MobileActive reviews Boom, a new mobile banking service that allows people in the U.S., Mexico, Haiti, and Guatemala to create bank accounts, and send and access money via a basic mobile phone.
Traditionally, remittances - payments from diaspora back to the home country - are often made via wire transfer, check cashing, or payday loan services, all of which incur additional fees for the sender. Boom enables people in the U.S. to send any increment of money via a mobile phone.
It lowers the cost of sending money between immigrants and their families, and it improves their safety by reducing the risks of handling cash. It also creates new commerce capabilities, as users can receive payment for signing up others for the service.
To use Boom in the U.S., you can purchase a membership kit at participating 7-Eleven stores or by calling Boom customer service. To activate your account, you load money at the same stores, and then call Boom with the load receipt, an ID, and the membership kit.
-- In Haiti, Cell Phones Serve As Debit Cards - Haiti is setting up "mobile money" networks to allow cell phones to serve as debit cards. The systems have the potential to allow Haitians to receive remittances from abroad, send cash to relatives across town or across the country, buy groceries and even pay for a bus ride all with a few taps on their cell phones.
-- Mama Mikes, offers mobile vouchers to Kenyans and Ugandans - Mama Mikes is an online store catering to Africans who live abroad. The virtual online store allows them to purchase gifts (chocolates, flowers, text books, electronics...), vouchers (food, electricity), and services (airtime, tuition) for their family, friends and loved ones based at home.
-- Buying rice with your cell phone - Mercy Corps, is providing food for people in St.-Marc Haiti who have taken in earthquake survivors. The US government-financed program will be pushing a button once a month, and $40 will automatically go into each person’s cellphone savings account — redeemable at local merchants for rice, corn flour, beans or cooking oil.
TheNetWeb on M-Pesa in Africa and how the heads of Visa, MasterCard and American Express could learn from it.
Launched as a pilot project in March 2007 (with help from a Vodafone investment and aid from the Danish government), M-Pesa already has more than 15 million users, 80% of Safaricom’s customers. The company now controls 75% of Kenya’s mobile phone market.
“The funds transferred by M-Pesa are equal to 25% of the country’s GNP,” said Sitoyo Lopokoiyit, an economist at the company. It’s even more remarkable when you consider that most of the transactions are for fifty cents (U.S.) or less.
Kenyans use the service today to pay for water and electric and cable bills, as well as for their children’s schools. They can use it to make purchases at certain stores, even mom-and-pop shops.
They can withdraw or deposit their money through a network of more than 2,000 sales points throughout the country, where they can buy the scratch cards containing the codes needed to fill their account.
“M-Pesa makes people’s lives easier and helps them save money while traveling,” Waceke Mbugua, director of marketing and communication at Sararicom, explained.
In the early days of mobile banking some crude mobile banking video's were made - a clear indication that the product specialists could not describe what they wanted to build to the video producers. But since a few years ago, some brilliant little video-clips were produced - either to advertise a new service or to inform or educate stakeholders. Watch some of the best clips: [ MobileBanking via @jranck]
Above video: Safaricom's Award winning TV advert, for their Award Winning Mobile Money transfer service M-PESA
According to The Global Post, Sweden is racing to become the first developed country whose people regularly pay for things with their mobile phones.
The country's four leading mobile phone companies will soon launch a combined mobile wallet service, which will allow payments at shops, between users, and to vending and parking machines. The scheme uses 'near field communications' to allow to payments to be made by simply tapping a phone against another or against a vendor's terminal.
Because four mobile providers — Telia, Tele2, Telenor and 3 — have formed a joint venture to provide the service, it will be available to 97 percent of Swedish mobile subscribers from the moment it goes live this summer.
With more phones and more options opening every day for mobile and peer to peer payments, the waters are getting a bit muddied. At the request of some of TheNextWeb’s Twitter followers, we thought we’d put together a list of the leading options, including the pros and cons of each. Expect this post to be updated as the landscape changes.
The race right now is primarily between three parties – PayPal, Dwolla, Square and newcomer Clover Pay. Each of these services have its ups and downs, but it’s worth noting that they can all be used for peer-to-peer payments and that’s how we’ll be reviewing them.
African countries like Kenya have leapfrogged traditional banking systems by using mobile phones to store and spend money. Do Africans have the better deal? The Christian Science Monitor reports.
.. The University of Nairobi’s Tonny Omwansa, who is writing a book on mobile money, believes the slow growth of mobile cash in the US comes down to Americans’ trusting relationship to banking institutions, despite recent protests.
