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February 13 2014

Square Now Lets Users Request Money via Email
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Ask and you shall receive

Mobile payments company Square announced that users of Square Cash, the company's personal payment app, can now use the service to charge individuals or groups through the app or via email. For example, someone collecting money for an upcoming birthday party could send out payment requests to partygoers

Users can request cash from as many as 25 people at one time, and anyone already signed up on Square Cash can pay off requests with the click of one button. Users who haven't used the app or service before will need to provide debit card information in order to make payments Read more...

More about Square, Mobile Payments, Startups, Tech, and Apps Software

January 29 2014

Report: Amazon Preparing to Offer Kindle-Based Checkout System
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Amazon is developing an in-store checkout system based on its Kindle tablet that would mark the online retailer's biggest effort yet to break into the burgeoning mobile payment industry as well as brick-and-mortar stores, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The report states that the checkout system could be coupled with website development and data analysis to provide smaller businesses with a suite of tools. For Amazon, the checkout system would provide a new batch of customer data

This would bring Amazon into direct competition with Square and Paypal, which currently lead the physical mobile payment space. Read more...

More about Amazon, Mobile Payments, Tech, and Mobile

January 25 2014

Apple to Build Mobile-Payments Service, Report Says
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Apple is preparing to expand its presence in the mobile-payment space, according to a new report.

Eddy Cue, the company's senior vice-president of Internet software and services, has met with "industry executives" to discuss Apple's role in handling payments for physical goods and services, The Wall Street Journal reported.

WSJ also said Jennifer Bailey has been promoted from her role running Apple's online store to a new position focused on building a payment business.

The mobile-payments space is hot, with companies such as Square, PayPal and Stripe all working to make it easier for users to pay for physical goods with their phones. Read more...

More about Iphone, Apple, Mobile Payments, Nfc, and Tech

January 13 2014

PayPal Wants To Be Everywhere, But That Could Be Its Downfall

PayPal wants to be your one true login. PayPal announced Monday it will be rolling out a service that will allow websites to use PayPal credentials to login and pay anywhere around the Web. 

In addition, PayPal also announced that it is creating an embeddable payment terminal within websites that will allow online merchants to keep users on their site when making an transaction as opposed to redirecting them to PayPal’s website, as is the current practice. 

PayPal expects the new workflow to help onboard more merchants to its platform and help consumers and retailers make quicker and easier payments. The new flow will apply to websites visited on smartphones, tablets or PCs to take advantage of the new login and embeddable payments features.

“I am sure you are all familiar with, as we all are that spend a lot of time on the Web, you go to a number of websites and you want to create an account and move on you have to do that with Facebook or Twitter,” said Carey Kolaja, VP global product solutions at PayPal. “What we have found is that not everybody is comfortable with that for a whole host of reasons and it maybe generation-specific such as with me. But you look at our what people are comfortable sharing, it is there financial details with PayPal.”

PayPal also announced that it is making progress with both its Payment Code and PayPal Beacon products that will enable retailers to make payments from their smartphones at physical retailers around the country. Payment Code (which allows for merchants to scan a bar code or a four-digit pin from their point-of-sale terminals at checkout) is partnering with POS terminal maker Micros and the Discover Merchant platform, which will increase the footprint of PayPal’s physical retail presence from 18,000 sites to nearly 1.9 million locations across the U.S.

PayPal’s Arrogance: Still Astonishing, Still Highly Effective

Nearly two years ago I wrote an article about PayPal’s new payment dongle called PayPal Here. PayPal was nowhere close to being the first to adopt a payment dongle and its entrance was very much an also-ran in the market behind the likes of Square. But PayPal didn’t treat the announcement like that. The company announced the dongle like it was the very first time a credit card swiping device was released that you could plug into your phone. It was hard not to laugh at PayPal for so thoroughly ignoring the fact that any of its competitors ever existed.

This is an approach that PayPal has long taken. Monday's announcements, ahead of the National Retail Federation conference inNew York City this week, also have a degree of PayPal’s own self-entitlement and bravado.

