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August 18 2012

5 Ways to Pay for Dinner With Your Phone

mobile payments
Mobile payment transactions are predicted to reach $1.3 trillion per year by 2017, and the restaurant industry appears ripe to scarf down a hefty chunk of that money flying around electronically.

But while news about the mobile payments space has intensified lately -- Square's deal with Starbucks, Discover's nod to Google Wallet and Dunkin' Donuts's new gifting/payment app -- pay-by-phone services have yet to hit mainstream status as many consumers are still confused about their options.

To help clear confusion, here are five ways you may start paying for your next dinner with your phone.

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More About: Food, Google, Pay With Square, Payment Services, Seamless, Squar, TheLevelUp, dwolla, eccomerce, google wallet, grubhub, levelup, mobile apps, mobile payments, paypal, venmo

January 08 2012

December 15 2011

Dwolla Loans Users $500 to Make Instant Payments Through Facebook and Twitter

Online payment startup Dwolla has attracted more than 70,000 users with money transfers that are both less expensive and, it says, safer than traditional credit cards. Now, it’s further challenging the plastic in your wallet by allowing you to make such transactions instantly — and on credit.

Dwolla users make payments through Twitter, Facebook, SMS and other virtual channels by connecting their bank accounts to their Dwolla accounts. The service integrates with social networks to alert payment recipients that there is money waiting for them in their own Dwolla accounts that can be transferred to their bank account. Payments of up to $10 are free and anything larger costs $0.25. Up until Thursday, however, there was no way to use Dwolla to make instant payments because the transfer between banks and Dwolla usually takes two or three days.

“Instant,” the new opt-in feature Dwolla launched Thursday, solves this problem by spotting users as much as $500 when their accounts are empty. The feature costs $3 per month no matter how many times it is used, and late fees are $5 per month.

Sound like an instant target for scammers? Preventing it from becoming so is part of what Dwolla considers its secret sauce. One reason the startup is able to offer payment transfers with lower fees than big credit card companies is that purely digital transactions present fewer opportunities for data theft than physical swiping. In theory, Dwolla will deal with fewer expensive fraud cases than its traditional counterparts.

The startup is backed by financial services firm The Members Group, which deals with card processing, payment solutions and prepaid cards. The firm has been helping Dwolla develop screening methods that assess risk of new members before they’re accepted.

Still not convinced? If Dwolla continues piling on transactions at its current rate, you might be soon. In December 2010, the company was processing about $500,000 of transactions per week. By June 2011, they were processing $1 million per day.

More About: dwolla, payments

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December 22 2010

Send & Receive Money From Twitter & Facebook Friends With Dwolla

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: Dwolla

Quick Pitch: Dwolla is a peer-to-peer payment platform that allows social network users to exchange money quickly and at a low cost.

Genius Idea: Hey, remember that fellow who spotted you a drink at last night’s social media drinkup? If you want to pay him back but you’re more likely to know his Twitter handle than his e-mail address, Dwolla might be a good service for you to check out.

Dwolla is a simple service that lets you connect to Facebook and Twitter to send and receive funds. Once your checking or savings account is linked to Dwolla and your social network contacts are imported (an automatic process that occurs programmatically behind the scenes), you can send money to any of your Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

Peer-to-peer payments are hardly a new concept, and startup Dwolla isn’t the first company to devise a way to send sums through social networks. Still, this iteration has its merits.

Pay Me, a peer-to-peer payments Facebook app, rolled out back in 2007 with Paypal integration. And TwitPay has been around since 2009. Paypal itself launched a Facebook app called Send Money in 2009. But all of these apps are currently out of commission, as far as their intended purposes are concerned.

Here’s the thing: The second you show people a way to send money online, scammers will find a way to take money online using your app. It’s a principle analogous to Newton’s third law of motion, and nearly as inviolable.

So, many of these social money-sending apps have been repurposed as charitable fundraising apps. But other parties are working on the social money-sending problem, including Buxter (a Facebook app from online payment system ClickandBuy) and Paypal, which announced micropayments and Facebook integration a couple months ago.

While Dwolla bills itself as “Paypal without the fees,” it actually does charge per transaction; however, in this case, it’s the recipient who pays a small fee of $0.25 per transaction regardless of the amount sent.

The startup allows for “hub” pages, microsites any user can create for requesting or sending money.

We’re not at all sure that Dwolla is scam-proof; in the end, users still have to know and trust the people and organizations they’re sending money to — something that should be carefully scrutinized when social networks come into play.

In the end, only time will tell if Dwolla has the sticking power its predecessors have all lacked.

Here’s a demo video of the Dwolla founder sending money to Sean Parker:

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

Image courtesy of Flickr, mikemcilveen.

More About: dwolla, facebook, money, p2p, startup, twitter

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