“The little time I spent in the U.S., I noticed folks very confident of the (banking) system which is very much accessible to them, unlike many African countries,” he told the Monitor. “Rarely would you find a rural poor (African) asking ‘How secure is M-Pesa?’ But this question easily comes up when I meet typical Americans.” M-Pesa is the most popular mobile cash app in Africa.
-- Paypal will see $7 billion in mobile payment volume in 2012.
-- PayPal exceeded expectations for 2011, reaching $4 billion in mobile payment volume.
-- Paypal mobile payments in 2010 were $750 million.
Fueling this growth is a combination of the success of our mobile-optimized checkout flows, and the rapid increase in consumer adoption of mobile shopping. We currently have more than 17 million PayPal customers regularly making a purchase through their mobile phone, up from the eight million we reported in June.
And tablets continue to play a major role in that adoption. According to recent IBM Benchmark data, seventy-five percent of shoppers this holiday season made purchases on their tablets, the iPad driving the bulk of these transactions.
Just before Christmas, Duncan Green, Head of Research for Oxfam GB, had a thought-provoking discussion on the BBC World Service with Paul Niehaus, who has set up GiveDirectly, a US-based startup NGO pioneering a new financing model based on cash transfers. The idea couldn’t be simpler: Oxfam Blog reports via @mobileactive.
1. People donate through GD’s webpage
2. GD locates poor households in Kenya (see below)
3. GD transfers your donation electronically (through the M-Pesa mobile payments system) to a recipient’s cell phone (they send each household $500 per year for two years)
4. The recipient collects the transfer
GD reckons that in this way, it can get 90 cents in every donated donor into the hands of poor people. Step 2 is interesting: ‘We do this in three steps.
Kenya with high poverty rates using census data. We then identify villages with low-quality housing and access to an agent providing mobile-phone-based payment services. Finally, we identify the poorest households in these villages using simple, transparent criteria: we target all households living in homes made out of mud, wood, and grass. These criteria effectively identify relatively poor households and are generally perceived by the community as fair. We record eligible households’ phone numbers or, for those that do not have a phone, provide them with a SIM card. We follow up initial identification with a rigorous process of audits to prevent mistakes or fraud.’
Internet shopping is supposed to be killing off the high street, but eBay is the latest website to announce plans for a physical outlet in the UK, reports The Guardian.
At the shop, the latest high-profile experiment in the West End of London, there will be no tills. Shoppers will instead pay using their smartphones to scan a "quick response" code on the price tag. Like barcodes they direct the phone's browser to the payment section of the eBay website.
The eBay "pop-up" shop is set to open for just five days from 1 December, the busiest window for online shopping before Christmas.
It will stock the website's 200 bestsellers but purchases will be delivered to customers' homes. A spokesman said the store would promise "no queues, no bags, no stress".
eBay opened a similar store in New York this year.
Making payments with a mobile phone is a much-talked about technology goal that is already happening in Turkey, reports the Irish Times.
When Mastercard wanted somewhere to show off its mobile payment technology, Istanbul was a natural choice. The company has a track record of innovation with Turkish banks and mobile operators, which is why a troupe of European journalists found themselves at the Kanyon shopping mall near the city’s financial district.
Armed with smartphones preloaded with MasterCard technology, we went on a very modern shopping spree, fitting for a country where half of its 78 million people are under 25 and 62 million use mobile phones.
Having dusted itself down from a financial crash a decade ago, Turkey is reinventing itself as an economic hotspot. Part of the reinvention is dealing with a black economy where 40 per cent of the population doesn’t have a bank account. Mobile payments fit nicely into the government’s plan to have a cashless society by 2025, making more financial transactions more visible.
Visa has been hard at work on a mobile digital wallet that it hopes to roll out early next year. But that’s not the only mobile market the credit card company has its eye on. Bits reports.
On Wednesday, the company announced plans for a product aimed at letting cellphone users in less developed nations buy goods and pay bills using their phones.
“It won’t require a physical card attached to the account,” said John Partridge, president of Visa. “It’s a virtual prepaid account designed specifically for the mobile market in the developing world.”
The service will be available through a simple application or text messaging, and it will work across mobile operators. Users will be able to add more money to their virtual Visa accounts at special kiosks.
Forbes on why Paypal stands out amongs the new mobile wallet services, notably for "Bill Me Later" and the "Oops" buttons for when you change your mind post-purchase.