A PayPal login? Yes, really. PayPal thinks it can knock off the likes of Google, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn as your login to any sites of record. 

“That becomes a really critical part in creating the triangular relationship between the three of us,” Kolaja said. “Consumers are dying right now to have one password, one ID to log on to multiple sites because it is becoming unmanageable when you think about it.”

There is very little evidence that people actually want PayPal to be their one true login the way they do with Facebook, Twitter or Google—logging in with those sites is usually as simple as clicking a button on a website. But it makes a lot of sense for PayPal to enter the discussion.

PayPal recognizes that the likes of Google and Facebook either have (or desperately want) users to tie their online financial identity to their social profiles. That way, Google and/or Facebook can become the de facto payment processor for the Web. This does not sit well with PayPal, which has the stated goal of becoming the payments operating systems for all things digital and connected. Facebook and Google are threats, even if PayPal won’t explicitly say that. 

The new workflow for merchants and users has less to do with PayPal’s arrogance and horizontal march through the payments industry as it does with serving merchants and consumers. Taking the redirect-layer out of the transaction makes it far more likely for people to continue to use PayPal on websites while also allowing merchants to create consumer profiles of the people that are buying stuff on their sites. The relationship becomes a neat little triangle where the consumer gets ease of use, the merchant gets client information, and PayPal gets to take a little slice of both pies.

“We will be very obvious in telling the consumer what of that information we will be sharing with the merchant,” Kolaja said. “With the users consent we will pass along some very basic credentials that will allow the merchant on the back end to create their own customer account, therefore allowing them to connect with that consumer as well. That way they can have a direct relationship with that consumer as opposed to it being through PayPal.”

The March Through Mobile

In 2011, participants lined up for what many people expected was going to become the next generation of the Payment Wars. The world was going mobile and payments were going there as well. Terms like “mobile wallets” and “Near Field Communication” were buzzwords that carried great weight and meaning to those who believed smartphones were going to fundamentally change the basic way we pay for things.

Google and the cellular carriers like AT&T and Verizon sprang forth with new ways consumers were going to pay. Instead of a debit card or cash, they would tap a register with their phone and—voila!—the payment would be made. 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the market. The mega-tech giants, the cellular infrastructure operators and the financial processors like MasterCard and Visa all failed to create consumer traction with their whiz-bang ideas on the future of currency. They made a stab with technology, with apps, with partnerships and marketing and made nary a blip on the mass market. Buying physical goods through a virtual medium with real currency is just not something that consumers want or are ready for.

Some startups have gained a semblance of traction in the payments space. Square, the poster child for the democratizing and digitizing of payments, has spread so far and wide that it is now part of the cultural nomenclature, almost as much as Visa or American Express. Smaller companies like LevelUp and Dwolla have made local progress with mobile payments, but not at the scale that affects meaningful change across the country or the world. As we’ve heard before, there is just too much complexity and competing interests for all but the largest and most astute to really gain ground.

That is precisely why PayPal persists: PayPal is a company that calmly and pragmatically works its way through the horizontal landscape of the payments world with a self-assured arrogance that it will be the de facto way that people for things now and in the future. Love or hate PayPal, the way in which it has methodically plowed through the ever-changing world of transactions has been impressive. 

PayPal didn’t jump on the NFC bandwagon when it became a hip thing to do, nor has it fully embraced the client-to-cloud model where a POS system connects to the Internet to help make a transaction (like the Square Register does). PayPal is still using PINs and QR codes, which many people find to be archaic and temporary stopgaps. PayPal doesn’t really make exclusive partnerships like Google did when it first announced Google Wallet or the carriers have had to do with their Isis payment apps. PayPal—like Apple in the smartphone market—is often not the first mover. But when it does make its move, it works with the knowledge that it will have a lasting impact on the market it just entered. 

