Alt Payments Archives

Launching: 2,000 Bitcoin/Crypto-currency Startups

By Jim Bruene on April 7, 2014 3:51 PM | Comments

English: Looking north up Eleventh Avenue (Man...

Jacob K. Javits Center (Wikipedia)

The bitcoin logo
Bitcoin first passed the $200 mark a year ago (vs. $450 today). I didn't know much about it then, figuring it was a fad best left to the speculators to debate. But I was wrong. Bitcoin, or something similar, appears to be here to stay.

Case in point: There is a 2,000-person Bitcoin event in NYC today and tomorrow, Inside Bitcoins, at the Javits Center no less. But don't worry if you miss it, the event is scheduled to travel the globe with stops in Hong Kong, Melbourne, Tel Aviv, London, Singapore, Berlin, before landing back in NYC a year from now.

In the keynote, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire estimated 2,000 startups globally are working on crypto-currency products and services. That alone makes it more than a fad (bubble perhaps, but not a fad). There is no putting the crypto-currency genie back in the bottle. The technology is too compelling. The demand for alternative stored value is so huge that I don't see it being regulated away, at least outside the west.

Relevance for Banks: U.S. financial institutions will steer clear until regulatory uncertainties are cleared up. While regulators ARE paying attention (even the IRS recently weighed in), don't expect banks or credit unions here to be accepting Bitcoins for deposit anytime soon.

However, I do expect U.S. prepaid-card based "near banks" (Moven, Onbudget) to work with Coinbase and others to make it easy to move Bitcoin value onto their cards (see note 1). For inspiration, check out the Bitcoin debit card launched today by Hong Kong-based Cryptex Card (press release).


1. Both Coinbase and Onbudget will demo separately at FinovateSpring, three weeks from now.       
2. For more, see our Feb 2014 OBR report on alt-payments, Money 3.0 (subscription).


Fintech Four: T-Mobile, Stripe, Andera & Balanced Payments

By Jim Bruene on January 27, 2014 5:39 PM | Comments

image Wow, it was a whirlwind of fintech news in the past seven days. Here are four stories that spiked on our fin-o-meter:


1. Stripe's $80 million funding

It's not so much the amount of the funding, though that's one of the biggest C-rounds we've seen in the space, rivaling Square's $100 million round in June 2011. But the jaw-dropping aspect was the valuation, a reported $1.75 billion, double what PayPal just paid for Braintree, which is far bigger than Stripe.

But as PandoDaily's Carmel DeAmicis and Michael Carney point out, it was favorable terms (2x liquidation-preference) that substantially boosted the valuation. Regardless of the funny VC math involved, it was a monster round for the small company.

Clear winners: Stripe founders and early investors
Potential winners: Other payment enablers who now have access to more funding
Potential losers: Square, which could have bought Stripe at a much lower valuation; PayPal; and other acquirers who now face an even stronger competitor


2. T-Mobile teams up with Bancorp Bank & Blackhawk Network for branded prepaid card

image An interesting play by T-Mobile - turning their 7,500 locations into cash-handling mini-branches - is its new Mobile Money prepaid card. I'm not sure that's the business I would have entered if I were in charge, but it will be closely watched. If it's wildly profitable (unlikely), it could put pressure on the entire U.S. branch banking system. More likely, its success will be moderate and will fizzle out in a few years when T-Mobile finds more lucrative ways to deploy its real estate and sales staff.

In any event, it will be closely watched by banks and non-bank retailers alike. (Potentially, T-Mobile could make more money reselling the consumer data from the effort, than from the prepaid business itself.)

Clear winners: Bancorp Bank (issuer) and Blackhawk (prepaid network)
Potential winners: T-Mobile (and other telcos that copy the strategy)
Potential losers: Wal-Mart, check cashing stores, and other players in the cash space


3. Mobile account opening (MAO) used by 1 of every 4 Andera-powered applications

Andera, the online account-opening powerhouse, this week published a useful report (free with registration) analyzing account-opening metrics across its 500 clients. The stat that caught my eye was the number of mobile applications already being received, despite the newness of the channel for financial transactions. One in four Andera-processed financial product applications are received from tablets or smartphones, up from one in 25 three years ago. And three-quarters of the mobile volume is from smartphones.  

Clear winners: Mobile leaders
Potential winners: Andera and other account-opening specialists
Potential losers: Bank branches, which will continue to be a major (albeit costly) source of new account applications



4. Balanced Payments crowdfunds $50,000 to launch new feature

I am a big fan of crowdfunding and expect massive growth (note 1), but I never thought I'd see it used by a fintech company to fund a new feature. But Balanced Payments, a Y Combinator-backed payment-startup serving online marketplaces, successfully raised more than $50,000 last week in about a day (Crowdhoster campaign). That surpassed its goal for adding a "push to debit card" (Techcrunch post).

It sounds too good to be true. But the startup used a clever incentive system for backers: prepaid fees. In other words, Balance customers could pledge a few thousand dollars for the feature, and then that money paid upfront would cover a given amount of transaction fees in the future. And the more that was pledged, the cheaper the transaction fees became. And there was a large incentive to pledge at the $10,000 level (see below).

Here's the earnings table:

>> $1,000 pledge receives 1,000 prepaid transaction at $1 each
>> $2,500 pledge receives 3,333 transactions for $0.75 each
>> $10,000 pledge receives 40,000 transactions for $0.25 each

You could also toss in $25 for a T-shirt.

So far, there are 26 backers (25 if you don't count my T-shirt pledge).


Note: For much more on crowdfunding (debt and equity), see our May 2013 report (subscription).


Fintech Four from Last Week

By Jim Bruene on November 25, 2013 3:01 PM | Comments

Since my previous Fintech Four (when Bitcoin was a lowly $200), it's been an interesting few weeks. Here are the standouts last week:


One: Coin is an overnight YouTube sensation

image Who would have guessed a $50 payment gadget could be a viral hit? In the week since it was announced, the 105-second demo video (made Sandwich Video) has racked up more than 6 million views, 26,000 likes, and almost 9,000 comments. The company said it's original $50,000 crowdfunding goal was hit in 47 minutes, they have not said how many have been sold since. According to a button on its site, the pre-order period will last 30 days.

Many of speculated about why this happened, but the most concise summary is on Quora written by Brian Roemmele. He lists five reasons:

1. The product solves a real problem, too many cards in the wallet

2. Coin implies there is a limited supply

3. It was selling at for a limited time at 50% off

4. It appealed to early adopters with a blend of "old" meets "new"

5. $5 referral credit (against the $50 cost) with a built-in sharing button at the end of the purchase process.


Two: The latest fintech prize winners

Fintech startups have been taking home awards at various fall tech events this fall. Here are six winners in from the past 10 days:

1.  imageFinovateAsia Best of Show winners from Singapore (post):

image2. Innotribe Disrupt winner at NextBank LatinAmerica (Bogota, Columbia)

  • Intoo, a 6-person Brazilian small business financing portal, won the Latin American round of the year-long Innotribe contest 

image3. Get In the Ring winner at this Dutch startup competition (Rotterdam)

  • EyeVerify (FinovateSpring 13) took home $11,000 in cash, plus a potential million euro investment, for its eyeprint authentication technology (post)


Three: Finovera launches "PFM for your bills"

Finovera (FinovateSpring 13), officially launched its billing/PFM portal and landed a favorable TechCrunch post. The service competes in the PFM space, but is more focused on the billing and payments side (along with Manilla and doxo). Unlike analyzing/charting spending, the process of organizing, paying, and archiving bills is a near-universal need. So, it's an area that retail banks should pay close attention to (note 1). 



Four: Virtual currencies gain more real-world backing

U.S. regulators didn't exactly endorse Bitcoin and other virtual currencies, but they didn't condemn it either (Financial Times article). That was enough to send prices through the roof, touching $900 by some reports, a nice 50x gain since Jan 1. Most assets that appreciate so rapidly fall back to earth, but no one knows for sure if Bitcoin isn't than 1-in-a-million item that defies common sense.

But this is not JUST a Bitcoin story, it's about the "Internet of money." And it could be the biggest financial innovation since the credit card. However, it's still boggles my mind that regulators who are having a hard time letting normal people invest in privately held companies, are not clamping down on unregulated virtual currency trading. This story is far from finished. 

Table: USD value of a Bitcoin at Mt. Gox (last 6 months)



1. For a deeper dive, see our report on paperless billing and banking (Nov. 2010, subscription).
2. All Finovate alum videos are available free of charge at our website. 


Simple to Launch Bluetooth-Based P2P Payments

By Jim Bruene on October 21, 2013 8:52 AM | Comments


I'm  glad I stayed until the end of Money2020. Some time after 5pm on day four (9 Oct 2013) of the biggest financial tradeshow since BAI Retail Delivery in Nov 2000 (see note 1), Josh Reich introduced two members of team Simple, Tom Wanielista and Collin Ruffenach. The duo proceeded to send each other the first Bluetooth-enabled payment I've ever seen. It looked a lot like a Bump payment, recently relaunched by Capital One 360, but without the awkward phone gyrations.

The feature is called MoneyDrop, built by Wanielista and Ruffenach, and allows Simple users within a few feet of each other to transfer money with a few finger swipes in the Simple mobile app. It's easy to use, since other Simple users automatically pop up on the MoneyDrop screen when they are in range (see screenshot below).

The startup didn't say when the service will be available to Simple's 65,000 customers, but TechCrunch reports it will hit iOS first (iPhone 4S or above required) with Android in the pipeline.

Bottom line: MoneyDrop is similar to the Palm Pilot "beaming" service PayPal began in 1999, but then quickly abandoned for email p2p model (see note 1). The ubiquity of smartphones makes it much more interesting today. Still, the requirement that both users have a Simple account, and newer smartphones, limits its uptake for now (note 2).

While I didn't know it at the time of the Money2020 session, Square was about to introduce a drop-dead simple P2P payment system (see Friday's post). That's a free and easy way for Simple customers to move money as well. It took just 3.5 hours in my test for money to move from my Chase debit card to my Simple account. Not as cool as instant MoneyDropping, but it works with any Visa/MasterCard debit. 

Despite all that, I think it's a great move by Simple. MoneyDrop provides a tangible leg up on other mobile banking apps, a moderate viral boost, and great publicity. 