... The most notable feature of PayPal’s mobile wallet is payment flexibility. Users of PayPal’s mobile wallet application will be able to choose how they want to pay for purchases even after the sale.
... PayPal’s “oops” provision also includes payment plans. App users will be able to choose – again, post-sale, if they want – whether to pay for a transaction in a single lump sum or break it into as many as three installments. PayPal utilizes Bill Me Later’s technology for that feature, as well. The company says merchants won’t care if consumers alter their payment method or timeframe because PayPal pays retailers regardless. “We settle to them immediately,” said PayPal Vice President Sam Shrauger in an earlier interview with Forbes. “PayPal is the one that deals with the consumer.
Mobile will play a big role for eBay as it migrates to an open ecommerce ecosystem that will enable developers to create new services and apps that enhance online and mobile shopping. MobileCommerce Daily reports via Paul Swanson+.
At its Innovate Developer Conference yesterday, eBay announced its new X.commerce open commerce ecosystem, a deeper integration with Facebook and PayPal Access, which lets consumers use their PayPal login information to pay on retailers’ sites. The moves point to eBay’s desire to play a bigger role in all types of commerce, including mobile commerce.
“By providing these tools to developers, you have something that can really push forward both mobile and online commerce” said Nick Holland, senior analyst at Yankee Group, Boston.
The Opinion Page of The New York Times has an interesting article on how the Canadian Foodgrains Bank is providing Somalians with paper vouchers that they can use in shops of selected local merchants - instead of waiting in long lines in designated areas where sacs of grain are distributed.
It made me think of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Syria that rolled out not paper, but electronic food vouches for Iraqis, using SMS.
Iraqi families eligible for e-voucher food assistance are given a SIM card and received a text message with a code during each two-month food distribution cycle. The voucher can be redeemed in selected government shops. After each transaction an updated balance is sent by SMS.
Launched in March 2007 by Kenyan telecoms operator, Safaricom, the service which now has over 14 million users in Kenya is currently the world’s most successful mobile payments system. The NextWeb reports.>
Local transactions by Kenya’s mobile money service, M-Pesa currently exceeds transactions made by Western Union globally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports. According to the IMF, “M-Pesa now processes more transactions domestically within Kenya than Western Union does globally, and provides mobile banking facilities to more than 70 per cent of the country’s adult population.
... One of the factors constraining loan payments is the distance between rural households and financial institutions; currently, farmers travel long distances to make payments in person. To bridge this distance, approximately 500 farmers, as part of a pilot program, in Kunar, Laghman and Nangarhar, will use M-paisa to make loan repayments, on their mobile phone.
While the mobile-payment players acknowledge that partnerships are necessary for long-term viability, many are gearing up for some chaotic times.CNet reports.
The lynchpin for where mobile payments is heading lies with a technology called near-field communication, which allows you to wave your phone or card in front of newer checkout terminals to make a purchase. NFC has slowly moved into credit cards and a few handsets, and the technology is slowly making its way into new point-of-sale terminals.
But there are differing views on how quickly NFC will hit critical mass, informing a different range of strategies.
Dan Schulman, who is the head of enterprise growth for American Express, believes that it will take two to four years before it becomes widely adopted. As a result, the company has opted to focus on its own Serve digital wallet and partnered with Verizon Wireless to offer services such as payments made by entering a user's phone number rather than a separate account.
Schulman said the first phase of its partnership with Verizon Wireless is set to launch in November, with an expanded set up capabilities to launch next year.
Though rare in the Western world, fistula affects more than 2.5 million young women and is a debilitating condition that causes millions of stillbirths across Africa. JustMeans reports.
Some of the reasons are women are not aware that they can be cured and crucially can't afford the bus fare to hospital to get treatment.
It is this travel cost problem that was noticed by Vodacom, Tanzani'as biggest mobile phone network. Last year it started to make a difference by using its mobile phone money transfer social innovation service, M-Pesa to text-message the bus fare to women who are affected.
Pay as you go is a common way of paying for calls on your cellphone. Now the idea could help make solar power a more realistic option for families in Kenya and other African countries. New Scientist reports.
The system, called IndiGo, consists of a low-cost flexible plastic 2.5W solar panel that charges a battery. This is connected to a USB mobile phone charger and an LED lamp that provides around 5 hours of light from one day's charge.
Developed by solar energy firm Eight19, based in Cambridge, UK, IndiGo costs $1 a week to run, though the unit itself must be leased for an initial $10 fee. Users add credit by buying a scratchcard that they validate by sending a text message from their phone.
