part of the settlement, banks said they would <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/12/national-mortgage-settlement-_n_1589499.html" target="_hplink">offer at least $10 billion</a> in loan forgiveness to homeowners. But months after the deal was inked, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/29/debt-relief-mortgage-settlement_n_1839923.html" target="_hplink">banks have been slow</a> to hand out the money.

  • Democrats Have Received More Campaign Cash From Bain Than Republicans

    The Democratic National Convention will feature <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/03/bain-capital_n_1852302.html" target="_hplink">employees of firms run by Bain Capital</a> -- the private equity firm where Mitt Romney was formerly CEO -- likely in an aim to raise questions about Romney's tenure at the now-controversial company. But Democratic candidates and committees have <a href="http://articles.boston.com/2012-05-23/nation/31814221_1_obama-campaign-mitt-romney-romney-claims" target="_hplink">actually netted double the amount of campaign cash from Bain workers</a> than their Republican counterparts since 2008, according to the <em>Boston Globe</em>.

  • Goldman And Other Wall St. Firms Have Largely Escaped Punishment For Their Role In The Financial Crisis

    The announcement last month that the Justice Department wouldn't be prosecuting Goldman Sachs over allegations surrounding the financial crisis was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/matt-taibbi-eric-holder_n_1784167.html" target="_hplink">a reminder for many</a> that the Obama Administration has largely let banks off the hook for their role in the meltdown. And regulators and officials may be running out of time; <a href="http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/goldman-says-sec-has-ended-mortgage-investigation/?ref=business" target="_hplink">the statute of limitations</a> for crimes related to the financial crisis is fast approaching, according to <em>The New York Times</em>.

  • The Revolving Door Is Alive And Well In Obama Administration

    Many current and former members of the Obama Administration have ties to Wall Street. The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/wall-street-washington_n_1842517.html" target="_hplink">list includes</a> the president's current and former chiefs of staff -- Jacob Lew and Bill Daley, respectively -- as well as his former budget director, Peter Orszag, and others.

  • Too Big To Fail Banks Have Grown Under Obama

    At the end of 2011, five big banks, including Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, held <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-16/obama-bid-to-end-too-big-to-fail-undercut-as-banks-grow.html" target="_hplink">56 percent of the U.S. economy</a>, according to Bloomberg, compared to 43 percent five years earlier. That's right, the too-big-to-fail banks have actually gotten bigger.

  • The U.S. Has Gained A Lot Of Low-Wage Jobs During The Recovery

    Welcome to the U.S. of Low-Wage America. Most of the jobs lost during the recession paid middle wages, while most of those <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/31/low-wage-jobs_n_1846733.html" target="_hplink">gained during the recovery were low-wage jobs</a>, according to a recent study from the National Employment Law Project.

  • Incomes Declined More During The Recovery Than The Recession

    Median <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/us/recession-officially-over-us-incomes-kept-falling.html" target="_hplink">household income fell 6.7 percent</a> between June 2009, when the recession technically ended, and June 2011, according to a Census Bureau study cited by <em>The New York Times</em>. That's more than the 3.2 percent incomes fell during the recession, between 2007 and 2009.

  • Payroll Tax Cut May Expire On Obama's Watch

    Last December, congressional Democrats managed to save the payroll tax cut for one more year, giving 122 million workers a few extra bucks each paycheck, but now that <a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444130304577561410867407728.html" target="_hplink">boost may quietly disappear</a>, according to the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>. That's because the White House won't be pushing for another payroll tax cut extension this year.

  • Many Top Obama Donors Are Employees Of Major Corporations

    Of the top 10 companies with employees donating money to Obama's campaign, three are big banks: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, according to <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/contrib.php?cid=N00009638" target="_hplink">the Center for Responsive Politics</a>. Some of Obama's other major contributors include employees from big companies such as Microsoft and Google.