Simple MoneyDrop P2P payment service (8 Oct 2013)


1. Retail Delivery topped out around 10,000 attendees (includes exhibitor staff) in 1999/2000. After just two years, Money2020 is at more than 40% of that.
2. A TechCrunch commenter noted that MoneyDrop also sounds like what stealthy Clinkle is planning to unleash on the world. Quite a coup if Simple beat them to market.
3. For more info on peer-to-peer payments (P2P), see our Online Banking Report issue devoted to the topic (Dec 2009, subscription).


First Look: Google Wallet "Pay by Gmail" (and the Pain of Authentication)

By Jim Bruene on May 22, 2013 9:38 PM | Comments

image As you probably already know, last week Google launched P2P payments via Gmail (and through the Google Wallet mobile/online interface). Once authenticated, users simply "attach" funds to an email message (see inset).

Bank transfers (e.g., ACH) are free while card-based payments will cost senders 2.9% of the amount, with a $0.30 minimum. However, all transactions are free for an unspecified time during the launch period.

With an estimated 400 to 500 million global Gmail users, the service has the potential to become an important method of sending money (it's only available to U.S. users at this point). However, like all U.S.-based P2P services, it's easy to send money, but not always so easy to receive it.

In my first test, I was able to claim the funds relatively easily with my four-year-old Google Wallet account. There was a short authentication process with a login, name, address, birth date and last four digits of my Social Security Number (SSN). After claiming the funds, I was then able to send money out of the system (note 2).

After sending my two cents over to Larry Page, congratulating him on the launch (see screenshots below), I then sent money to my work email account. While it was deceptively simple to send the money, I was unable to claim the money, despite already having an active Google Wallet associated with that email address.

After receiving the email notification, I went through the same authentication process as above. But after logging in and providing my personal info, I was hit with four additional out-of-wallet authentication questions, apparently pulled from public databases (I think NOT my credit bureau due to the errors..see below).

But apparently there was an error in the out-of-wallet Q&A served to me. The first two questions obviously pertained to me, and I answered them correctly, but the final two did not (note 6), so I answered "none of the above." But Google didn't believe me, and I was told my answers were "inconsistent" and that I could not be authenticated online.

I was invited to upload three pieces of documentation since I failed the Q&A (all required):

  • Picture ID (e.g., drivers license)
  • Proof of address (e.g., utility bill)
  • Social Security card

Unfortunately, I haven't laid eyes on my Social Security card for several decades and haven't a clue where it is. And in 18 years of testing online account opening, no one has ever asked for it. So I'm stuck. Had someone sent me a real payment, I would be extremely frustrated, and would have to either ask for a check to be sent, or use PayPal.

Bottom line: This is a brilliant play by Google, taking everyone by surprise. However, P2P payments (in the USA anyway) are still a pain to receive the first time which dampens their viral growth (note 7). I understand the reasons for good authentication, though it still seems like overkill given that I was only claiming a one-cent transfer via a pre-existing and active Google Wallet account (used for more than $400 worth of purchases this year). And especially after I provided the correct name, address, birth date, SSN and two additional out-of-wallet questions.

But I know the folks from Mountain View, Calif., will work the risk-procedure kinks out quickly (there is a reason it's called "beta"). And if they stick with it (RIP Google Reader), Google should be able to build a critical mass of financially authenticated users, making "gpay" as easy as using PayPal.


How Gmail Pay works

Step 1: Craft email message and click on the "$" icon at the bottom of the compose screen

Step 2: Attach funds via Wallet balance, bank transfers, or card; then add memo if desired


Step 3: Press send


Step 4: Final chance to review


Final: Confirmation copy is placed in your inbox (note 8)




1. During the beta test, you can become a P2P user only by first receiving funds from an existing user.
2. I have two Google Wallet accounts, one set up in 2009 and the other established in January 2013 when I got a Nexus NFC phone with built-in Wallet support. The credit card associated with both accounts was stolen earlier this year, and I had to add a new card to both wallets before I could use them. This could have triggered additional authentication requirements on the second Wallet account.
3. The payment appears as a "card" within a Gmail. There is no indication in the title of the message that it might contain money (user controls the rest of the email).
4. The transaction fee was waived for my Discover Card-based payment. I assume it would be on other card types, but I didn't test that.
5. Users have the option to add a memo to the payment (in addition to what's included in the email message).
6. Ironically, if the recipient was mobile-deposit-enabled, it would be easier the first time to send a high-resolution image of a check that the user could take a picture of and then deposit via mobile banking. Or, for Capital One 360 users, the emailed image could simply be uploaded directly into their account (see post). 
7. Though I suspect the last two questions could have been drawn from online info about my brother, who has a different first name and lives 2,000 miles from me.  
8. Yesterday, confirmation emails went to my inbox when I sent a payment. Tonight, I am not seeing that: It's only showing in my Sent messages.
9. For more info, see our recent Online Banking Report: Digital & Mobile Wallets (published Feb 2013, subscription).


PayPal Onboarding Email Messages

By Jim Bruene on March 5, 2013 9:16 PM | Comments

image As a followup to last week's post on the signup process at PayPal, I thought I'd share the onboarding messages received during the first 10 days. There have been three so far (see screenshots below):

1) Day 0: Welcome message

2) Day 3: General message about PayPal benefits

3) Day 4: More specific message about shopping with PayPal

I've yet to link a credit card or bank account, so I expect more messages in the near future.

Bottom line: Onboarding is one of those areas that is impossible to perfect. It's an art and you'll be forever tweaking it. That said, there are some basics tenets to follow: a friendly, immediate welcome message and prompt followups with benefit-laden messages. PayPal ticks the boxes here, though they could add a bit more visual punch and tighter copy.


Initial confirmation message from PayPal (24 Feb 2013)


Day 3: Followup message outlining PayPal benefits


Day 4: Followup details shopping opportunities with PayPal



First Look: The Application & Onboarding Process for PayPal Here

By Jim Bruene on June 28, 2012 2:06 PM | Comments

image I put my name on the list for PayPal Here (its response to Square) when it was announced in the spring. Yesterday, I received my invitation to "apply" for the service.

I was a little surprised that I still had to apply given that I've had this PayPal account since 1999, and have run many thousands of dollars through it, both as a buyer and a merchant. But I understand the enormous risks in payment acceptance, so I will happily oblige some hassle. 

Interestingly, the process must be done via the mobile PayPal Here app. You cannot simply complete the application via PayPal's normal online system. Again, this is slightly inconvenient for me, but it's good to see PayPal enabling the mobile app for signup. This may be the first financial product from a major U.S. company that has a mobile-only app process.

The mobile signup process is a little confusing. First, you must download the separate PayPal Here app (it in not integrated with the regular PayPal app). Then when launched, if you press "register" on the opening screen (screenshot below), instead of being allowed to register, you are asked to put yourself on the PayPal Here waitlist

I thought I'd hit a dead end, so I went back to the invitation email (below). What you must do instead is login to the app with your PayPal credentials (note 1). Once in, users go through a quick account verification, then a merchants services mini-application, and ID check against credit bureau data.

At the end of the process, a reader is mailed to your business address and an optional debit card is mailed to your primary address on file. But you are immediately allowed to begin accepting payments through by scanning a card with the mobile camera or keying it in. That's impressive.

The next day, I received an email with a tracking number for the reader (screenshot below).

Bottom line: The process seemed a little convoluted for an existing customer. But, in all it took 4 to 5 minutes and required no supporting info and I was able to accept a credit card immediately. Had I not had trouble logging in, I could have completed it in closer under 3 minutes. Overall, I score it a B+.   


Email to apply for PayPal Here (26 June 2012)

PayPal here email invitation


PayPal Here login screen
Note: Invited users must login, NOT try to register (which won't work)

PayPal here login screen mobile

Pre-populated account                 Card reader
                                              confirmation screen

PayPal here application mobile    PayPal Here card reader confirmation

Confirmation email the next day (28 June 2012)



1. The email said to login with my PayPal email address and password. I got an odd error message doing that, saying to "append my code to the password." I think this is because I have second factor authentication turned on for my PayPal account. But I could not see any way to get a code sent to me through the PayPal Here app, so I was stuck. I then tried logging in with my PayPal mobile credentials, and that worked fine. It seems like there might be a bug here. 


Two Card-Linked Offers/Rewards Startups Launch at TechCrunch Disrupt

By Jim Bruene on May 24, 2012 1:04 AM | Comments

image While I've read TechCrunch since its beginning, I've only been able to make it to their semi-annual event, Disrupt, once before. It's usually just too close to our own Finovate. But this year I made the trek to Pier 94 in Manhattan to see what was going on in tech in general and to meet with the fintech startups in the Startup Alley or Battlefield launch competition.

There were six fintech companies in total. Three offered variations on card-linked offers, one has developed an alternative payment system, one was a newer payments gateway, and surprisingly there was just a single crowdfunding platform.  

Startup Battlefield competitors from fintech: TechCrunch selected thirty companies in advance. All have agreed to launch their companies on stage at the event. 

  • imageCardify: Card-linked loyalty/offers geared toward local merchants. Sean Rad is CEO and of the West Hollywood company which has raised $750,000.
  • imageMirth: Same as above. Jeremy Philip Galen is Founder. The NYC-based company is bootstrapped. 

Startup Alley participants from fintech: These are companies less than two years old that qualify for a table in the networking hall. Each day one of the Alley companies is voted to the stage to imagecompete in the Battlefield.

  • LocalBonus: A card-linked offers platform focusing on the local market
  • imagePayintele: An alt-payments company using barcodes to pass info between merchant and payee (I'll do a whole post on them shortly)image
  • PayLeap: A payments gateway from two previous execs
  • The Crowd Funds: A crowdfunding startup from former image E*Trade CTO, Joshua Levine

Observations: It was interesting to see three new card-linked rewards companies all going after the local market. But if you look at what Groupon's done with local merchants and where Square is headed, you can see there are huge opportunities here.

And the payment APIs available from Cardspring (which both Mirth and Cardify use) are making it relatively easy for startups to tap into a merchant's card transaction streams to make offers, tally rewards, identify frequent customers, and communicate with them.

As a side note, Cardify has a gorgeous UI. It's very hip and high-end looking like something you'd see at more well-funded companies such as Square, Simple or Mint (screenshot below). Kudos to the design folk there.


Cardify homepage (24 May 2012)

cardify app as seen on its homepage


1. While not a fintech company, as an auction junkie, I was intrigued by Outbid's social mobile/online auction platform. The company said it's talking to four banks looking to host live auctions on their site to use for promotions and social gaming. I think it's a promising idea, one I've explored a few times over the years. But with Facebook Connect you can actually get a critical mass of customers involved very quickly. The company had the cheesiest demo I've ever seen (and that's saying something), but that shouldn't impact your decision.