IndiGo is being trialled in Kenya and will be tested in other countries in the next few months.
Visa says its mobile repayment service could revolutionise how we borrow or lend to our mates. The Guardian reports.
Visa this week launched a new mobile-to-mobile service where borrowers can repay money instantly to your phone.
The credit card provider says that the service could revolutionise how we borrow or lend small amounts from, and to, each other. There will be no need to tap in sort codes and account numbers. The money can simply be transferred to anybody listed in your mobile phone address book.
The drawbacks? First, you have to have an Android-based smartphone (not an iPhone), and download the app. Second, you won't be able to do this until next year. What Visa has launched this week is the facility for individual banks to start marketing their own money transfer services over the Visa network.
In 2002, fewer than 200,000 people in Afghanistan had access to telephones. Today, some 15 million Afghans use mobile phones and a full 85% of the population lives within the combined network coverage of the four major telcos. Cellular News reports via USAid Blog.
This technological leap connects Afghans to each other and to the economy in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. And the mobile phone now opens up a world of possibilities for finding solutions to some of the challenges that Afghans face every day.
One important use that is quickly becoming a reality in Afghanistan is the creation of a nationwide mobile financial services sector – using mobile phones to transfer money safely and instantly, reducing the need for cash and giving millions of Afghans who may never see the inside of a bank the ability to use their handsets to conduct basic financial transactions.
Three USAID grants totaling just over $2M, are meant for the development of applications in this field and to begin to create a mobile banking system that could include all Afghans.
For the first time today, PayPal demonstrated how it intends to provide payments to physical retailers as the race heats up to make wallets and clunky metal registers obsolete. All Things Digital reports.
PayPal had said it was going to launch pilot projects later this year, but this is the first time it is discussing how it will approach the digital market and how it will defend itself against incumbent payment providers, like Visa, MasterCard and American Express, and new entrants, like Google and San Francisco-based Square.
PayPal set up four user scenarios that are intended to disrupt the way we pay for things online and in stores today, using a variety of technologies.
What stood out was that none of the scenarios required merchants to adopt new infrastructure or buy new terminals. Likewise, customers won’t be required to upgrade their phones or have certain bank accounts.
Instead, PayPal users (of which there are 100 million worldwide) will be able to pay by entering a phone number and a pin code at the existing payment terminals, or by swiping a PayPal-issued card that’s not associated with a bank and does not have an account number printed on the front.
Jane Wangui Wainaina makes less than $10 a day serving hot food in the slums, but she still donated part of her income to help Kenyan famine victims by using a mobile phone banking service that executives say has helped raise millions of dollars. USA Today reports.
I felt a lot of sympathy for the people dying of hunger when we are eating," she said, leaning over to check that the cracked surface of a cheap mobile phone correctly showed her donation of $3.50 to the Kenya Red Cross. "I have been deeply shocked by what I have seen in the newspaper and on television, people dying from the famine. That's why I sent the money."
Wainaina used a mobile phone banking service called M-pesa, which allows people without a bank account to instantly transfer money between phones anywhere in Kenya. More than 50 countries now have such services, including Afghanistan, where it's being used to pay police in far-flung outposts.
The digital wallet wars have begun. And credit card giant Visa and search behemoth Google are likely to be among the first to face off in the market as they each try to convince consumers to ditch their real wallets for ones that store credit cards and other information on their cell phones. CNet reports.
... While several other companies are also planning to launch digital wallets and mobile payment systems, Visa and Google will be among the first companies whose applications will hit the market in the next few months. Google is expected to launch its Google Wallet by the end of the summer. And Visa will be out with its yet-to-be-named digital wallet sometime this fall.
According to new data released by the NMRC think tank, about three out of five new wireless subscriptions in 2010 were for prepaid cell phone service -- a margin of more than eight million new prepaid subscriptions versus just under new 4.8 million postpaid subscriptions.
AmEx is expected to announce on Wednesday that it is the lead investor in a $19 million financing for Payfone Inc., a New York start-up.
"The phone number is the most ubiquitous identification in the world. Using that as a way to check out means it can be used on a global basis," said Rodger Desai, co-founder and chief executive of Payfone.
The deal represents the latest effort for AmEx to position itself for new forms of payment. The company, which built a reputation on exclusivity and is best known for catering to affluent customers, is seeking to ready itself for an anticipated explosion in mobile payments.
AmEx also is seeking to attract younger customers, who ultimately are expected to be more comfortable paying for products with their phones rather than swiping a credit card.