At the same time, PayPal’s overarching goal is to be everywhere. It craves ubiquity. But it's so hard to achieve because there are so many different ways to pay and so many backend systems to integrate with and so many merchants to get on the platform. Payments are hard because the dynamic is so very, very complex. Yet, PayPal insists it wants to be the payments operating system of the world. Hence, that often means that it will often be slowed by the necessary complexity of the ecosystem as features and functions—like the ones announced today at NRF—take time to build and integrate.

Eventually, the need to deal with that complexity may choke PayPal. One of the reasons PayPal bought Braintree for $800 million was to help deal with this complexity. That's a large pill to swallow. As we have seen with Square and how merchants continue to integrate iPads POS systems into their physical locations, PayPal is vulnerable to fast movers with simple solutions. But PayPal has size and industry trust on its side, which has proved to be quite useful in its own right.

On January 21, ReadWrite's editor-in-chief Owen Thomas will sit down with PayPal CEO David Marcus to discuss the future of mobile payments in the context of the Bitcoin era. The event, which runs from 6 to 8 p.m. PST at SAY Media HQ in San Francisco, will be free. Check out the EventBrite page to get tickets and learn more.

September 30 2013

Video Claims to Offer First Look at Secretive $25 Million App Clinkle
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Clinkle, a mobile payment startup, has generated plenty of buzz for its app in recent months thanks to a massive $25 million funding round from prominent investors and its decision not to reveal the app to the general public. Now, one anonymous Tumblr account called Clinkler has posted a video which claims to show the app in action.

The video shows Clinkle letting users transfer money to their bank account, connect with multiple credit cards, settle group tabs by sending payments to other users and make payments in stores through a feature called Aerolink. The video doesn't explain the technology behind the last of these payments, but previous reports have suggested Clinkle will rely on a high-frequency sound to enable payments between devices Read more...

More about Apps, Mobile Payments, Business, Startups, and Apps Software

September 26 2013

100,000 People Are Waiting to Use This Mysterious Mobile Payments App
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Lucas Duplan caused more than a few jaws to drop in late June when the 22-year-old announced raising a massive $25 million round of funding for his first startup, a mobile payment service called Clinkle. Now he may shock a few more people with an announcement Wednesday that Clinkle already has attracted a waiting list of more than 100,000 people interested in using the app.

And he still hasn't shown off how the app works to the general public

"We've been doing internal testing with the company until this point and are now segueing that to college testing," Duplan told Mashable in a recent interview. Clinkle opened up its waiting list to college students in mid-July and the plan, he says, is to "begin launching at certain colleges within the next couple months." Read more...

More about Apps, Startups, Mobile Payments, Business, and Apps Software

September 11 2013

McDonald's Experiments With Mobile Orders
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Not lovin' waiting in line at McDonald's? There's an app for that.

The fast food giant is testing a mobile payment application in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Austin, Texas, according to Bloomberg. With the app, you can order ahead and pick up your food at drive-thru windows, curbside or in the restaurant. Burger King and Chipotle already allow for mobile phone-based ordering; Burger King has a $10 minimum for such orders

The McDonald's app includes special offers, coupons and a loyalty program. Mobile payments is just the latest tech trend the Golden Arches has embraced in recent years. Some 11,000 of the brand's restaurants in the United States also include free Wi-Fi, and some locations have rolled out NFC-enabled "Happy Tables" that transform tables into virtual racetracks. Read more...

More about Marketing, Mcdonalds, Mobile Payments, Business, and Health Fitness

August 22 2013

PayPal Testing Face-Verification System for Mobile Payments
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While we're not quite scanning retinas à la Mission Impossible and Minority Report, PayPal is now testing face verification for mobile-payment transactions.

The ecommerce company's app has a tab labeled "Local," which helps users find nearby stores and restaurants that accept mobile PayPal payments. Once customers check in to a venue online, their name and photo appears on the store's PayPal app. Shoppers can then use the app to pay for items (cashiers complete the transaction by clicking on their profile pic).

"We're pleased to help local businesses of all sizes offer a new more personal experience, while never having to turn away customers who don't have enough cash on them to pay," Rob Harper, head of retail services at PayPal, said in a release. Read more...