Feature Friday: Paying Online with Cash

By Jim Bruene on April 27, 2012 4:56 PM | Comments (1)

imageI love headline alliteration and it's good to have a shtick, so I will periodically post a "Feature Friday" here. It turns out I started last Friday with Capital One's new mobile rewards feature, the ability to trade rewards points to pay for PAST travel (and they did it without resorting to time travel).

PayNearMe mobile option This week, old-school cash was in the news:

  • Finovate fan favorite PayNearMe launched a mobile version of its cash-based payment service that allows users to buy online then take the receipt to 7-11 to pay in cash (or card). Until now, the system relied on a printed receipt to hand over to the cashier. And printing is so 2009. The new mobile version (inset), does away with the printing, allowing users to show the cashier a barcode rendered on a mobile phone. From then on, the process is the same.
  • WalMart just launched a "pay with cash option" that works with its site (screenshots below). The company could extend the service to purchases at other ecommerce sites if it wants to drive more traffic to stores.

Relevance for Netbankers: While we don't spend much time here discussing cash, it's still important across most demographics. And banks have a huge stake in the game with their ATM bases and other cash-handling infrastructure.

Banks could do the same thing as PayNearMe, using their branch and ATM networks to take cash over the counter as payment. And many parents may prefer sending junior to the bank instead of the convenience store.

But I also wonder if we'll see the reverse? Instead of handing cash over to the 7-11 clerk, parents can transmit a bar code to their kid's mobile to allow them to walk out of the store with a crisp $20 for lunch and a bus ride home. And it would make sense to extend that capability to mobile-enabled ATMs and even branches.

Anyway, that's all for this week, have a great one!


Walmart homepage (27 April 2012)

Walmart homepage promotes pay with cash option

Homepage popup lays out how it works popup lays out how it works

Walmart checkout

Choose "cash" icon under "enter a new payment method"

Walmart online cart with "cash" payment option

Comments (1)

Square for the Holidays

By Jim Bruene on December 5, 2011 4:34 PM | Comments (2)

image It's not easy packaging banking products as holiday gifts. Prepaid gift cards are an obvious exception, though few banks actively market them online. And ING Direct's Sharebuilder has for years sold a beginner's investment package that's intended to be given to kids or grandkids (see Wells Fargo/Sharebuilder 2002 holiday email below).

This year, Square joins that short list with a gift-wrapped box containing its iPhone/Android dongle, used to swipe credit cards. You can order 1, 2 or 3 packages online at a cost of just $1 each for the gift wrap. The dongles are sent to the buyer who must distribute.

I learned about it in an email right before the Thanksgiving holiday (screenshot below).

Bottom line: While recipients may be a little less impressed once they find out these dongles are free online, overall I love it. It's really the payments advice doled out when giving the package that can make it special. 

Good idea and great email/landing page design: A


Email received (22 Nov 2011)

Email from square promoting the "gift of square"

Landing page (link)


Wells Fargo/Sharebuilder email from Dec 2002 (post)

Wells Fargo/Sharebuilder email from Dec 2002


Note: We cover email marketing, financial website usability, payments and much more in our subscription publication, Online Banking Report.

Comments (2)

WV United FCU Offering Both Square and Dwolla Payments

By Jim Bruene on November 14, 2011 1:19 PM | Comments

imageDuring an an onstage interview at The Wall Street Journal's AsiaD conference, Jack Dorsey said he was working with banks to distribute Square readers/accounts directly to bank customers.


Since it was Honk Kong, I was thinking OCBC or HSBC. But it turns out the first financial institution (note 1) to take Jack up on his offer, is WV United FCU, a 5,000-member CU headquartered in Charleston, West Virginia. If that name sounds familiar, it's because it was the first financial institution in the world to implement mobile remote check deposit in August 2009 (previous post). WV United is also featuring Dwolla P2P/alt-payments on its homepage.   

  • Square: The CU is promoting Square on its home page (see screenshot #1 below). Square is the first of five promotions that rotate across the top (see also Dwolla below). The promotion features the 2.75% merchant rate and uses the @square Twitter feed to make it more interesting. The landing page invites members to signup for Square and redirects them to the startup's webpage. It doesn't appear there are any official affiliate arrangements. But Square allows payments to be transferred to any bank account, so WV United members can have the proceeds automatically deposited to the CU account.
  • Dwolla: The Dwolla connection is more integrated, with a co-branded online account opening page (screenshot #4). There is also more info loaded onto the CU's page including a short video, the @dwolla Twitter feed, and a features/benefits section.

Bottom line: No one is going to accuse 11-employee WV United FCU of not keeping up, innovation-wise, with the big banks. In fact, it's setting the pace in some areas, albeit in a more "bolted on" fashion (note 2). Granted there's little, if any, direct revenue from these efforts. But they also require no infrastructure investment. So, if they keep members satisfied and employees excited, then it's a win.


1. WV United FCU homepage (14 Nov 2011)
Note: The credit union leveraged Bank Transfer Day for another 10 days (lower right). Smart.

WV United FCU homepage includes Square promotion

2. Landing page for Square promo (14 Nov 2011, link)
Note: Square Twitter feed on right

WV United FCU landing page for Square promo

3. Landing page for Dwolla promo (link)

Landing page for Dwolla promo

4. Co-branded online account opening (link)

WV United CU and Dwolla online account signup

1. They are the first that I've heard of. There could be others linking to Square in a similar fashion.
2. When I say "bolted on" I mean that the experience isn't integrated with other WV United online offerings. Integrated is best, but bolted on is a good way to test the market and keep costs down.
3. For more info on P2P payments and other topics, see our subscription service, Online Banking Report.


Launching: Openbucks Gift Card Payment Network

By Jim Bruene on September 12, 2011 3:38 PM | Comments

image Today at TechCrunch Disrupt, Openbucks  announced its "gift card" payment network which works like an ATM switch; you can use whatever value you have in a participating gift card to buy something at any participating online retailer.

For example, you could use the $20 in your Subway card (a beta participant) to buy virtual goods at online games. Eventually, they want to expand beyond the purchase of digital goods. 

The product is targeted to those that don't have debit or credit cards, especially heavy game-playing teenagers. "Gift cards" would be added to the payment options at checkout at the gaming site.


Watching the Mobile Payments Battle Unfold

By Jim Bruene on April 6, 2011 8:24 PM | Comments

Editor's note: This guest post was written by Daniel Thomas, a 25-year veteran of the financial services industry and a principal consultant with Mindful Insights LLC. He's been involved in strategy and product development for Online Resources Corporation, ARINC, and TeleCheck. He recently authored a report on merchant-funded in-statement rewards for Online Banking Report.

image The Alternative Payments Systems Innovations (APSI) conference held in San Francisco last week may want to change its name to Mobile Payments Systems Innovation. It seems that all things mobile has totally eclipsed any interest in non-mobile untraditional payments.

And for good reason, the speakers and a hundred or so fully engaged attendees at the second annual APSI summit, seemed unanimously to agree that the convergence of virtual and physical purchasing, social networking, rewards and promotions will be solved by the use of mobile phones. And that is saying a lot given the mix of technology companies, payment companies, merchants and financial services companies represented in the room.

However, there is uncertainty on what exact form the eventual solutions take. But each company with an innovation is positioning themselves to be on the winning side when the dust settles and at least one prediction by chip maker INSIDE Secure Corporation's COO Charles Watson says "it will unfold in the next 18 to 24 months to see who are the winners and losers."

imageFor us payments geeks, it's a little like being one of the people from the Virginia countryside who brought lawn chairs to watch the first battle of Manassas in the Civil War. We have an opportunity to witness payment history before our very eyes. For those companies that are on the battlefield, well, some will win and others will become what Steve Klebe, VP, business development and strategy at BilltoMobile calls "alternative payments roadkill."

The key issue is control of the consumer. This is not a new issue, of course. Richard Crone's (president of Crone Consulting, LLC) timeless mantra, "The one who enrolls (is the one who) controls" is as true with m-payments as it was with e-payments and bill payments before that. However, no longer is this control of the consumer limited to a tug-of-war between the banks and the merchants. Mobile Network Operators (MNO), handset manufacturers and even social networks are all investing in innovative new technologies and functionality to be in the best position to do the enrolling.

The technologies that are being developed to win this control tend to fall into three main categories:

NFC-enabled phones (and stickers)

Mohammad Khan, president of ViVOtech, the NFC payment and promotion solution provider says that 2011 is the year of NFC and that "by the end of the year, 60-70 million NFC-enabled phones are expected to be released--mostly in North America." The presumption here is that consumers equipped with this new functionality will be looking for a place to use it and will ultimately drive merchants to upgrade their POS equipment to accept tap-and-go payments.

Indeed, INSIDE Secure's Watson predicts that NFC enabled smart phones will generate the next generation of phone apps that have nothing to do with payments but will get consumers hooked on tapping (think: tapping posters to receive coupons, tapping labels on store shelves to learn about products, tapping when you walk into a store to check-in and receive offers, tapping phones with someone you meet instead of exchanging business cards, etc.) and that this acceptance by consumers will drive their demand for tapping to pay at the point of sale.

Yet other companies fail to see the value in NFC to consumers. Chris Hylen, VP and GM, Intuit Payment Solutions Division says Intuit is banking on its Go Payment card swipe system that attaches to the iPhone. They believe that in the future everyone that wants to receive money will be able to receive credit card transactions. To prove it, Hylen played this adorable video clip of girl scouts accepting payments with their device. What could be easier?

He went on to say that "NFC is a solution looking for a problem" since it is much easier for a consumer to pull out their card than it is to open their phone, go to the appropriate app, enter a password, select a payment type and then tap the phone to a POS reader. This sentiment was echoed by Vince Kadar, CEO of Telepin Software who asserted that NFC means "Not For the Consumer".

Virtual Wallets

Okay, so maybe virtual wallets are the answer? After all what could be easier for a consumer to understand? Their phone now contains all of the information that used to be in their leather wallet. But which wallet will we use? The one promised by the group called ISIS led by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Discover and Barclays Bank? Or the one developed in the future by the partnership of Google, Citi and Verifone? Or the neutral and agnostic wallet announced and demoed at the show by Zenius Solutions President John Weise, the Zenius Mobile Wallet?

