Saturday , June 23, 2018

10th Annual Field Guide to Alternative Payments

We list 37 entries this year, of which only three appeared in our original Guide nine years ago.

This year’s Field Guide represents our 10th annual effort to catalog the broad currents in electronic payments by listing some of the more salient players providing alternatives to the big network brands. In those 10 years, we’ve seen a pretty significant shift away from discrete PC-based services and toward a heavy reliance on fully digital platforms aimed at mobile devices. Just count up the number of services below whose names follow the “X Pay” formula, popularized by Apple Pay. We’ll save you the trouble: there are a dozen, if you include SelfPay.

That shift can also be seen in who has had staying power in our Guide. In our maiden effort in 2009, we listed 23 companies. Of these, only three are among the 37 listed here. And of these three, only PayPal remains recognizable more or less in its 2009 form. The other two, Amazon Payments and Google Checkout, served as launching pads for much more ambitious efforts now known as Amazon Pay and, lately, Google Pay. All three companies make it plain their future lies in mobility.

An emerging trend showing up in this year’s list is the steady introduction of digital currencies as a serious bidder for merchants’ attention. Indeed, this year’s Guide includes three entries for cryptocurrencies showing promise as payment methods: Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ripple.

As in prior years, Digital Transactions generally defines an alternative-payment system as any network or consumer interface (a mobile app, for example) that displaces the Visa/Mastercard/AmEx/Discover networks (seen as one traditional system for this purpose), enables payments in a way that stands apart from that network (even if it ultimately uses it), and/or stands between that network and the consumer in an important way. We emphasize consumer-facing payment systems, but of course many, if not most, of the systems profiled here market themselves to merchants to maximize acceptance of their products.

Information for the listings comes from news reports over the past year, company Web sites and spokespersons, and financial filings in a few cases. We list pricing for the merchant and consumer when it is relevant and publicly available. The “Year Founded” line refers to the year the particular service was founded, not the parent company, except in those cases where the two coincide.

 

Amazon Pay

Parent: Amazon.com Inc.

Headquarters: Seattle

Founded: 2007 (including predecessor services)

Web Site: pay.amazon.com

Field Notes: Amazon Pay is a payment service Amazon makes available to other Web sellers, and is now starting to deploy in physical locations. The service, which claims at least 33 million users, has grown out of predecessor services like Amazon Flexible Payments. It depends on the card credentials Amazon shoppers have stored with the massive online retailer over the years, some of whom are among the company’s 100 million Prime members. Last summer, Amazon began experimenting with an extension of the service to restaurants in a pilot with TGI Fridays. Users can order ahead using the Amazon Pay feature in the Amazon app and show up later to pick up their meal. The extension builds on a trend: nearly one-third of Amazon Pay transactions in 2016 came from a mobile device. Next up: Payments through Alexa, Amazon’s voice-controlled form of artificial intelligence. In November, Amazon began piloting Amazon Pay for payments through certain Alexa skills with partners like Atom Tickets, a mobile app for movie tickets.

 

Apple Pay

Parent: Apple Inc.

Headquarters: Cupertino, Calif.

Founded: 2014

Web Site: Apple.com/Apple-Pay/

Field Notes: The big news for the most well-known mobile-payment service was the launch of Apple Pay Cash in December, another facet designed to hook consumers further into the popular service. Its debut also meant a lot of potential for Discover Financial Services, if merchants embrace the service. That’s because Apple Pay Cash purchase transactions will ride Discover’s network rails. Green Dot Corp. manages the prepaid product embedded in Apple Pay Cash. One survey, released in February, found that 15% of consumers between 18 and 35 years old used Apple Pay while shopping online and that 10% of this age group used the mobile-payment service in a store. Three percent had used Apple Pay Cash. Apple also says the number of overall Apple Pay users doubled in the 12 months from November 2016. Financial institutions that adopted Apple Pay at its launch in October 2014 also had to renew their contracts with Apple, which had a three-year provision. It is unknown how many banks and credit unions renewed. As of early April, Apple says almost 2,400 U.S. banks and credit unions support Apple Pay. Apple also has been on a push to increase consumer use of the service, with a string of advertisements in early 2018. In October, at the Money 20/20 event, Apple’s Jennifer Bailey, vice president for Internet service, outlined the company’s ambition to make the digital wallet usable in “everyday” spending for consumers.