More about Paypal, Facial Recognition, Mobile Payments, Tech, and Apps Software

June 28 2013

Here's A Heavy Dose Of Reality For New Mobile Payments Startup Clinkle

Humor me for a moment with this tale of two startups, both focused on mobile payments. See if you can spot the similarities:

Startup A: Founded by a young, smart guy who briefly attended a prominent university. The startup eventually moves into the mobile-payments space and raises money in the realm of $40 million. It deploys an interesting new technology to process mobile payments and says it won't take a cut of transactions, instead planning to make money via incentives and marketing. Business starts to bog down amid a growing realization that new payments are really hard.

Startup B: Founded by a young, smart guy who attended a prominent university and hires a bunch of his smart college friends. The startup deploys an interesting technology to process mobile payments and says it won't take a cut of transactions, instead planning to make money via incentives and marketing. It raises $25 million in funding, but is about to realize that payments are really hard.

Company A is LevelUp, the Boston-based mobile payments specialist that was started by Seth Priebatsch and used to be called SCVNGR. Priebatsch went to Princeton for a semester before dropping out and founding his startup. SCVNGR, a location-based check-in game along the lines of Foursquare and Gowalla, did well for a time before the company shifted its focus to payments with LevelUp. The service links QR codes to users' credit or debit cards and lets merchants scan the codes in a smartphone app.

Clinkle founder Lucas Duplan Clinkle founder Lucas Duplan

Company B is a San Francisco-based startup called Clinkle, which raised a $25 million seed round from a variety of venture capitalists. It is founded by Lucas Duplan, a recent graduate of Stanford University and reportedly uses high-frequency sounds to process payments. 

Maybe Duplan should give Priebatsch a call. Because, in case you missed a theme here, payments are hard.

(See also: Startup Clinkle Has A High Frequency Plan To Push Mobile Payments)

Why Are Payments Hard?

On the surface, payments look deceptively simple. You need a secure, transactional method—actual currency, credit cards, Near Field Communications, QR codes, etc.—and some way to transmit money from point A to point B, just like you would with any other form of data.

On the surface, all currency is is data. This is why startups like LevelUp and big companies like Google think they can disrupt the payments space. It's simple technology and fundamentally a data problem. Geeks, by nature, are good at technology and data. So they apply their big brains to the problem and figure that in no time at all, they'll make a difference.

And then they enter a world of shit.

“The general inertia, and lack of traction in the emerging payments market within North America, is not something that one solves with a better market strategy and a mobile app,” said Cherian Abraham, who oversees mobile commerce and payments at Experian Global Consulting.

According to reports, Clinkle will handle transactions via high-frequency sounds that smartphones, tablets and computers can pick up on and deliver the necessary information it takes to make a payment. While that's generally a cool idea (and something the advertisers and marketers have been trying to institute through televisions for years now), it's not conceptually all that different from any other payment method.

In fact, that similarity points up an endemic problem for mobile payments in general. Which is that it's basically no easier or faster to activate the NFC or QR code in your phone or open an app than it is to dig out some cash from your pocket or pull a plastic card from your wallet. Try it. They'll each take you basically the same amount of time. 

“Payments are supposed to be boring and predictable. That’s a feature, not a bug,” said James Wester, editor of Mobile Payments Today.

The Immovable Object: Existing Payment Processors

Then there is the reality of American business, which exerts a huge drag on innovation in this space by virtue of an established payment infrastructure that connects just about everyone in the economy. Payment innovations like NFC haven’t taken off because (a) they don't really solve any problems better than cash and cards and (b) the payment processors would need to update software and hardware to payment terminals all over the world. That is not an easy task.

(See also: LevelUp Is Building A Mobile Payments Groundswell)

Clinkle thinks it can sidestep all that. Theoretically, using high frequency sound to transmit data over short distances could eliminate the need to create a new payments infrastructure. The idea is that consumers' smartphones could communicate directly with the microphones on merchants' computers, smartphones and tablets, routing around the existing payment infrastructure entirely.