Since control of the consumer is the goal, every large merchant, mobile network operator, handset manufacturer and card issuer is going to be developing a wallet that they will want you to use as your primary wallet. How is that going to work? I can smell a new business opportunity for data aggregators like Yodlee and CashEdge a mile away, but won't that defeat the purpose of gaining control? Somehow I can't get the vision of George Costanza's wallet out of my head.

Carrier Billing

The simplest solution, deemed the only "friction-less" mobile payment type by the service providers that offer it, is the concept of paying for items with a charge to the phone carriers' monthly bill. The concept is inherently secure since the payment providers have real-time access to the phone company database (and they know where you live!) and a second factor of authentication, a text message to your phone that you need to reply-to.

The companies leading the charge in this space include PaymentOne, MoPay, BilltoMobile, and BOKU. And while its true that they don't have the problems that NFC and wallet providers have, there are currently clear boundaries to the types of items that can be bought with carrier billing services.

Purchases today are limited to small dollar (micropayment) virtual goods such as ring tones, wallpaper, game purchases (if you are one of the millions of people that like to pay to throw virtual sheep) and the like. However, you cannot buy a refrigerator at Sears. At least not until these companies work out the issues between the merchants and the carriers about who pays for fraud losses, how often funds are settled with merchants (remember you only pay your phone bill once a month and Sears isn't going to want to wait a month to get paid for their refrigerator!) and how customer service will be handled for things such as charge-backs.


The conference concluded with a focus on major merchants and explored their needs and wants for new payment types. Representatives from Walmart, 7-Eleven, Inc., Macy's and SUBWAY Restaurants each explained how they were looking for reduced costs, reduced lines, reliability, security, easy implementation and low maintenance associated with any new payment mechanism they deploy. In addition, they want the system to include the ability to offer rewards and promotions near-store and in-store.

That's a pretty tall order for any new payment solution. Are the merchants being unreasonable? After all, each has tens of thousands of POS locations to worry about, employee training, employee turnover, software changes to make, capital decisions on hardware, and so on. Looking at it from that perspective, one can see why these retailers are among the many that brought extra comfortable lawn chairs to the battlefield sidelines. Maybe it won't be such a quick war after all.


1. The conference was expertly organized by Strategic Solutions Network. Many thanks to CEO Aron Barkan along with Sara Sturman, Paula Haggerty and Debbie Bernbaum for an informative, interactive two days.
2. Picture credit: Prince William Conservation Alliance 
3. For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.


PayPal Launches Advantage Program for Frequent Buyers

By Jim Bruene on December 1, 2010 5:46 PM | Comments

image When it comes to online marketing, I'm a sucker for rewards programs, sweepstakes, and the rarest of the rare (at least at financial institutions), premium/VIP services. So I was pretty thrilled when I got an email from PayPal two weeks ago with this headline (see first screenshot):

Jim, welcome to PayPal Advantage

According to the email, I qualified by spending $5,000 in the past 12 months (no problem considering we use PayPal to pay several business suppliers). The email included a $10 gift certificate for use with any eBay purchase (through 20 Dec.).

Taking a page from airline companies, PayPal's main account page now contains a progress bar showing how much you need to spend to qualify for another year of Advantage membership (see last two screenshots).

The website lays out the PayPal Advantage benefits (link):

  • Cut to the front of the line when calling customer service
  • "Advantage hotline" phone number
  • Premium support via "most senior U.S.-based customer service specialists"
  • Faster dispute resolution
  • Exclusive events with executives meet-and-greets
  • Advantage member community/forum (coming soon)
  • Advantage member email newsletter (received one issue on 19 Nov.)
  • First to hear about the best shopping deals

Analysis: While none of the above is as exciting as the free travel rewards big-spending credit-card customers are accustomed to, these softer benefits are not as expensive either. And receiving recognition, combined with the red-carpet treatment from your financial provider, is an unexpected surprise and excellent customer-retention tool.

Welcome email with $10 certificate for any eBay purchase (17 Nov. 2010)

PayPal advantage Welcome email with $10 certificate for any eBay purchase

 Interstitial displayed at login (27 Nov 2010, 1 Dec 2010)

Interstitial displayed at PayPal login

PayPal Advantage landing page (link)

 PayPal Advantage landing page
PayPal Advantage benefits page (link)

PayPal Advantage complete benefits page

Widget on main page shows progress towards Advantage status

Widget on main page shows progress towards PayPal Advantage status

Details page showing specific progress

Details page showing specific progress towards PayPal advantage qualification

Summary box close up



PayPal Announces a Slew of Developer Tools and Two Major Banking Partners: USAA and Discover Financial

By Jim Bruene on October 26, 2010 6:47 PM | Comments (1)

After seeing The Social Network and reading yet another post about the ramifications of Facebook's ubiquity, I sent this out via Twitter last week:


Today, the "PayPal dial-tone" got louder with the launch of a handful of new initiatives at the company's second annual developer's conference in San Francisco (which drew 2,500):

  • PayPal for Digital Goods: Two-click checkout for low-value digital goods eliminates the hassle of logging in
  • PayPal Embedded Payments: Pay without leaving the merchant's app
  • PayPal Apps: Allows companies to embed applications into the PayPal website: Finovate alums Credit Karma, Expensify, and are participating
  • PayPal Business Payments: Electronic payments (non-credit card) of any size for just $0.50 per transaction 
  • PayPal Mobile enhancements:
    -- Express Checkout provides similar two-click process
    -- VeriFone integration
    -- v3.0 iPhone app

Unless you are a developer, most of those programs mean little to you other than it's obvious that PayPal is really pushing on the gas right now. But the banking alliances revealed today are quite interesting, assuming they make it to market:

I'm sure there will be much speculation on whether these powered-by-PayPal services will disrupt payments, or even catch on for that matter. But it's clear that PayPal has made important new alliances in the banking world. The dial-tone appears to be catching on, even with the establishment.   

Update: More context on these announcements from Russ Jones, Glenbrook Partners, here.

Comments (1)

Innovations Don’t Always Work: PayPal to Discontinue Browser Plug-in

By Jim Bruene on August 12, 2010 3:48 PM | Comments

image For years I’ve longed for a financial institution-delivered browser plugin that would help manage receipts, verify available funds, complete online forms, and provide secure payment options at legitimate ecommerce sites. The PayPal browser plugin, launched less than three years ago, offered most of that, in theory. 

I used it successfully a few times, but too often it popped up offering assistance when I didn’t need it. So I disabled it. Evidently, I wasn’t the only one who found it not worth the hassle (for more insight into the problems, read the comment thread and updates to the original announcement post). The company is pulling the plug on the service next month.

Now that PayPal’s plugin is off my computer, it's time to give Billeo’s another try. I used previous versions in the past, but hadn’t given it a thorough test since I moved to a Mac for most Internet browsing.

PayPal login splash screen (link, 9 August 2010)



Note: We wrote about plugins, toolbars, and tools in Online Banking Report: Grabbing Desktop Mindshare (published Aug. 2002).


What is Bank Simple?

By Jim Bruene on May 18, 2010 8:20 AM | Comments (1)

image There's a new "banking entity" in formation, Brooklyn, NY-based Bank Simple operating (temporarily I assume) at the .net version of its name <>. I chatted with the founders, Josh Reich and Shamir Karkal earlier this year and am anxiously awaiting more info on the launch.

From reading its trademark application, website, and blog, I have a feeling Bank Simple will launch as a banking front-end (eg. Mint, Obopay), and not as an actual bank. Given the market's (and Washington's) appetite for startup banks right now, they may have little choice. But who knows where they go from there. It sounds like they want tight control over the user experience, so they may eventually need to be a bank.

But from their FAQs and a few tidbits found through deep Googling, it sounds like Bank Simple will be much more than web-based software. Initially, it is launching a card-based service with combined debit/credit and rewards built in (de-coupled debit again?). Here's what they say in the About section:

We will launch later this year with a simple card with in built checking, savings, rewards and a line of credit. As we add more competitive banking services, you can personalize your features as your needs change.

Bank Simple talks about customer service (answering the phone), taking deposits by mail (and this is a rumor, by mobile remote deposit) and other traditional banking activities. So that is much more than an online PFM (can we agree to call that OFM?).

They made the tech press this week when they added a new co-founder, Alex Payne, one of early engineers at Twitter. So expect streaming information, ala Blippy and Swipely, and social networking to be a crucial part of the mix.

The startup is looking for summer marketing interns, but there are no permanent jobs posted, another reason to believe they will not be operating a full-blown bank in the near term.

It sounds like a good plan. Marry the utility of PayPal with user experience of ING Direct. Throw in a little Mint-like design and some Twitter hype, and it's a VC's dream. 

Bank Simple's pre-launch placeholder homepage (18 May 2010)
Note: Site is in closed beta, request an invitation through the "join" button


Note: In Online Banking Report, we have written about creating a virtual bank, sans the charter, several times in the past 15 years. The most recent full report was in Oct. 2000, Creating the of Financial Services. But we updated the tables (now called Creating the Facebook of Financial Services) last year in our 2010 Planning Guide.

Comments (1)

My Favorite Presentation of 2010: Glenbrook Provides Roadmap for Web 2.0 & Social Payments

By Jim Bruene on April 28, 2010 6:03 PM | Comments

imageI am a huge fan of Glenbrook Partners, the Menlo Park-based payments consulting firm. I first visited them when I was transitioning from closed to open blogging in 2006. Scott Loftesness and company were enormously helpful back then even though I was potentially elbowing in to their space. It's a kindness you never forget. I look forward to my daily dose of PaymentsNews and the occasional meetup at conferences.

But I'd never had a chance to attend one of their presentations until two days ago at NACHA Payments 2010. What a treat. Partners Erin McCune and Russ Jones drew the dreaded 8 AM Monday slot in a breakout session immediately preceding the Jack Dorsey/Square keynote. So only a 100 or so lucky attendees got to see them knock it out of the park. 

imageAnd as much as I enjoyed seeing Square and Wells Fargo's Steve Ellis go at it on the big stage, Russ and Erin would have delivered more value to attendees. They took a nebulous and confusing topic, alt-and-social payments (see inset), and made sense out of it in a 68-slide deck (see table and chart below). Let's all agree to use these terms going forward.

And to top it off, Glenbrook closed the presentation by showing alt-payments in use in the real virtual world at my favorite virtual pet site, Foopets (see previous post and note 1).  