 

Bitcoin

Parent: Satoshi Nakamoto

Headquarters: Not applicable

Founded: 2009

Web Site: BitcoinFoundation.org

Pricing: Miners’ transaction fees are  volatile and paid by user

Field Notes: 2017 was the year Bitcoin had to be taken seriously. By year’s end, it was trading near $20,000, or more than 20 times its value at the start of the year, and investors were clamoring to buy in. The subsequent, probably inevitable, crash did little to dampen interest in the cryptocurrency, as even venerable futures exchanges early in 2018 began trading Bitcoin contracts. But all the hype and hysteria obscured the question of Bitcoin’s usefulness as a medium of exchange—something ordinary people could actually use to buy things. By the spring of 2018, some merchants and processors—including Stripe, which had been supporting Bitcoin transactions since 2014—had stopped taking the currency, pointing to wicked swings in price and a congested blockchain that drove up both transaction costs and confirmation times for a payment method that was supposed to be superfast and supercheap. But there was good news, as well. Some organizations—including at least one merchant processor for credit and debit cards—began pushing Bitcoin for merchant acceptance. The sky-high cost and confirmation times finally began to retreat to reasonable levels. And a project called the Lightning Network made progress on work it has been pursuing to vastly speed up Bitcoin transactions.

 

Chase Pay

Parent: JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Headquarters: New York City

Founded: 2015

Web Site: ChasePay.com

Pricing: Volume-related fixed fee  for merchants

Field Notes: Nearly three years after its much-heralded launch, the bloom may be off the rose for Chase Pay. Despite its parent’s formidable resources and a Chase card base numbering around 94 million, the wallet by all accounts is suffering through adoption pains—as are most others launched in the past few years. One major success for Chase Pay was its March announcement that 10,000 Shell stations across the United States will accept the wallet. The addition of Shell means at least five major chains now support Chase Pay, with Best Buy, Starbucks, Target, and Walmart also on board. Also, a $10 million investment Chase made in September 2016 in LevelUp, an ordering-and-payment app for eateries, may yet pay off for Chase Pay if it helps the wallet penetrate that key retail segment. Unlike other wallets that are also struggling to win mass adoption, such as Apple Pay, Chase Pay works with familiar barcode technology rather than near-field communication, a factor that many merchants may find congenial.

 

Circle Internet

Parent: Circle Internet Financial Ltd.

Headquarters: Boston

Founded: 2013

Web Site: Circle.com

Field Notes: One of the least publicized payments providers, Circle has had an active year. Two big moves involved peer-to-peer payments, both local and cross-border, and cryptocurrency. Last fall, it began allowing users of Circle Pay, its P2P payments app, to switch funds they receive in the app to a U.S. bank account nearly instantaneously and without fees. Circle followed up that move by acquiring token exchange Poloniex in February, building on its foundation in blockchain technology and furthering its ambitions to operate an open, worldwide token marketplace.

 

Coinbase

Parent: Coinbase Inc.

Headquarters: San Francisco

Founded: 2012

Web Site: Coinbase.com

Pricing: 1% merchant fee for converting Bitcoin to U.S. dollars. U.S. users under Method 1 pay 1.49% to 3.99% for cryptocurrency purchases or sales. Method 2 charges a 1% variable fee with a $1 minimum and $50 maximum, with credit and debit card transactions also subject to a fixed 2.49% fee

Field Notes: Coinbase, reportedly the largest of the cryptocurrency exchanges, claims 10 million users. The company offers iOS and Android digital wallets, and acceptance and processing services for merchants. In February, Coinbase unveiled an acceptance platform called Coinbase Commerce for merchants that want to take Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, or Litecoin payments. Two months later it created Coinbase Ventures to fund early-stage digital-currency companies. Coinbase encountered a couple of processing glitches over the past year that apparently caused little more than short-term disruption.

 

Cumberland Farms

Parent: Cumberland Farms Inc.

Headquarters: Westborough, Mass.

Founded: 2013

Web Site: CumberlandFarms.com/SmartPay

Field Notes: Cumberland Farms, a convenience-store chain in the Northeast and Florida, added biometric support to SmartPay, its iOS or Android app that gives users a 10-cent discount per gallon of gas when they use it to pay for fuel. The app requires consumers to enroll a checking account as the payment method. The app—developed in-house by Cumberland Farms—uses automated clearing house payment technology from Portland, Maine-based ZipLine Inc. The biometric log-in feature for the updated app works with any iOS or Android smart phone that has a finger­print sensor, or facial recognition, as with the iPhone X. To pay for fuel, the user verifies the store location and pump number within the app to activate the pump. In addition to paying less for fuel at one of the more than 600 Cumberland Farms locations in eight states, the app enables users to pay for in-store purchases, find a store location, track rewards progress, and view savings from using the app. In August, Cumberland Farms said it had sold $2 billion in fuel via the SmartPay app since its January 2013 launch.

 

CVS Pay

Parent: CVS Health Corp.

Headquarters: Woonsocket, R.I.