Businesses, however, are skeptical of these new technologies and slow to change. Why? Because the benefit is not readily apparent. The question of “how” to change payments is right in front of us with all the technologies listed above. The question of “why” is really what nobody yet has been able to answer.

Adoption Is The Kicker

The first thing a mobile payments company is going to need to do is convince the masses—businesses, consumers, financial processor companies and banks—that its service is original, easier and provides better data than the established players. That's difficult but not impossible with the right service. The next thing to do is get those same entities to actually institute their service. 

That’s where it gets difficult.

Partnerships are essential in the payments world. The right partnership can vault a company from also-ran to ubiquitous in days. The fact of the matter is that these companies are intensely competitive with each other and do not really like to provide third party solutions on their platforms.

Google spent nearly half a billion dollars on its Google Wallet mobile payments plan only to see it shut out of consumer smartphones by the likes of Verizon. If Clinkle thinks it will be able to waltz in and put its software onto existing point-of-sale systems, it's taking its first steps on a very hard road.

“If it could have been solved by $25M in VC money, then Google shouldn't have had to spend (rumored) half a billion to find that throwing money, their brand, and a 100m phones could not get it to inch a bit,” Abraham said. 

To get Clinkle onto existing, ubiquitous point-of-sale systems—those computers with microphones that are key to what we know of Clinkle's business model—the startup will need a large sales force working in markets across the world. Clinkle, by contrast, wants to spread through university campuses like Facebook did.

Lessons From (Recent) History

What LevelUp's founder and team eventually realized is that good software, an interesting business model based on incentives and a burning desire to take over the world weren't enough. To expand into new markets, LevelUp needed sales people to strike critical partnerships that would convince business owners to adopt its technology.

That sales force has probably been LevelUp's single biggest cost sink. The startup is doing moderately well, but it's still very small, and its prospects of taking over the world of payments appear rather slim.

Like LevelUp, Clinkle is about to get a first hand look at how muddy the mobile payment waters really are. 

Lead image by Madeleine Weiss for ReadWrite. Image of Lucas Duplan via Crinkle.

May 15 2013

You Can Now Send Money Via Gmail
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Google tacked another announcement onto a day full of them with an update to Google Wallet that lets you send money via Gmail.

As the video above explains there will be a dollar-sign icon for Gmail attachments. Click it and you can transfer cash via Google Wallet. The recipient doesn't have to have a Gmail address and you can receive money as well. You can also pay using your credit and debit cards for a fee of 2.9% per transaction (minimum $0.30.)

Google claims the transactions are encrypted and stored on secure servers. Transactions are also monitored to preempt fraudulent activity. Google Wallet Purchase Protection also covers 100% of "eligible unauthorized transactions." Read more...

More about Google, Mobile Payments, Google Wallet, Business, and Apps Software

May 11 2013

14 Ways to Accept Mobile Payments
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Accepting mobile payments —whether by accepting credit cards in the field or by letting users pay on-site with smartphones —is a must for businesses of all types. Figuring out which mobile payment technology is right for your business can be a challenge.

Here are the pros and cons of 14 different mobile payment services to help you sort through your options for accepting mobile payments.

Square

If you're looking for a no-frills approach to mobile credit card processing, then check out Square. With no monthly fees, no contracts and no merchant accounts, Square is a good solution for those who only occasionally need mobile payment processing. Read more...

More about Square, Mobile Payments, Paypal Mobile, Gopayment, and Google Wallet

August 30 2012

LevelUp Is First Mobile Payment App to Let You Give Back While Paying


Mobile payment app LevelUp helps its users save money through incentives, loyalty programs and special offers. Now, the app has introduced a way for users to share a bit of their savings with their favorite causes.

LevelUp launched Causes on Thursday, becoming the first mobile payment ecosystem to integrate charitable giving. The Causes feature is a simple way to give a portion of your LevelUp rewards to a non-profit of your choice.