Luckily, you still have a chance to hear an expanded version of this talk via Glenbrook's live webinar next week on social payments (small registration fee required).  

Glenbrook Partners deciphers Web 2.0 payments terms...


...and it's created a social payments classification system


Source: Erin McCune and Russ Jones, Glenbrook Partners presentation at NACHA Payments 2010, April 26, 2010
(reprinted with permission)

Playing Foopets costs money...


...but young gamers hitting the FooBank have more payment options than just their parents' cards
Note: We previously covered Kwedit here


image1. Glenbrook says that virtual pet owners spend about the same on their virtual pets, $25/mo, as real-world pet owners spend on their real-live pets. Amazing! If only had thought to sell virtual dog food instead of the real stuff, we might still get to see the sock puppet all over Facebook.


Now That's Payments Innovation: Parkzing Puts Your Parking Tickets on Autopilot

By Jim Bruene on April 18, 2010 9:52 AM | Comments (1)

image When talking about payments innovation in the 21st century, PayPal is usually the first thing that comes to mind. The company took existing payment methods (debit, credit, and electronic/ACH transfer) and used the Internet for delivery and messaging. Ten years later it is one of a handful of financial companies that can claim nine-figure customer bases. 

And there are dozens (hundreds?) of companies working on creating their own PayPal in relatively new frontiers: mobile, social networks, health care, micropayments, and so on. We'll have several of them demoing at our upcoming FinovateSpring event May 11 (lineup here).

image But you don't need millions of users to create something of value. Case in point: Parkzing is a new service (with a great name) created in his spare time by Aren Sanderson, CTO of Third Ave Labs, the creator of mobile app discovery service Apptizer (great name #2).

Parkzing is a mostly free service that removes the hassle, and worry, from remembering to pay your parking fines. How it works:

  • Users register their license plate number with the service
  • Parkzing scans city parking fine databases daily
  • If it finds a match, it contacts the user with a reminder to pay; reminders continue until the fine is removed from the database
  • Optionally, users can give Parkzing their credit card number and the ticket  will automatically be paid for a very economical $5 per ticket fee (see note 1)

This is one of those ideas that is so simple, yet so valuable, that you cannot believe it wasn't invented the day that city databases went public. As you might suspect, not all cities post this info online, so it currently only helps those in San Francisco, Washington D.C. and NYC (request your city here).

Relevance to Netbankers: This would be a valuable service to offer online/mobile banking customers. It would differentiate you from the competition, help fill your city's coffers, and add value to your payments card(s). The main downside? Liability for technical glitches that cause fines to go unpaid. A nominal fee for the service could fund a payments guarantee and provide a small bit of revenue.   

Also, think about the bigger picture here. Why limit this to parking tickets? How about if my bill-pay provider scanned all my accounts every day and told me what I owed? Utilities, credit cards, school lunch account, the dentist, and so on. To some extent Mint, Yodlee and the other PFM/bill-pay players already do this. But as Parkzing demonstrated, there's still room for innovations in bill pay. 

1. Five bucks is incredibly low considering the convenience and the savings in late fees; in Seattle we owe an extra $25 after only 15 days. I'd be willing to pay $25 per year + $5/ticket for the service.
2. HT to VentureBeat for writing about it. 

Comments (1)

Banks Shutout on iPad Opening Day, But Square is There

By Jim Bruene on April 4, 2010 9:16 PM | Comments

image After months of hearing about the iPad, I finally got my hands on one Saturday afternoon. It's a great piece of technology, but if you have an iPhone, you pretty much already know what it's like.

While the iPad runs all 150,000 apps available for the iPhone, developers are encouraged to produce iPad-optimized versions to take advantage of the significantly bigger-screen real estate.

When you open the App Store on the iPad, it focuses almost entirely on iPad apps. You have to do a specific keyword search to find non-iPad apps that work on the iPhone.

And I was surprised that neither banks nor credit unions are represented among the 30 Finance category apps available on April 3 (see screenshots below), a situation likely to be rectified with a flood of banking and credit union iPad apps during the next few months. It's definitely a place you want your brand represented (note 1).

imageThe only big financial services brand that made it to bat on opening day was E*Trade MobilePro (which hit the store last Thursday), and another trading app, iStockManager, to be used with TD Ameritrade.  Bloomberg, too, had its popular info app available on day 1 (see screenshots below for all 30 finance apps).                                       

The biggest surprise in the iPad Finance category was Square, the much-touted card-to-card payments service from Twitter's founder, which released its iPad app on April 1 (see inset). We'll be testing Square this month and hopefully using it to take last-minute credit card payments at our upcoming FinovateSpring Conference.                                                                                  Square's iPad app

The 30 iPad finance category apps available on the launch day (3 April 2010)
(Note: Organized by "featured")
Page 1: Apps 1-12                                                     Page 2: Apps 13-24image   image

Page 3: Apps 25-30


Note: For more coverage of mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.


Launches: Kwedit Allows Gamers to Pay for Virtual Goods with Real Credit

By Jim Bruene on February 4, 2010 6:24 PM | Comments (3)

image From a financial innovations standpoint, 2010 is off to a great start. Just 35 days into the year and we've already had two launches of services I don't think anyone saw coming: Blippy to automatically stream your purchases to the world (previous post) and now Kwedit (say it out loud if you don't get it).

Kwedit is designed to be the payments engine for the massive virtual goods market, estimated to be $1.6 billion in 2010 according to, up from $1 billion in 2009 (cited by GamesBeat last week).  

imageMany of the gaming networks, especially the so-called "social gaming" startups such as Zynga's FarmVille, appeal to teenagers and younger kids (note 1) who don't have credit or debit cards available to pay for virtual goods. This has made it difficult for the publishers to monetize the games through direct payments.

How it works:

1. Users of games partnering with Kwedit can purchase in-game virtual goods by promising to pay later through their associated Kwedit account. See the screenshot below to see how Kwedit is positioned in the online game FooPets.

2. Later, users print out a bar-coded coupon from their Kwedit account (see inset right) and take it to a participating 7-11 convenience store and pay via cash, mail payment imagedirectly to Kwedit, or "pass the duck" and send the IOU direct to their parents for payment. The site also offers an option to pay directly via credit or debit card.

3. To help drive off deadbeats, the company has created a Kwedit Score that shows which users are paying their IOUs on time (inset left). At FooPets, users will get more virtual goodies as their Kwedit Score increases, creating a game within the game and a way to promote responsible spending. 

I'm not a gamer myself, but as a parent, I understand the pull of online games and look forward to the day when I don't have to hand over my credit card for use on some site I barely understand. Some will argue that Kwedit needlessly encourages credit use in the pre-teen set (note 1). But as long as parents stay involved, Kwedit can actually be used to teach kids the importance of paying their bills.

So, if users take this option seriously, by paying down their virtual debt with real money, Kwedit could be huge (in which case, PayPal buys it of course). And it's relatively low risk for the gaming companies because the virtual goods have a zero marginal cost. BillMyParents is another company we've covered in the teen-payments space.

There is no doubt in my mind that online gaming needs a better payment system and that the solution is unlikely to resemble anything us parents have ever seen or imagined. Kwedit fits that bill. 

Kwedit gets star billing on the main screen at FooPets (4 Feb 2010)


Users create a promise to pay using a popup screen served by Kwedit (link)
Note: Users first must log in to their Kwedit account from this popup


1. Kwedit users must be 13 or older to sign up for an account.

Comments (3)

Out of the Inbox: Costco Email Gives PayPal's Bill Me Later Top Billing

By Jim Bruene on December 21, 2009 4:23 PM | Comments

imageI rarely open emails from retailers, especially around the holidays. As someone who has checked the "send me offers" box on registration forms for a decade, I'm inundated. But every once in a while I check out the Costco email to see what outrageous deals they are offering and, more importantly, whether any financial services are being showcased. For example, in March we wrote about the $90 Sharebuilder promo from Costco

Last Friday, the big-box giant did not disappoint. It had two financial offers above the fold:

  • Extended-payment option: A surprisingly large and prominent pitch for PayPal's extended-payment program, Bill Me Later (see inset and upper-right corner in screenshot below). The BML option allows Costco customers to defer payment for an unspecified amount of time interest-free if paid in full by the due date (typically a few months out), or to pay the amount back over time at an 18.99% APR.
  • Costco cash cards: While it's no surprise that the retailer is pitching store cards 7 days out from Christmas Day (see landing page below), I was surprised they weren't merchandising them more aggressively. The problem was that even with rush delivery, the plastic card wasn't guaranteed to arrive before Christmas, so it wasn't a great gift option. The retailer could use an online giftcard option for instant delivery.

Costco holiday email (Friday, 18 Dec. 2009)

Costco email 18 Dec 2009

Bill Me Later landing page (link)

BillMeLater landing page

Costco prepaid card landing page (link)



New Online Banking Report Published: Making the Case for Person-to-Person (P2P) Payments

By Jim Bruene on December 15, 2009 3:13 PM | Comments


We just published the latest Online Banking Report:

Making the Case for Person-to-Person Payments
Does mobility provide the tipping point for bank-branded P2P?

Author: Jim Bruene, Editor & Founder
Published: 10 Dec. 2009
Size: 40 pages, 10,000 words
Author: Jim Bruene, Editor & Founder
Cost: For OBR subscribers: $0, all others US$495
Abstract/Table of Contents: Here (PDF)
Download or purchase: Here

If you've been around the industry a while, you probably remember the last time there was a lot of hype around person-to-person (P2P) payments. It was ten years ago and PayPal had just launched and was competing with three well-funded efforts from large banks: Wells Fargo, Bank One (now Chase) and Citibank.

The battlefield at the time was eBay, which desperately needed a trusted payment mechanism, to remove the friction from person-to-person commerce. Well, PayPal won that battle, taking out all three bank competitors and becoming the payment standard at eBay.

But the incumbent banks and credit unions have not lost the war, yet. They still own the customer payments relationship. And even though more than 70% of U.S. online shoppers already have a PayPal account, there are millions of customers that still want an easy way to transfer money to family members, friends, or acquaintances. And increasingly, they will want to send the money via their mobile phone.

While PayPal can handle that type of transaction, it's not necessarily top of mind with consumers when considering how to send $65 to their sister to pay their share of mom's birthday party. 

This is something PayPal recognizes, so they are actively pursuing bank partners to offer co-branded Powered by PayPal P2P payment services. Just last month, PayPal announced deals with S1, FIS, and First Data to make PayPal solutions available to their thousands of clients. The first S1 client to publicly announce the program is Mercantile Bank of Michigan, which is already telling customers about its Q1 2010 launch of PayPal-powered mobile payments (see previous post).