Founded: 2016

Web Site: CVSHealth.com

Field Notes: The pharmacy giant CVS, which created CVS Pay in its own digital-innovation lab, launched it as a pilot in August 2016 and took it national two months later. The app works with all major credit cards as well as the chain’s own ExtraCare loyalty card, and comes with some built-in advantages, experts say. One is that ExtraCare connection. The loyalty program embraces 70 million members who might be inclined to use a wallet that automatically processes points toward purchases. Another is the privacy factor. Customers can pay for prescriptions while keeping private sensitive information about themselves, such as date of birth. Like Walmart, CVS is a former member of the failed MCX wallet consortium that saw the writing on the wall for MCX and created its own payments app.

 

DD Perks

Parent: Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc.

Headquarters: Canton, Mass.

Founded: 2012

Web Site: DunkinDonuts.com

Field Notes: Coffee and breakfast-food chain Dunkin’ Donuts has more than 9,100 franchised U.S. locations and accepts the major mobile wallets, but its DD Perks customer-loyalty program centers on a prepaid account and mobile app that uses barcodes for payments and rewards redemptions. DD Perks ended 2017 with 8 million members versus about 6 million in 2016. Dunkin’ doesn’t disclose mobile-payments volume, but says payments through its app are increasing. Customers with iPhones can now send mobile DD gift cards through Apple Inc.’s Messages app. Dunkin’ continues to heavily promote its own order-ahead and pay feature, a signature service for rival Starbucks. Dunkin’ added the feature in 2016 with its new mobile app developed by CardFree Inc.

 

ExxonMobil  Speedpass+

Parent: ExxonMobil Corp.

Headquarters: Irving, Texas

Founded: 2016

Web Site: Exxon.com/en/Speedpass

Field Notes: ExxonMobil’s Speedpass+ app debuted as a smart-phone app that used mobile-payments services and credit and debit cards to make in-app payments for fuel at the pump. The app enables consumers to pay for fuel and other convenience-store products and services without dipping a card into a reader. It determines the consumer’s location either via the global positioning system or barcode on the pump scanned by the consumer. Once a transaction is initiated, the consumer can authorize payment with a stored credit or debit card, or Apple Pay, if using an iPhone, or Samsung Pay, if using an Android smart phone. The app is not only a way to avoid dipping a card, and perhaps exposing it to a card-skimming device, but as a way to drive additional sales with prompts for offers in stores or a car wash. In 2017, ExxonMobil made the app available to motorists driving a Ford vehicle with SYNC3 technology. Consumers with SYNC3-equipped Ford vehicles now can use the in-vehicle touchscreen or voice commands to authorize payment. Speedpass+ was an original member of the Plenti rewards program managed by American Express Co. AmEx announced in April that Plenti, a coalition-based rewards program, will shut down in July.

 

Facebook  Messenger

Parent: Facebook Inc.

Headquarters: Menlo Park, Calif.

Founded: 2015

Web Site: Messenger.com

Field Notes: Facebook’s messaging app was one of the first to enable peer-to-peer payments in addition to conversations, and with 1.2 billion users, it remains the largest and perhaps most useful such utility. It’s running into headwinds lately, though, as a result of a scandal involving Facebook’s sharing of user data with an outside entity. As of mid-April, it appeared likely it will weather the storm of bad publicity with little impact. Messenger was also the first social network to embrace chatbots, which crawl the network to enable functions such as payments.

 

Google Pay

Parent: Alphabet Inc.

Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.

Founded: Android Pay, 2015; Google Wallet, 2011

Web Site: pay.Google.com

Field Notes: Perhaps Google Pay is the name that finally will resolve Alphabet’s payments identity crisis. The brand, formally unveiled in February, is the successor to Android Pay, which Alphabet adopted in September 2015 to take over Google Wallet’s point-of-sale payment functions for mobile devices running on the Android operating system. Google Wallet, which could trace its electronic DNA back to the original Google Checkout that launched in 2006, at the same time became a person-to-person payments service only. Under the new rebranding, this is now known as Google Pay Send. Analysts say the unified branding could help Google Pay, which is available in 18 countries, gain share in the U.S. where Apple Pay dominates. All of the “Pays” have struggled, however: contactless mobile payments account for less than 1% of Visa’s U.S. card-based POS transactions.

 

Gulf Pay

Parent: Gulf Oil LP

Headquarters: Wellesley Hills, Mass.

Founded: 2016

Web Site: Gulfoil.com/Gulf-Pay

Field Notes: Announced in early 2017, Gulf Pay is slowly rolling out in Gulf Oil’s market. In addition to paying for fuel at the pump with a smart phone, Gulf Pay users will be able to locate Gulf stations, view actual fuel prices, obtain directions, and view offers for fuel and in-store products. Details of how payment transactions will process were not released. The app will be available for iOS and Android devices, according to a Gulf Oil Web site. Gulf Oil has more than 1,800 Gulf gas stations. The app is built on technology from P97 Networks Inc., a Houston-based petroleum-services company. Other companies using its technology include To Go Stores, a Puerto Rico-based convenience-store chain, Phillips 66, and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Chase Pay. Later in 2017, Gulf ran a promotion for Discover cardholders that gave them a 15-cents-per-gallon discount when using the app.

