Wal-Mart has big plans for those nifty stimulus checks coming to Americans across the land, but are they really helping anyone?

Wal-Mart, love them for their low prices and winning business strategies, or hate them for mistreating employees and skirting tax laws, it’s your call.

There are two differing schools of thought on Wal-Mart’s stimulus check plan. The first adheres to the belief that this is a brilliant business strategy designed to help the consumer. CNBC lauds the price-slashing consumer giant for its powerful industry-leading tactics. Wal-Mart will:

1) Cash rebate checks free of charge.

2) Allow customers to redeem checks for Moneycards free of charge.

3) Cut prices on key food items including meat, pasta, frozen food, shampoo, juice and other consumables.

In contrast to many of its competitors, Wal-Mart will not charge a fee for cashing checks and won’t make you redeem your stimulus money for a Wal-Mart specific giftcard. They are offering the consumer an option of taking the cash or applying it to an in-house giftcard.

But why doesn’t ‘the big yellow smiley face’ tack on a few extra bucks to these giftcards like Krogers, K-Mart, and Supervalu are doing? Answer: Because the ‘Wal knows that if they cut their prices enough on the big ticket grocery items, no one will want to shop anywhere else. This could be true, and it would mean a lot of added revenue for Wal-Mart stores this month.

The flip side of this coin is posed by David Nassar of the Huffington Post. He believes spending your stimulus check at Wal-Mart only hurts the American economy in the long run. Nassar explains:

With its low price focus, Wal-Mart may appear to help the U.S. economy. But, the reality is that with its poor wages and benefits, massive China sourcing and tax avoidance, Wal-Mart makes its workers and the communities where it operates poorer. […] Higher salaries, quality affordable healthcare and paying what they owe like any good American, are just three things Wal-Mart can do tomorrow that will make them a company worthy of our money.

This argument also raises a good point and it makes one ponder, should we be held captive by the wills of an already powerful consumer brand? At what cost are these savings coming from?

Regardless of where you fall in this debate, it seems like one of the best options for these checks is to pay off your outstanding debts first and foremost, and then after that maybe alcohol and gambling?

Let us know your spending plans for those $600 in the comments section.

CNBC Retail Detail: Wal-Mart ‘Banking’ On Your Stimulus Rebate Check, April 29, 2008

Huffington Post: Why Wal-Mart Does Not Strengthen Our Economy, May 1, 2008