About the report: Published last week, the latest Online Banking Report includes: 

  • An overview of the product and market size
  • Analysis of features and benefits
  • A look at potential revenue streams
  • Forecast for online and mobile P2P payment usage (United States only)
  • Review of the offerings from key solutions providers and financial institutions, including the latest launch from Univest National Bank & Trust, which just launched a home-grown P2P payments service (see screenshot below)
  • Project priority guidance for various types of financial institutions

Companied mentioned: Amazon Payments, American Express, Bank of America, Bank One (Chase), BECU, CashEdge POPmoney, CircleUp SmartPay, First Hawaiian Bank, Fiserv, Geauga Credit Union, ING Direct, iPay Technologies, MasterCard MoneySend, Mercantile Bank of Michigan, Mobile Money Ventures, mPayy, MoneyGram, Obopay, Nokia Money, Patelco Credit Union, PayPal, Revolution Money, TwitPay, Univest Bank & Trust, US Bank, Wells Fargo, Western Union

Univest's new P2P service featured on its homepage (15 Dec 2009)


Note: The report will be mailed to subscribers later this week.


Sneak Peek at Mercantile Bank's Powered-by-PayPal Mobile P2P Payments

By Jim Bruene on December 11, 2009 5:25 PM | Comments (1)


Mercantile Bank of Michigan is riding the wave of free publicity from being first to market (probably) with iPhone-based P2P payments powered by PayPal. That's a triple play in both imagealliteration and PR value. See the teaser ad on the bank's website below (first screenshot).

The new service, a joint effort from PayPal and S1, is expected to go live in early 2010. It will allow customers to send money directly from their iPhone to any other individual on the worldwide PayPal network. All the sender must know is the recipient's mobile phone number or email address. According to the five-question FAQ on the landing page (see second screenshot), the service will be available to all MercMobile customers and will be free of charge.

Mercantile Bank has become one of the most innovative banks we follow. Congratulations to CIO John Schulte and his team for leading the industry on several fronts and providing great material for Netbanker (previous posts here; note 1).


For more on the P2P payments market, see our latest Online Banking Report, published earlier this week, Making the Case for Person-to-Person Payments

Mercantile Bank's powered-by-PayPal mobile P2P app (7 Dec. 2009):

image   image   image

Mercantile Bank of Michigan homepage (8 Dec. 2009):
Note: MercMobile P2P Payment teaser in lower left and home-based remote-deposit capture on the top banner.


P2P payments landing page (link)


1. Mercantile even earns its very own category at Netbanker: <>. 

Comments (1)

P2P Payments: CashEdge's POPmoney Spotted in the Wild at First Hawaiian Bank

By Jim Bruene on December 9, 2009 7:30 PM | Comments

clip_image002When CashEdge demo'd its new person-to-person (P2P) payment solution, POPmoney, at Finovate in September (video here), they said they expected four clients to be live by year-end. It looks like the first one is there, or almost there.

imageFirst Hawaiian Bank has a lengthy POPmoney FAQ posted on its website (see screenshot  below). Pertinent details on the new POPmoney service include (refer to full text below):

  • Cost is $1 per transaction
  • Users can send money via email address, mobile phone number, or directly into the recipient's bank account (if known)
  • Online banking customers will find it in the Transfers section under a tab entitled Send Money
  • P2P payments are limited to $5,000 per month subject to a daily maximum of $1,000 via email/mobile or $2,000 transferred directly to another bank account
  • Payments can be scheduled up to one year in advance

For more on the P2P payments market, see our latest Online Banking Report, published 15 minutes ago: Making the Case for Person-to-Person Payments

First Hawaiian Bank's POPmoney FAQ (link; 8 Dec. 2009)


FAQ text:

What is "POPmoney"?
"POPmoney" is a feature of the FHB Online® banking service that lets you send money to someone electronically via their email address, mobile phone number, or directly to their bank account. Payments to someone's email address or mobile phone number are accompanied with a personalized message letting them know that the funds are available for electronic deposit to wherever they choose, while payments to someone's bank account are deposited automatically.

How much does POPmoney cost?
Sending money via POPmoney costs only $1.00 per transaction.

How do I sign up for POPmoney?
POPmoney is available to customers through the FHB Online service and can be accessed via the "Send Money" tab within the "Transfers" section. If you are not currently enrolled for FHB Online, visit and click on the Online Banking "Enroll" button in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. If you are already enrolled for FHB Online, sign onto FHB Online, go to the Transfers section, and then click on the Send Money (Personal Only) link. Follow the three-step sign-up process:

  • Step 1 POPmoney Agreement - Accept the FHB Online POPmoney amendment.
  • Step 2 Contact Information - Your email address and mobile phone number are required as part of the sign-up process. You will need to verify the email address we have on file is correct. If it is incorrect, please close the window and click "Update Email Address" within the Customer Service tab to update your email address. After confirming your email address, return to the "Transfers - Send Money (Personal Only)" link and you will also be asked to provide a mobile phone number as part of the sign-up process.
  • Step 3 Email/Mobile Phone Validation - We will send verification codes to your email address and mobile phone. Please check your email and your mobile phone for these codes and enter them in the boxes shown on-screen to complete the sign-up process.

Once you've completed the steps above, you will receive a confirmation message indicating that you have successfully signed up for POPmoney. Click "Continue to POPmoney" to start using the service.

Who can I send money to?
You can send money to someone just by knowing their mobile phone number or email address. The person receiving the notification will be able to deposit the money to any personal checking, savings, money market checking, or money market savings account at FHB or nearly any other U.S. bank. You can also send money directly to someone else's bank account if you have their bank routing and account number information.

How does the recipient receive and deposit funds?
If you are sending money to a mobile phone or email address, the recipient will receive a notification with a personalized message indicating that you have sent them a payment. The recipient has two ways of depositing the funds:

  • If the recipient is a First Hawaiian Bank customer, they can deposit the funds into their account via the FHB Online service. Upon enrolling, or if the recipient is already enrolled for FHB Online, they can click on the "Send Money (Personal Only)" to access the POPmoney feature. Any payments that have been sent to them will be listed under the "Incoming Payments & Alerts" tab. They can then select an account to which to deposit the funds. They can also designate whether future payments should be automatically deposited to this account.
  • If the recipient is a not a First Hawaiian Bank customer, or would like to deposit the funds into a non-FHB account, they can visit They will be prompted to provide their mobile phone or email address along with their bank account information for the payment to be deposited.

Can I send money internationally?
No, you can only send money to individuals via their accounts within the U.S.

What is the maximum transaction amount I can make via POPmoney?
The maximum daily amount allowed for POPmoney transactions is the current available balance in the source account (plus any available credit in an associated Yes-CheckSM account if applicable) up to the daily limit mentioned below, whichever is less. This includes any single transaction or the total amount outstanding or "in process." For additional information, see below:

Sending Money to Bank Account

Maximum Amount





Sending Money to Mobile or Email

Maximum Amount





Can I set up recurring or future-dated transactions?
Yes, POPmoney transactions may be scheduled up to 365 days in advance of the date the transaction is to be made. Automatic recurring transactions may also be scheduled for substantially regular intervals (e.g., monthly) in the same amount between the same two accounts. You can schedule recurring transactions to be made weekly, every other week, twice a month, monthly, every four weeks, every other month, quarterly, twice a year, and annually.

How far in advance can I schedule a transaction?
You can schedule a POPmoney transaction up to one year in advance.

When are POPmoney transactions processed?
Transactions will be processed on the date you specify up to a year in advance. Transactions will take approximately three business days to process. Transactions scheduled to process on a weekend or holiday will be processed the previous Business Day.

What is the cut-off time to submit a transaction?
The cut-off time for submitting transactions is 7:00 p.m. HT each Business Day. Transactions submitted after 7:00 p.m. HT or on weekends or holidays will be processed the next Business Day. A Business Day is every calendar day except for Saturdays, Sundays, and bank holidays.

What is the cut-off time to change or delete upcoming transactions?
The cut-off time to change or delete an upcoming transaction is 7:00 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time the previous Business Day prior to the send date.

When does the transaction get debited from my account?
The transaction debit request is initiated on the "send date" but will not post against your account for one to two days.

What happens if I set up a transaction but do not have sufficient funds in my account on the "send date?"
If, on the "send date," there is insufficient balance in your account to make a transaction you authorized, we will delay the transaction and try again on the next Business Day. If there is still insufficient balance to make the transaction, we may either refuse to pay the item, or we may make the transaction and overdraw your account. In either event, you will be responsible for any non-sufficient funds ("NSF") or overdraft charges that may result.

How many people can I add to my list of contacts?
You may add up to a total of 50 contacts.

I used to send money to third parties via the External Transfers function. What will happen to this information?
As part of introducing POPmoney, we have migrated your third-party information and activity from External Transfers to POPmoney. This includes contacts or accounts, as well as upcoming and previous transactions. Categories for previous transactions will not be migrated and will need to be re-defined.

How do I disable POPmoney?
You may disable POPmoney by calling us at 643-4343 (1-888-643-4343 from the Continental U.S., Guam, and CNMI). Please note that disabling POPmoney will also disable your access to External Transfers.


American Express Jumps on the Alt-Payments Bandwagon in a Big Way; $300 Million Acquisition of Revolution Money

By Jim Bruene on November 19, 2009 4:51 PM | Comments (2)

image_thumb[9]Frankly, I haven't got my head completely around the latest acquisition in the alt-payments space (and I'm not the only one). I know that it makes my analyst life more interesting, but not sure what it means to the competitive landscape. Scott Loftesness over at Glenbrook Partners has the best analysis I've seen (also read the comments).

I'll break it down here. Revolution Money has two products:

1. RevolutionCard: Alt-payment card for use at the point of sale, both online and in-store.(see inset below from where RevolutionCard logo is right below Visa; full screenshot below). Unique PIN-based card with no account number or name (see below).

2. Revolution MoneyExchange: A person-to-person payment service.

image_thumb[2]Neither product appears to be very large. In the Q&A of the announcement webcast (press release), Revolution Money chairman Ted Leonsis said the company had signed 8,000 customers per day during a 90-day marketing test about a year ago. In total, it registered about 400,000 consumers (note 1). They also said they'd built merchant acceptance to about 1 million locations.  