 

Klarna

Parent: Klarna Bank AB

Headquarters: Stockholm

Founded: 2005

Web Site: Klarna.com/US

Field Notes: Sweden’s Klarna, known for its single-click purchasing utility and its willingness to delay payment until a customer receives the goods she ordered online, entered the U.S. with some fanfare in 2015. Sensing an opportunity in its new market, it has expanded its credit offering to allow for monthly installment payments, putting it in competition with conventional credit cards. Its latest move: a 30-day financing period called Pay Later, which is in tests and expected to come to the U.S. this summer. Privately held, Klarna carries a lofty $2.5 billion valuation, ranking it third among so-called payments unicorns, or private companies boasting $1-billion-plus valuations. Klarna is outranked only by One97, operator of India’s Paytm mobile-payments system ($5.7 billion) and U.S.-based Stripe ($9.2 billion). One of Klarna’s backers is Visa Inc. The company says it added 26,000 new merchants in 2017, bringing its total to 89,000. It does not break out how many of these are now in the United States. Some 19 million consumers used Klarna for the first time last year, the company says.

 

Kohl’s Pay

Parent: Kohl’s Corp

Headquarters: Menomonee Falls, Wis.

Founded: 2016

Web Site: Kohls.com

Field Notes: Kohl’s may operate a department-store chain, but its emphasis with its payment app is speed at checkout, and not just for payment. The app also allows customers to redeem offers, rewards in the chain’s Yes2You program, and Kohl’s Cash in one barcode-based flash. “When we say fast savings at checkout, we mean really fast,” the company says on its Web site. As of February, the app had been downloaded 21 million times since its introduction, according to information on the site. The app’s developer is Omnyway Inc. (formerly known as Omnypay), a 4-year-old startup cofounded by Bill Melton, well-known in the payments industry as a founder of point-of-sale terminal vendor VeriFone.

 

LevelUp

Parent: SCVNGR Inc.

Headquarters: Boston

Founded: 2011

Web Site: TheLevelUp.com

Field Notes: LevelUp, especially because of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s support of the mobile order-and-pay app, has been on an integration tear. Earlier this year, it announced a deal with Gusto Point of Sale that enables Gusto’s clients to use LevelUp’s payment and loyalty service in their stores. That followed a similar deal with Revel Systems, a tablet-based POS system provider. The deal enables Revel’s restaurant clients to reach customers on their smart phones. LevelUp’s mobile ordering, loyalty, and payment services were integrated into Revel’s POS platform. It also announced a deal with Open Dining, a mobile order-ahead technology provider, to list restaurants using Open Dining’s platform in the LevelUp and Chase Pay apps. A lowlight for LevelUp last year, however, was by a lawsuit filed against it by CardFree Inc. that alleged LevelUp improperly accessed CardFree’s technology. The suit was later dismissed.

 

LG Pay

Parent: LG Electronics

Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea

Founded: 2017

Web Site: LG.com

Field Notes: LG, whose smart phones have about 10% of the U.S. market, in a month or two is expected to join the mobile-payments fray with LG Pay, a service it launched in its home country about a year ago. Like rival Google Pay, LG uses host card emulation, a variant of near-field communication technology in which credentials are stored in the cloud rather than on a phone’s secure element. HCE gives payment card issuers that want their cards loaded into mobile wallets a degree of freedom they don’t have with systems such as Apple Pay, where cardholder credentials are stored on an Apple-controlled secure element within an iPhone. Apart from HCE, it’s not yet clear how LG Pay will distinguish itself in a very crowded mobile-payments market. Yet just having a payments option could help LG lift its smart-phone market share, where it ranks a distant third behind Apple and Samsung.

 

Litecoin

Parent: Charlie Lee

Headquarters: Not applicable

Founded: 2011

Web Site: Litecoin-Foundation.org

Field Notes: The cryptocurrency mania that overtook the country in 2017 was mostly concerned with Bitcoin, but this tide lifted a number of boats, including Litecoin, a crypto that was specifically conceived as an alternative way to pay merchants. Charlie Lee, the former Google and Coinbase engineer who invented Litecoin, predicts 90% of online and brick-and-mortar merchants will be accepting cryptocurrency within 10 years, and Litecoin will be leading that charge. The reason, he says, is that transactions on the Litecoin network are faster and cheaper in comparison to Bitcoin. For example, transactions on the Litecoin blockchain can be confirmed in two-and-a-half minutes, he says, compared with 10 minutes for Bitcoin. The first wave of acceptance will come from online retailers, Lee says. Brick-and-mortar will come later, in part because many of the companies that make payment terminals remain unconvinced about crypto, Lee maintains. “They’re not very friendly,” he says.