"We think there's a really neat opportunity to redesign payments for the first time in 60 years," Seth Priebatsch, founder of LevelUp, told Mashable. "The ability to bake in supporting your favorite causes and philanthropic groups into transactions, giv…
Continue reading...

More About: Mobile, Social Good, causes, levelup, mobile payments


August 22 2012

PayPal Inks Deal With Discover, Giving Access to 7 Million Merchants


In another sign that mobile payments are going mainstream, PayPal on Wednesday announced a deal with Discover that will expand PayPal's footprint to 7 million merchants next year.

Starting in April 2013, participating merchants who offer Discover will begin accepting payments from PayPal's 113 million active users. In a press release, the companies said merchants won't have to install or upgrade existing point-of-sale hardware and software to accept the payments. Instead, in-store signage will make customers aware of the capability.

The deal comes on the heels of another major industry announcement -- Square's partnership with Starbucks, which will adapt the former's mobile payment…
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More About: Square, discover, mobile payments, paypal, starbucks


August 20 2012

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.

Order Meals With Digital Delivery and Takeout Services

Food delivery apps and websites su…
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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


August 08 2012

August 07 2012

Startup Gives Merchants Free Tablet to Use Its App


It's not enough to make an app free. These days, you have to throw in a free tablet as well.

At least that's the approach that GoPago, a San Francisco startup is taking. The company is offering merchants a free Android-based Motorola Xyboard 10.1 tablet (a $500 value) if they use its app. The tablets arrive fully loaded with GoPago's LIVE mobile payment software. A Verizon 4G connection is also free thanks to a deal between GoPago and the carrier.

The goal is to further the adoption of the GoPago app, which lets consumers order and pay for goods via their iPhone or Android-based smartphone without having to wait in line. The app went live in San Francisco in April and since then i…
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More About: GoPago, Startups, mobile payments, small businesses


August 01 2012

Google Wallet Now Supports Most Major Credit Cards




Google on Wednesday released a cloud-based version of its Google Wallet app that now supports credit and debit cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover.

The latest app allows users to shop both in stores and online, so a phone could be tapped to pay for a double shot macchiato at a cafe, a taxi ride or even make a purchase on the web.

Google Wallet was launched in 2011, replacing Google Checkout. It's an app that uses a short-range wireless technology called near-field communication (NFC) to let users pay for things by simply waving their phones in front of NFC-compatible terminals at merchants.

Google Wallet is now available on six phones on Sprint and Virgi…
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More About: Google, google wallet, mobile payments, nfc


January 15 2012

Square Lets Entrepreneurs Round Out Their Payment Options


This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

If you’re an entrepreneur in the retail sector, you’ve no doubt heard the following phrase that has brought many transactions to a grinding halt: “Do you take credit cards?”

If the answer is no, all the goodwill in the world won’t help you. These days, people just don’t carry that much cash around with them. That was the situation that Chip Forsythe encountered last year. Forsythe is one of the founders of Slo Down Wines, a San Francisco vintner. Forsythe started the company with two college buddies. Having no budget to speak of, he soon found the company’s primary marketing vehicle — wine shows — was quickly depleting their resources.

By Forsythe’s estimation, each show would cost around $300 or so to participate in. Then the company would distribute hundreds of dollars in wine for free. What was frustrating was that people at the shows appeared interested in buying Slo Down’s wines, but didn’t have cash. Last year, Forsythe’s younger brother told him about Square, a free device and app that let you process credit cards on your smartphone. It was a huge change.

“We went from losing money at the shows to making thousands of dollars,” he says. Fair enough, but why didn’t Forsythe just go the traditional route and get a merchant account with one of the credit card companies? “It seemed too beyond us,” he says. “We didn’t have any money.”

It’s hard to turn down free, though. Square entices vendors like Slo Down by sending its quarter-size Square reader device free. After that, the company takes a 2.75% cut of every transaction. You can also set up an account pretty quickly, says Katie Baynes, a rep for Square. “We do a credit check, but it’s not a traditional check,” she says.