The company declined to disclose the number of cardholders, but mentioned that each of its dozen marketing partnerships had brought in two or three thousand good cardholders. Leonsis said that given the current credit environment, they elected not to expand the cardholder portfolio, instead "doubling down" on platform features, such as ATM acceptance (note 2). 

But according to traffic figures from Compete, few Revolution Money customers were actively using its services. The P2P service, MoneyExchange, was the most-visited of the company's three sites with about 20,000 unique visitors last month, but that was down from 70,000 a year ago (during the marketing test). On the other hand, the Revolution Card volume was similar, just under 20,000, but up more than 50% year-over-year (see chart from Compete below).

 Compete: 18 Nov 2009, link

American Express opportunities
On the call (replay here through next week), American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault outlined seven opportunities it would pursue when the transaction closes early next year. Notably absent, person-to-person payments:

1. Reloadable prepaid products for new segments

2. Compete with other alternative payment companies (aka PayPal)

3. Payment products in social media services

4. Mobile payment offerings

5. International markets

6. Offer through banks that issue American Express cards

7. Pin-based debit offerings

During Q&A, Chenault emphasized how the acquisition was all about getting the Revolution Money platform/engine to allow AmEx to do things faster and for a lower cost. There was little talk of RM's brand, customers, or merchant base. The biggest discussion, during Q&A, was about reloadable prepaid cards.

My take: American Express purchased a platform they hope will allow it to get various new features/products to market faster and at lower costs to help head off total online-POS domination by PayPal. In addition, it acquired a proven team and management duo, and kept the whole works out of the hands of potential competitors such as Discover Card, Barclays, and others. While no one on the outside can understand the assumptions in the make vs. buy analysis, given its track record, American Express should be able profit from this $300 million IT investment. 

Online cards are sprouting new payment options
SeattleLuxe offers ten choices plus a link to pay by check (18 Nov 2009)


1. This is a registered user count, not necessarily a user of the service. Many of the new customers came for the $25 signup bonus or just to kick the tires. There was no cost or obligation to register.
2. On the call, Revolution Money said that 80% of ATMs accept their card.

Comments (2)

Happy 10th Birthday PayPal!

By Jim Bruene on November 19, 2009 12:45 PM | Comments (1)

image In preparation for our upcoming report, I re-read our first report on P2P payments published almost 10 years ago to the day (29 Nov 1999). Although written early in the game, I was very impressed with PayPal, a service launched two weeks earlier (15 Nov 1999) by Confinity, the original name of its parent company.

We've made our share of incorrect predictions over the years, but this one we got right (note 1), annointing PayPal with one of the first OBR Best of the Web awards. Here's our take from that original report, when PayPal was available as a payment option on just nine eBay auctions:

image(PayPal) is not as well known as BidPay....but as soon as (eBay) participants discover (PayPal) is free and real-time, it should catch on quickly.

PayPal was originally developed as a payment mechanism between Palm Pilots, which explains the "beam money" call-to-action on top of the original user interface (below). But I wasn't a Palm user, so what got me excited about the service was the use of the email address to facilitate payments:

Much of (PayPal's) press coverage has focused on the Palm application...(but) it's the email-payment program that has the huge potential.

The rest, as they say, is history.

PayPal "send money" interface at its 1999 launch (15 Nov 1999)


PayPal "send money" today (19 Nov 2009)


1. And truth be told, we predicted  that PayPal would need to hook up with an existing payment player to get past trust issues. But luckily for them, the extremely deep-pocketed VCs in the bubble days floated PayPal a massive amount of cash so it could buy its way into the wallets of consumers.  

Comments (1)

Quotes: Mercantile Bank on Using PayPal for P2P Payments

By Jim Bruene on November 11, 2009 11:08 AM | Comments

image The biggest surprise of the year in the world of alt-payments is PayPal's newfound reach into banking circles as evidenced by their agreements with S1, FIS, and FirstData announced at last week's Retail Delivery conference.

But a huge question remains: Will banks play ball with PayPal or will they provide the same functions via home-grown solutions or non-PayPal alternatives such as CashEdge, Fiserv, or Visa/MasterCard?

I don't think anyone has that answer yet. There are simply too many variables. But if you believe there's no way a bank would use a "powered by PayPal" solution, read this quote by Mercantile Bank of Michigan's CIO, who plans on launching the S1/PayPal person-to-person mobile service next year (note 1):

"(PayPal) is a network, it doesn't scare me at all. They're never going to steal significant deposits out of our bank and keep [them] in PayPal accounts. Visa and MasterCard probably look at PayPal as the enemy, and they probably should, but that's their problem, not mine."
   -- John Schulte, CIO Mercantile Bank of Michigan in a
Nov. 10 article from Digital Transactions

1. You might remember Mercantile Bank from our May post lauding its fee-based consumer positive-pay service.


SunTrust Partners with Moneta to Test the Alt-Payment Waters

By Jim Bruene on November 3, 2009 7:20 PM | Comments

imageI've been waiting 10 years to write this story. A major U.S. bank has finally dared enter the space PayPal has all-but-owned since the first part of this decade (see note 1, 2): secure, non-card-based payments at the point-of-sale, which do not require handing over private info to the merchant. 

imageYes, Bank One, Citibank and Wells Fargo all failed at person-to-person payments in 2000/2001, but this is much different. Those were payment services between individuals, not a point-of-sale option like PayPal, Google Checkout, and most recently,

SunTrust's partner Moneta is an Atlanta-based startup that debuted its alt-payment system at FinovateStartup earlier this year (video here). The joint effort was announced at BAI Retail Delivery in Boston earlier today (press release).

The program is already being tested on a large group of SunTrust online banking customers who recently received an email offering a $10 cash-back incentive to make a purchase of $50 or more from one of the handful of merchants currently accepting Moneta-powered ACH payments. The biggest merchant is Delta.

Moneta's appeal to merchants is relatively straightforward: Incremental sales from customers unwilling or unable to pay via credit card online AND reduction in interchange costs by moving card-based transactions to Moneta transactions, with much lower interchange.

For banks, the business case is not as obvious. The hope is that Moneta-issuing banks share of interchange revenue will more than offset what the bank might lose in card-based interchange. While that may turn out to be the case, the more compelling benefit for banks is the brand and relationship value of offering a new payment choice with more perceived security and privacy advantages. There are also intriguing possibilities to add other revenue-producing value to those transactions.

image Last year in my notes from the BAI conference, I named Moneta as the "most audacious business plan." Right now, it's too early to say whether Moneta can become a legit competitor to PayPal. But with SunTrust on its side, that audacious plan is MUCH closer to realization.   
1. For the historical perspective, see our first report on person-to-person payments (published, Nov. 1999). 
2. In somewhat-related news: A year after PayPal CEO Scott Thompson made a keynote appeal to bankers at last year's Retail Delivery, FIS and PayPal announced a partnership today (press release) as did S1 (press release) that could bring PayPal-powered peer-to-peer payments to hundreds of financial institutions.


Donors Choose Checkout Includes Amazon Payments along with Facebook and Twitter Integration

By Jim Bruene on October 13, 2009 9:00 PM | Comments (2)

image I love how the Internet removes friction from everyday tasks, especially payment-related ones. And one of the great success stories of recent years, beginning with Hurricane Katrina relief in August 2005, is how easy it is to make charitable gifts online.

I've used the Red Cross site several times. It gets the job done, but not with the flair and superb user experience of Donors Choose (note 1). 

Thanks to Fred Wilson, blogging at A VC, I contributed to the Social Media Challenge last week and got a first-hand look at Donors Choose. The simple checkout process has three features that I'd not seen before:

  • Amazon Payments as a payment choice (along with PayPal, credit card, or check; first screenshot)
  • Automated Facebook wall post integration (second screenshot)
  • Automated Twitter posting with two options:
    -- allow Donors Choose to Tweet a thank-you to you referencing your @twittername
    -- provides a template for you to make a Tweet from your own Twitter account

If you want to see a state-of-the-art checkout system in action, and support kids in the classroom, check out Donors Choose.

Or if you are looking to add a charitable-giving feature to your banking site for the holidays, you can easily create your own giving page at Donors Choose and run a widget on your website tracking the campaign's progress (see inset). You can choose which projects to support so long as they fall within the nonprofit's mission of "helping students in need."

Donors Choose cart with Amazon Payments and PayPal integration (13 Oct 2009)


Facebook wall post integration
This screen popped up after I checked out


Twitter integration


Donors Choose shout-out page on Twitter (link)
Note: First Tweet was Sep 29. Have done 342 since then (through 13 Oct 2009).


1. My first donation via Amazon Payments failed because I accidentally used a canceled credit card number. And evidently there is a bit of a bug in the feedback loop to the Donors Choose site. I got an error message, but when I clicked "next" to re-enter the payment, the site transferred me out to the thank-you page and I was unable to go back and re-do the transaction. I had to start all over again, and now the site shows that I've made two donations instead of one. 

Comments (2)

Straight out of Twitter: BillMyParents Launches

By Jim Bruene on March 27, 2009 3:31 PM | Comments

image I've mostly just observed the Twitter phenomenon, following a few people and seeing how banks and credit unions are using it (see my previous post for financial institutions on Twitter). However, I'd not fully embraced Twitter either as a publishing device or research source. The 300 or so RSS feeds, emails and news items that cross my desk each day seemed like plenty of intelligence to sift through.

But now, I'm reconsidering my priorities after learning about an interesting new alt-payment company BillMyParents from Twitter activity (see notes 1, 2).

How it works: BillMyParents is a new service from IdeaEdge's Socialwise (press release). The service is primarily designed for kids to shop online. They select what they want, then at checkout, redirect the bill to their parents via an email alert to PC or mobile phone. Parents login and complete the payment process at their convenience using MasterCard, Visa, Discover Card (no American Express; see third screenshot below). Card info can be stored for one-click future approvals.

The company charges a $0.50 transaction fee for each purchase. But like PayPal, the real money will be made when the company pushes purchase transactions through the ACH system.  

Currently, BillMyParents is selling prepaid gift cards from its site as a proof-of-concept. I tested it yesterday and everything seemed to work as described (see second screenshot below).

The opportunity: The service reminds me of the unmet need that PayPal filled nine years ago. Purchasing at eBay was a major hassle due to the lack of online payment capabilities. Kids have similar problems when trying to buy things online.