 

MoneyGram Online

Parent: MoneyGram International Inc.

Headquarters: Dallas

Founded: 2010

Web Site: MoneyGram.com

Pricing: Varies, $4 for $500 online wire transfer to Mexico if funded by checking account with cash pick-up; $6.99 if funded by Visa or Mastercard credit or debit card

Field Notes: The biggest news for MoneyGram in the past year is what didn’t happen to it, which was get acquired by China’s Ant Financial Services Group. Federal opposition to Chinese ownership finally killed the planned $1.2 billion deal in January. Ant and MoneyGram said they will still work together on new remittance and digital-payments projects globally. In April, MoneyGram and its biggest agent, Walmart Inc., introduced an international service for Walmart customers dubbed Walmart2World.

 

PayPal

Parent: PayPal Holdings Inc.

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Founded: 1998

Web Site: PayPal.com

Pricing: 2.9% plus 30 cents per U.S. merchant transaction; for PayPal Here, 2.7% for swiped transactions, 3.5% plus 15 cents for manually entered transactions.

Field Notes: PayPal is not only one of the oldest digital wallets, it’s also probably the most successful with respect to actual adoption and usage by consumers. Since 2016, the company has worked hard to forge partnerships with major banks and card networks—entities that once eyed PayPal with considerable suspicion—to gain access to their tokenization engines to protect consumer card credentials. That effort will pay off if PayPal, as expected, soon makes a major play for in-store acceptance. The company hit a speed bump in January, though, when eBay Inc., a long-time client and PayPal’s former owner, announced it plans to build its own payments operation and replace PayPal as its gateway provider with Adyen, a Dutch company. PayPal will continue in its current role until July 2020, when its five-year operating agreement with eBay expires. While the stock market punished PayPal for days after the announcement, the company estimates eBay will account for just 4% of its total volume by the end of the agreement.

 

People Pay

Parent: Fidelity National Information  Services Inc. (FIS)

Headquarters: Jacksonville, Fla.

Founded: 2013

Web Site: FISglobal.com

Field Notes: People Pay is FIS’s white-label person-to-person payment service. Financial institutions can apply their own brands and set pricing for the service. People Pay is built on the PayNet network FIS introduced in 2012 to offer real-time settlement for various non-card payments, and it also draws on FIS’s NYCE electronic funds transfer switch that links thousands of financial institutions, including ones that aren’t otherwise FIS clients. Users send payments through their bank’s online-banking system using the recipient’s email address or mobile-phone number. The recipient receives a text or email with instructions on how to retrieve the money. Early in 2017, BMO Harris Bank launched People Pay for its customers. The no-fee service deposits funds to a recipient’s account in one to three business days.

 

Phillips 66

Parent: Phillips 66

Headquarters: Houston

Founded: 2016

Web Site: Phillips66.com

Field Notes: Refinery operator and fuel retailer Phillips 66 announced a mobile-commerce-focused platform in 2017 based on the P97 PetroZone mobile-commerce service Phillips announced in 2016. In August 2017, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said its Chase Pay service would be part of Phillips 66’s m-commerce service. “The new platform will connect retail fueling consumers to Phillips 66, Conoco, and 76 locations through a mobile app using a dynamic station finder, enabling a mobile payment wallet and delivering contextual commerce digital offers,” said developer P97. Later in 2017, Phillips 66, along with its Conoco and 76-branded smart-phone apps, announced the ability to use a checking account as a payment method thanks to an integration with Buy It Mobility Networks, a payment platform. In February, Phillips 66 launched the mobile-payment option via the My Phillips 66 app in the Kansas City, Mo., area. The company expects to roll it out nationally.

 

Popmoney

Parent: Fiserv Inc.

Headquarters: Brookfield, Wis.

Founded: 2009

Web Site: Popmoney.com

Field Notes: Launched in 2009 by CashEdge Inc., the Popmoney person-to-person payments service came under Fiserv’s wing when the big processor bought CashEdge in 2011 for $465 million. Fiserv then merged Popmoney with its in-house ZashPay P2P service under the Popmoney brand. Funds sent via Popmoney must be deposited into an eligible account. The person-to-person payments arena is changing. Zelle, a bank-owned P2P service, began national advertisements in January, but banks took notice before then. In December, SunTrust Banks Inc. switched to Zelle, replacing Popmoney. Still, Popmoney continues to be used by many banks and credit unions. Fiserv is even enlisting Popmoney in its CardFree Cash service that enables consumers to draw cash from their accounts at an ATM using a smart phone. To use CardFree Cash, users obtain an access code, which they can activate from their phones. With the access code and a temporary PIN, they can then get cash at any machine supporting the Popmoney network.