Launched publicly in October 2010 by Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, Square claimed its 1 millionth vendor in December. While Baynes says the company doesn’t outline which types of companies are using Square, anecdotally at least, it seems to have found a niche among formerly low-tech trades like food trucks, farmer’s markets, dog walkers and Christmas tree vendors, as well as at PTA fundraisers.

About the only knock against the company, at least in the early days, was that it had a limit of $1,000 a week for transactions, ensuring that your business would stay small. However, that limit has now been removed.

At the moment, that doesn’t seem to be a deal-breaker for many. Merchants are happy to pay the relatively small transaction fee (for online-only transactions in which merchants manually enter credit card information, Square gets a 3.5% cut plus an additional 15 cents) and, for its part, Square gets access to lots of sales data. For instance, Square knows the average price of a cappuccino ($3.09 as of April) and the busiest sales day of the week (Saturday).

That data has helped Square rack up $168 million in funding so far. Dorsey’s pitch to investors is simple: There’s a huge market out there of vendors who, for one reason or another, don’t want to get a merchant account, but would be happy to find a way to process credit cards.

Dorsey, of course, isn’t the first one to notice this. PayPal has offered the same kind of payment option for vendors for some time and is now making the move into offline transactions with PayPal Wallet. Over the next year, PayPal hopes to roll out terminals that merchants can use to facilitate payments via a PayPal credit card, typing in a PayPal pin or eventually using an NFC tap. Of course, Google is also eyeing the same space with Google Wallet.

While those technologies are still in their infancy, though, Square is a solution that’s up and running today. That doesn’t mean, however, that Square will look the same a year or two from now. Bob Egan, VP of mobile strategy for Mobiquity, a mobile technology consultancy, says he believes that Square has impressed the major credit card firms by rounding up new customers. Egan believes that at some point, one of the credit card giants may decide to buy Square. At this point, though, they’re just watching it very closely. Says Egan: “They look at Square as a great science project.”

More About: credit cards, features, mashable, mobile payments, open forum, Square

December 27 2011

Unlock Free Pizza in NYC This NYE With Payment App LevelUp


Mobile payment app LevelUp will launch with its first national brand partner, Villa Pizza, on New Years Eve. Members of the annual Time Square New Years Eve mob who use the app to pay at the restaurant can enjoy $10 worth of free pizza while they’re waiting for the ball to drop — regardless of which phone, bank or credit card they’re using.

To cash in on their free slices, users need to link any credit or debit card to their LevelUp accounts. When they get to the restaurant, the app generates a unique QR code at the register that can be scanned with a merchant app to pay. Up to $10 of pizza is on the house, and anything more than that will be charged to their connected accounts.

LevelUp, which was created by check-in game SCVNGR, makes mobile payments more practical by taking NFC hardware out of the equation. It can be used with an iPhone app, Android app or through a mobile website. Google Wallet, by contrast, can only be used by those who have a Citi Mastercard or Google prepaid card and an NFC-enabled phone.

A trickier problem than practicality, however, is getting people interested in using their phones to pay in the first place.

“I don’t think the payment experience is particularly broken,” SCVNGR founder Seth Priebatsch told Mashable. “You need to add something more.”

That’s where the $10 of free pizza comes in. Merchants can add rewards to LevelUp that are already waiting for customers the first time that they use the app. Customers earn free credit at that merchant every time they spend money there using the app. It functions like a loyalty card.

But is that enough to get people scanning their phones instead of their credit cards? T-Mobile is betting on it. They’ve partnered with the startup to provide merchants with scanning hardware that replaces the merchant app and makes it easier to accept LevelUp payments. Since launching in October, the startup has accumulated 100,000 users and teamed up with more than 1,000 merchants in San Francisco, New York, Boston and Philadelphia.

With more than 350 locations, Villa Pizza is their biggest partner merchant yet. If you had plans to be in Time Square on New Years Eve, would LevelUp’s $10 deal persuade you to check it out with your phone?

More About: levelup, mobile payments, scvngr

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