The service could also be adapted to other situations where one party does the shopping but wants someone else to authorize payment such as small businesses, nannies, or even spouses. It could also be used for extra security when the shopping is done in a non-secure environment such as public terminal and payment is redirected to a more secure device, such as your mobile phone.

Like any alternative payment, BillMyParents requires the merchant to add the option to its ecommerce platform and consumers to set up accounts. Both of those are time-consuming and face the chicken-and-egg dilemma, i.e., it's hard to attract merchants without a substantial user base while its difficult to add users without merchants.

Bottom line: This is a winning idea. The massive discretionary purchasing power of teens and pre-teens is a tempting target in this difficult retail environment. And financial institutions, or their payment partners (e.g. Visa, MasterCard), looking to differentiate themselves with the youth market, could jumpstart the program. Or more likely, PayPal and/or Amazon will dive in, either acquiring BillMyParents outright, or building their own version(s).  

BillMyParents homepage after setting up an account (26 March 2009)
Note: Split login screen for kids (left) and parents (right)


Proof-of-concept: Gift card purchase (26 March 2009)


Parent's approval screen (26 March 2009)


1.  Thanks to Frederic Baud (@fredericbaud) who was the first in my network to Tweet about BillMyParents; and to Glenbrook's Scott Loftesness (@sjl) who's retweet is actually what caught my eye.

2. BillMyParents appears to have grabbed its Twitter page name (@billmyparents), but it's not yet active.


Money Link from the University of Wisconsin Credit Union Makes Electronic Transfers Simple (like they should be)

By Jim Bruene on March 12, 2009 5:32 PM | Comments (1)

imageFinancial institutions vary considerably in how easy they make it to move money in and out of bank accounts.

On the one extreme is U.S. Bank, which still requires a retail customers to visit a branch to initiate an electronic payment (note 1). Plus, if you come in after the wire transfer deadline, 2 PM I believe, you can set it up to go out the next day, but you still have to call back and reconfirm before 2 PM the following day. When asked why they needed a phone call after I've already appeared in person, shown my ID, and signed multiple documents authorizing the transfer, they responded in all seriousness, "to make sure you are still alive."

image Then there's University of Wisconsin Credit Union, who not only assumes its members are alive, but also wants to keep them satisfied.

The credit union's novel Money Link service allows anyone to send money to a UW CU member via an email-enabled system similar to PayPal but free of any fees and branded by the CU. The service can also be accessed via UW CU's mobile banking. 

Transfers from outsiders take 3-4 days for the ACH items to clear. But member-to-member transfers occur in real time. It's a great way for students to get money from mom and dad in time to thwart that Monday morning overdraft.

image The CU also supports full inter-institutional account-to-account transfers online. There is no cost to move money into UW CU, but there is a $2 fee for outgoing transfers.

Members who can't wait for the 3 to 4 days for an ACH to clear, can elect the the Express Service that offers one-day turnaround for $10. The Express service has a $2,000 limit where the Standard Service can be used up to $10,000 (see inset).

Bottom line: This is the type of transfer service most consumers expect from their bank or credit union. It's amazing that it's still not supported at many financial institutions, including some of the majors.

1. Referring to wire transfers here initiated in the Seattle area. There could be other procedures in other areas of the bank's footprint. Also, customers can CheckFree-powered online bill pay to pay any U.S. resident or business within 5 days. 

Comments (1)

WaMu's New P2P Funds Transfer Service, WaMu Send Direct

By Jim Bruene on December 10, 2008 6:25 PM | Comments (3)

image When's the last time you Googled something and found nothing? Evidently WaMu's innovative P2P funds transfer service got lost in all the "excitement" this year and word never got out.

Luckily, I was seated beside Aliaswire (see note 1) SVP Keith Smith at dinner in Orlando two weeks ago. His company powers WaMu Send Direct, a service for P2P payments service for WaMu credit card holders, launched earlier this year at <>.

WaMu Send Direct uses a variety of methods to transfer funds with as little hassle or with as much privacy as desired (see note 2). Cost to the sender is 2% of the amount sent with a $2 minimum. Recipients pay nothing.

This makes for a good pricing model for such things as parents sending money to a child, but not so good for consumer-to-business payments, UNLESS the consumer can avoid a late payment and/or finance charge (aka, expedited payments).

In addition to the 2% fee, the amount sent is posted to the WaMu credit card as a purchase and is subject to the prevailing APR and presumably an interest-free grace period if applicable (see note 3).  

Transfers all come out of a WaMu credit card, but they can go to the recipient in any of the following ways:

  • Directly to a checking/savings account if the sender has the bank account info of the recipient
  • Directly to a debit card, ATM card, or credit card if the sender has the recipient's card number
  • To the recipient's phone or email address, requiring the recipient to call or log in at WaMu to claim the funds by providing bank account info; however, on subsequent transfers the recipient would not be required to contact WaMu so long as they signed up for Automatic Claim

Transfers can be initiated via:

  • Website <>
  • SMS message to specific short code
  • Telephone call to a toll-free number

It's a cool service. It will be interesting to see if Chase continues the service as they assimilate the WaMu credit card portfolio. 

WaMu Send Direct Homepage (5 Dec 2008)


Note the text message box at the bottom offering to text a bookmark to the user. 

1. The name comes from the ability for a user to transfer funds (aka "wire") to other users via "alias", e.g., email address or mobile phone number.

2. Despite my longstanding policy of avoiding flow charts in NetBanker, here's a schematic of how Aliaswire's mPay works. mPay is the service that WaMu has private-branded as WaMu Send Direct


3. The Terms & Conditions states that the payment is considered a "purchase," which sounds like it would qualify for an interest-free grace period on accounts not currently revolving; however, the terms did not specifically say that.

Comments (3)

Highlights from BAI Retail Delivery 2008

By Jim Bruene on November 21, 2008 5:20 PM | Comments (5)

image BAI's Retail Delivery Conference is an annual rite for bank tech geeks from around the world. Although attendance was down 20% or so from last year, causing some grousing on the trade-show floor, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here's my personal list of highlights from the show (see note 1). 

The Netbanker awards:

  • Most audacious business plan: Alt-payment startups Moneta and sister company Acculynk which are looking to disrupt online payments at the point of sale
  • Most likely to succeed: mobile anything 
  • Biggest "wow" factor: Cardless ATMs by Wincor Nixdorf  
  • Best demo of something that actually exists: Bank of Montreal's demo of its new branch locator using Microsoft Virtual Earth (shown at the Microsoft's booth)
  • Coolest solution looking for a problem: Microsoft Surface
  • Product most likely to be used in our company: Bankserv remote deposit integrated with QuickBooks 
  • Product least likely to be used in our company: Wii banking from Wincor Nixdorf (but it's very cool)
  • Best presentation: Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics and Growing Up Digital 
  • Best buzzword comeback: Push banking (mobile apps, widgets, alerts)
  • Best trade floor freebie: Free espresso from ClairMail 
  • Best financial screenshot during a keynote: PayPal CEO Scott Thompson showed PayPal Mobile from Chase Bank, a pilot program running on several college campuses (Ohio State), where Paypal Mobile is bundled with banking services from Chase Bank
  • Worst financial screenshot during a keynote: Don Tapscott used Zopa USA as an example of a promising new Web 2.0 financial company (Zopa pulled out of the U.S. market last month)
  • Biggest jinx: Second Curve Capital CEO Tom Brown, who Tuesday afternoon explained why he is so bullish on bank stocks; the NASDAQ bank stock index proceeded to drop 200 points (10%) over the next two days (note 2)
  • Most amazing stat: In his keynote, CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann said ING Direct (USA) had originated more than 100,000 mortgages worth $36 billion, and initiated foreclosures only 15 times
  • Best time: Dinner with Trey Reeme and the gang from TDECU who are not only some of the nicest people you could ever meet, but also provided absolutely stimulating conversation and some great laughs

image Best of show: Drum roll please. After dozens of amazing conversations over three days, the company that most intrigued me is alt-payments startup Moneta (note 3). 

1. I visited with only a couple dozen of the 300 or so companies in Orlando, so comments here are not meant to be an overview, just the highlights of my experience. As usual, I spent most of my time looking for new ideas and ended up spending half my time talking to mobile providers.
2. To his credit, Mr. Brown did not say bank stocks had bottomed; in fact, he said they could very well go lower. But by this time next year, he expects a substantial turnaround. It was a great presentation.
3. Moneta didn't have a booth, but board member and investor Ashish Bahl was in attendance and briefed me on his firm. We'll provide more details on the company later. 

Comments (5)

Privier Launches ATMsend, a Promising Idea that Needs Banking Partners

By Jim Bruene on November 7, 2008 4:27 PM | Comments (9)

image I've communicated with Privier founder Charles Polanco a number of times over the years. He's a Wachovia alum who's been working on a financial startup for several years. The company launched a suite of payment services on Oct. 16 that aims to get the plastic card out of the ATM business (press release).

Privier's value prop is straightforward and compelling: Enable money transfers from any device at any time with the cash delivered through the worldwide ATM network.

The system initiates transfers in three ways:

  • ATMsend: ATM to ATM
  • iTransfer: Web to ATM 
  • mPayment: Mobile phone to ATM

In Privier's model the ATM card is replaced by a one-time authorization code that recipients key into the ATM to withdraw transferred funds.

From a usability perspective, it's a great idea. After all, what's not to like? Consumers need to send cash. ATMs have cash. Why not let folks authorize a remote ATM withdrawal from the comfort of their own home or office. A proposed fee in the $7 range beats most alternatives for long-distance money transfers.

However, from a practical standpoint there are two massive roadblocks to overcome:

  • Retrofitting ATMs to accept a keyed-in code instead of a mag stripe for authentication
  • Convincing banks to add ATM-transfer capabilities to Web, mobile and telephone services

It will likely take an organization the size of Visa, MasterCard, or Bank of America to pull this off. To ensure that those behemoths work with it, Privier has a portfolio of patents pending on the business process. 

What it means for Netbankers
It may take decades, but eventually, the Web married to mobile will eliminate the plastic debit/credit card; however, unless you are a major bank or payments company, this isn't likely anything you need worry about for a number of years.

A better short-term solution for smaller financial institutions is to enable P2P funds transfers using PayPal so you can send money to anyone with a PayPal account (see note 1).

Privier's Web-based interface for sending cash to an ATM (5 Nov 2008)SendCash_Step1

1. See our latest, the Online Banking Report 2009 Planning Guide, for more info on project priorities for this year and beyond. 

Comments (9)

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