 

Qwick Codes

Parent: MagTek Inc.

Headquarters: Seal Beach, Calif.

Founded: 2012

Web Site: QwickCodes.com

Pricing: $49.99 annual subscription

Field Notes: Qwick Codes rely on MagTek’s MagneSafe security architecture to generate one-time transaction codes consumers can use in place of actual payment cards in stores, online, and at ATMs. Users add cards to the Qwick Codes wallet by swiping them with a reader supplied by MagTek. The wallet can also keep transaction parameters such as dollar limits, where the code can be used, and an expiration date, and users can revoke the code at any time. To use the code at the point of sale, the user scans a barcode generated on his smart-phone screen. At ATMs or online, he enters the 8-digit code.

 

Ria Financial Services

Parent: Euronet Worldwide Inc.

Headquarters: Leawood, Kan.

Founded: 1987

Web Site: RIAmoneytransfer.com

Pricing: Varies, $3 online transfer fee for sending $500 to Mexico from checking account with cash pick-up, $4 and $20 if funded with debit or credit card, respectively

Field Notes: Wire-transfer provider Ria last year expanded in India and continues to provide domestic money transfers at U.S. Walmart stores. Ria won that Walmart business from MoneyGram in 2014, but it generates significantly lower margins than its traditional wire transfers. Parent company Euronet’s several money-transfer brands including Ria handled 92.2 million transactions in 2017, up 12% from 82.3 million in 2016. Euronet last year tried and failed for the second time in a decade to buy rival MoneyGram.

 

Ripple

Parent: Ripple Labs Inc.

Headquarters: San Francisco

Founded: 2012

Web Site: Ripple.com

Field Notes: While Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies struggle with wild price swings and opaque business cases, Ripple, a provider of blockchain-based technology and the XRP digital currency, over the past year has quietly struck deals with more than 100 banks and other firms, often for low-cost and fast alternatives to traditional cross-border settlements and correspondent banking. In March, FleetCor Technologies Inc., whose main business is payment services for trucking fleets, announced a test in which its Cambridge Global Payments unit will use Ripple’s XRapid service to provide so-called on-demand liquidity to international trading partners. With instant liquidity, global firms can free up funds they would otherwise tie up in foreign accounts to back real-time payments. Cambridge processes more than $20 billion in cross-border business-to-business payments annually for 13,000 clients. In November, American Express Co. said business customers of its FX International Payments service could use the RippleNet network for payments between the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

 

Samsung Pay

Parent: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea

Founded: 2015

Web Site: Samsung.com/US/Samsung-Pay/

Field Notes: Samsung Pay can connect to point-of-sale terminals via near-field communication. But, unlike Apple Pay and another NFC-based competitor, Google Pay, Samsung Pay also enables Samsung’s Android phones to link to the POS via a technology called magnetic secure transmission (MST), which means it works with just about any mag-stripe reader in the market. Samsung has been busy adding new features to the service. In July, Samsung said consumers with a PayPal Holdings Inc. account could add it as a payment method. PayPal will be available within Samsung Pay for in-app, online, and in-store transactions. The link-up starts in the United States and will expand later to other markets. Apparently, the integration was fairly involved because the U.S. integration was made available only in April, nine months after the announcement. Later in 2017, Interac, Canada’s debit network, announced Interac debit transactions using Samsung Pay in Canada would use the Interac token-service provider. The move enables Interac debit transactions within Samsung Pay.

 

SelfPay

Parent: Digital Retail Apps

Headquarters: Toronto

Founded: 2013

Web Site: DigitalRetailApps.com

Field Notes: SelfPay enables consumers to pay for merchandise while standing in a store aisle and leave without stopping at a cash register. SelfPay supports cards carrying the Mastercard, Visa, Discover, and American Express brands. Consumers also can use their PayPal and Apple Pay accounts. The app presents only the merchant’s accepted payment methods once the consumer has been located in the store. After recognizing the consumer, the app displays a custom retailer-branded screen, which unlocks the capability to make a purchase. The user scans either the Universal Product Code or a barcode generated by the retailer’s point-of-sale system for items they are interested in. SelfPay then displays an in-store price and product description, also pulled from the retailer’s POS system. The shopper adds the item to her cart, selects a payment method, and enters a SelfPay PIN. In recent news, the company moved to a license and consulting stance to boost market adoption. By licensing its patent portfolio, Digital Retail Apps says it enables merchants to verify their scan-and-go purchases and provide an audit trail.

 

Skrill

Parent: Paysafe Group plc

Headquarters: London

Founded: 2001

Web Site: Skrill.com

Field Notes: Skrill began its digital life in 2001 as Moneybookers, a United Kingdom processor for online gaming transactions that rebranded as Skrill in 2010. The company had 17 million users a year later when it made its U.S. debut through a partnership with Live Gamer Inc. to offer a micropayments platform for game publishers worldwide without chargeback or foreign-exchange risk. Acquisitions in the next few years brought Skrill into the invoicing and prepaid markets and added mobile capabilities. Eyeing Skrill’s big presence in online gambling, money transfers, and e-commerce, U.K. processor Optimal Payments, now Paysafe, bought Skrill in 2015 for $1.2 billion. Paysafe in February introduced Skrill Send Direct, a money-transfer service that enables users to send money to recipients’ bank accounts or mobile wallets in 35 countries, with 40 currencies available. Two months later, Paysafe announced a deal to buy the big U.S. merchant processor iPayment. How that acquisition might affect Skrill was not immediately clear.

 

Square Cash

Parent: Square Inc.

Headquarters: San Francisco

Founded: 2012

Web Site: Cash.me

Field Notes: The Square Cash app is a popular one, used for P2P transactions, and when users pull out the Cash card to use in stores. In February, Square said the app had 7 million active users and cardholders spent $90 million using the card in December, good for annualized volume of $1 billion. Many of these users may be trying one of Square Cash’s new features: the ability to buy and sell Bitcoin. Tests with a small number of users began in November but expanded to most users in February. The move represents the second expansion of the capability, which was extended to an undisclosed number of additional users in December. Earlier this year, Square said Bitcoin trading had an “immaterial” effect on its financial results. As for the Square Cash card, cardholders are using it most at McDonald’s Uber, Lyft, and Walmart, Square said. These in-store transactions have the benefit of generating interchange revenue for Square. Making money with P2P services is challenging because such providers have found it nearly impossible to persuade consumers to pay fees. Square Cash also faced the prospect of another competitor, in addition to Apple Pay Cash, Venmo, and PayPal, when reports surfaced that Amazon.com Inc. might add a P2P function to its Alexa voice-commerce service.

 

Starbucks

Parent: Starbucks Corp.

Headquarters: Seattle

Founded: 2011

Web Site: Starbucks.com

Field Notes: Starbucks’ barcode-based mobile-payments service continues to be the envy of the general-purpose mobile wallets from Apple, Google, and Samsung. Mobile payments now account for 30% of U.S. tender, up from 20% a year earlier, the company said in January. The mobile app is tied to the prepaid Starbucks Card, which accounted for 42% of transactions at company-operated U.S. and Canadian stores for the quarter ended Dec. 31, up from 40% a year earlier. The Starbucks Rewards loyalty program, which is linked to the prepaid card, allows users to earn “stars” for free coffee and food. The program had 14.2 million active users in fiscal 2018’s first quarter, up 11% in a year. Member spend represented 37% of sales at company-operated U.S. stores. The company’s popular Mobile Order and Pay service, which has caused congestion at some stores as customers come in to get items they purchased earlier, represented 11% of transactions at U.S. company-operated stores, up from 7% at the end of 2016. Starbucks’ payment strategy is now expanding beyond its private-label offerings, in addition to making Mobile Order and Pay available to customers who don’t belong to the loyalty program. The company recently launched a cobranded Visa credit card issued by JPMorgan Chase & Co. that enables cardholders to earn stars at an accelerated rate for Starbucks purchases, and they’ll also get stars for non-Starbucks transactions. Starbucks early this year began testing a cashless store in Seattle that accepts only cards and mobile-phone payments, and more could be on the way.

 

Target Wallet

Parent: Target Corp.

Headquarters: Minneapolis

Founded: 2017

Web Site: Target.com

Field Notes: Discount retailer Target merged its popular offers app known as Cartwheel into its main Target app last year and in December unveiled what it dubbed Wallet, which is a feature within the Target app for iOS and Android mobile phones. After the shopper loads a Target Redcard credit or debit card, Wallet enables the customer to redeem offers and pay in one scan by displaying a barcode at checkout. Wallet also stores Target’s Weekly Ad electronic coupons and applies Target’s signature 5% discount on Redcard purchases.

 

Venmo

Parent: PayPal Holdings Inc.

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Founded: 2009

Web Site: Venmo.com

Pricing: Free

Field Notes: Peer-to-peer payment app Venmo just keeps sizzling. It ended 2017 with $35 billion in volume, a 100% increase over 2016, indicating it’s as popular as ever with its Millennial customer base. Much of that popularity stems from the fact that, unlike most P2P apps, Venmo includes a social-media overlay, allowing users to converse with each other as well as send or receive funds. But there are some dark clouds over Venmo. One has to do with its price, which is exactly zero. That wasn’t much of a problem when its volume was smaller, but now all that free volume is helping to drag down PayPal’s take rate, or how much it earns on each transaction. The solution is Pay With Venmo, a service that lets users buy things in stores and restaurants as well as pay each other. The service is new, so the jury’s out on how well it will perform. In September, PayPal began testing a Visa-branded Venmo debit card, a product backed by Venmo balances that would generate some interchange income. No word so far on how that’s going. Another problem facing Venmo could be competition from major banks in the form of Zelle, a new app that already accounts for more payment volume. Earlier this year, Zelle launched a major advertising campaign aimed squarely at Venmo’s audience. If that effort siphons off customers from Venmo, free transactions could be the least of its problems.

 

Walmart Pay

Parent: Walmart Inc.

Headquarters: Bentonville, Ark.

Founded: 2015

Web Site: Walmart.com/cp/Walmart-Pay/3205993

Field Notes: The world’s largest retailer completed the rollout of Walmart Pay, its QR-code-based mobile-payment service, in 2016. Part of Walmart’s strategy with the service is to make it easy for consumers to use their Walmart-branded credit cards in the app. One way to motivate them is via the Instant Access program, launched in 2017. This enables new Walmart credit card holders to add temporary credentials to their Walmart Pay accounts and use the credit line in stores, or online, before receiving the physical card. Walmart offers a private-label credit card and a cobranded Mastercard, both issued by Synchrony Financial’s Synchrony Bank. Consumers can use any network-branded card, a Walmart gift card (physical or electronic), and prepaid cards as a Walmart Pay source, in addition to the Walmart credit card. Users can split payments across multiple payment types. At the register, the consumer first pays with the method not loaded into the app and pays the remaining balance with the Walmart Pay method.

 

WesternUnion.com

Parent: The Western Union Co.

Headquarters: Englewood, Colo.

Founded: 2012

Web Site: WesternUnion.com

Pricing: Varies, $4 for $500 wire transfer to Mexico with cash pick-up, $5 for bank-account-funded transfer and $7 for transfers funded with credit or debit cards; bill payments vary by amount and funding method

Field Notes: The world’s biggest wire-transfer provider said revenues and transactions through its westernunion.com service increased 22% in 2017 over 2016, and the online channel now accounts for 10% of consumer-to-consumer revenues. Last May the company said its digital service was live in 40 countries. In the past year, Western Union plugged into Mastercard Inc.’s Mastercard Send service to enable transfers to be sent to U.S. debit cards, developed a bot for payments through Facebook’s Messenger, and enabled in-app transfers through Apple Pay.

 

Xoom

Parent: PayPal Holdings Inc.

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Founded: 2001

Web Site: Xoom.com

Pricing: Varies, $4.99 for $500 transfer to Mexico funded with a bank account, $12.99 if funded with a credit or debit card. Bill-payment fees start at $2.99

Field Notes: PayPal bought online wire-transfer provider Xoom Corp. in November 2015 for $1.06 billion and instantly gained 1.5 million active U.S. customers. Two years later, Xoom had expanded into 27 new receiving countries, bringing its total to 67, and integrated its international money-transfer service into PayPal’s. The active user base is up 30%, monthly transactions are up 50%, and usage of its bill-pay service has doubled, Xoom said in a blog post marking the acquisition’s two-year anniversary. Three-quarters of Xoom’s transactions are on mobile devices. Last August, Xoom increased sending limits to $10,000 for some transactions from the U.S. to Canada, the United Kingdom, India, and Australia. Xoom added a request-funds feature in 2016.

 

Zelle

Parent: Early Warning Service LLC

Headquarters: Scottsdale, Ariz.

Founded: 2011 (as clearXchange)

Web Site: ZellePay.com

Field Notes: This might be the year of Zelle. The bank-based P2P service came on strong with its national debut targeting younger consumers with stylish television commercials. “The advertising for Zelle is focused on the Millennial and younger Gen-Xer,” said Norm Marraccini, director and vice president for payments marketing and adoption at Fidelity National Information Services Inc. In January, when Zelle released its most recent statistics, the service said $75 billion in money moved across its payment network in 2017. It processed more than 247 million payments in 2017. Zelle says its service is available to more than 95 million consumers. In comparison, Venmo, the PayPal service Zelle is gunning for, processed $35 billion in payments in 2017. Venmo, however, added the capability to use the service in stores. Meanwhile, Zelle is focused on the P2P aspect, a Zelle executive said.

Check Also

Mobile POS Is Poised to Soar Worldwide As Rising Card Acceptance Stokes Merchant Demand

The mobile point-of-sale revolution is picking up momentum, despite having started nearly a decade ago …