Friday , April 12, 2024

8th Annual Field Guide to Alternative Payments

Our list this year showcases some of the most interesting innovation going on in payments.

As we put together this year’s Guide, we were struck by the sheer breadth of innovation the 37 entries that made this year’s list represent. Yes, much of this technology has to do with mobile payments in one respect or another. Think of host card emulation (for example, Android Pay), which has opened up huge new possibilities in mobile wallets for banks and retailers. Or single-touch authentication (e.g. PayPal), which better secures consumer payments on mobile devices.

Other examples abound: digital currencies (Coinbase, Ripple, WingCash); order-ahead-and-pay (Cardfree, Starbucks); original credit transactions for person-to-person payments (Google Wallet, Square Cash); pay in the aisle and leave the store (SelfPay); and magnetic secure transmission, which makes available for mobile transactions the vast installed base of mag-stripe terminals (Samsung Pay).

These are but a handful of the ideas startups and established companies alike have acted on in the past year or so in an effort to carve out for themselves a chunk of the fast-changing North American consumer-payments market. We’ve documented a number of others in the entries that follow. We take it as a sign of the pace of innovation in payments that fully nine of the listings this year are all-new.

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.

This year, we are also including companies like Sequent Software and SimplyTapp that do not directly offer mobile-payment services to consumers but do develop the software that makes mobile innovations like host card emulation possible.

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 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 Payments

Parent: Amazon.com Inc.

Headquarters: Seattle

Year Founded: 2007, as Amazon Flexible Payments

Web site: payments.amazon.com/home

Pricing: 2.9% plus 30 cents; cross-border transactions are 3.9%; $20 per disputed chargeback

Field Notes The e-commerce giant has had mixed success over the years in the payments business, a pattern that continued recently. In October, it stopped taking new merchants for its Local Register mPOS effort, and in February shut down the service altogether. This followed an earlier decision to kill a mobile wallet it had introduced only months earlier for its struggling Fire smart phone. But in February, Amazon Payments took to the skies with a deal allowing account holders to pay for WiFi and entertainment options onboard Southwest Airlines flights by merely entering their user name and password. And in April it launched an invitation-only developer program intended to spread Amazon Paymnents to more sites by helping developers add a pay or Amazon log-in button to checkout pages. But perhaps the really big deal is Amazon’s Global Partner Program, announced in April, which looks to enlist processors and e-commerce platforms in an effort to bring Amazon Payments’ 285 million accountholders (of whom 23 million already use their credentials to pay on sites other than Amazon) to a broad range of merchants. Here, however, Amazon Payments will be up against PayPal Holdings Inc. and its slick One Touch authentication tool.

 

Android Pay

Parent: Alphabet Inc.

Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.

Year Founded: 2015

Web site: android.com/pay

Field Notes Introduced in September, Android Pay is the mobile wallet that inherits the point-of-sale payment functions once assigned to Alphabet’s Google Wallet, which struggled for four years and is now narrowly cast as a person-to-person payments service. Android Pay works with KitKat 4.4 and later versions of the Android mobile operating system from Alphabet chief subsidiary Google, which runs on about 30% of U.S. smart phones. Android Pay comes preloaded on Android phones sold by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. The wallet, which also has in-app capabilities within merchants’ apps, can store major-brand credit and debit cards, and also loyalty cards, giving it the oomph needed to compete with rivals Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Unlike Apple Pay, Android Pay reportedly is not charging card issuers transaction fees. But like those wallets, Android Pay uses near-field communication (NFC) and also host card emulation (HCE), a cloud-based technology that relies on credentials delivered from cloud servers using tokens to mask actual account data. This allows card issuers to bypass the phone’s secure element, typically the SIM card or a chip installed by the device manufacturer.

 

Apple Pay

Parent: Apple Inc.

Headquarters: Cupertino, Calif.

Year Founded: 2014

Web site: apple.com/apple-pay/

Pricing: Free to consumers and merchants, credit card issuers pay 0.15% of sale, debit card issuers 0.5 cents

Field Notes With the second anniversary of Apple Pay’s debut coming up this fall, merchants and Apple are adapting the mobile-payments service to new payment options. Case in point: ExxonMobil in March announced Speedpass+, an iOS app that enables consumers to pay with Apple Pay at the pump. Consumers will be able to pay with the service at more than 8,000 ExxonMobil gas stations later this year. But in-app payments may be more popular with consumers than the tap-and-pay transactions inside a store. One study found that almost two-thirds of all Apple Pay credit card transactions during a five-month period happened in a merchant app. Then in March, reports surfaced that Apple is considering offering a browser-based version of its one-touch payment service. Apple also may be investigating a person-to-person payments capability, too. Diversifying the ways to use Apple Pay may be a move to encourage use. Various reports indicate little use. One study from December found slightly less awareness and use than in the spring of 2015.

 

Bitcoin

Parent: None

Year Founded: 2009

Web site: bitcoin.org/en

Pricing: Depends on processor. Typically free to consumers, with a transaction fee to merchants that is less, sometimes drastically less, than credit card discount rates

Field Notes It’s one of many digital currencies, but it’s also the most famous, and now Bitcoin is entering uncharted territory. An argument erupted earlier this year over a problem created by the currency’s rising popularity: how to create added capacity to allow for growth. One side, which includes the so-called miners who develop new Bitcoins, would like to see a doubling of block size on the blockchain, the distributed-ledger system that manages Bitcoin transactions. The other side, which embraces some of Bitcoin’s original developers, say capacity can be added without fiddling with Bitcoin’s core software. Meanwhile, the currency’s notorious price volatility has calmed down lately, with Bitcoin trading between a relatively narrow band of $405 to $428 between mid-March and mid-April. Regulatory action has quieted, though New York State’s pioneering BitLicense regime went into effect in August and is expected to stand as a model for other states.

 

Cardfree

Parent: Cardfree

Headquarters: San Francisco

Year Founded: 2012

Web site: cardfree.com

Field Notes Cardfree’s platform supports mobile gift cards, digital offers and loyalty programs, order-ahead services, and social-media integration. In December, the company announced that it is providing the mobile-application platform for Dunkin’ Donuts’ On-the-Go Ordering app, which includes the ability to order and pay ahead. It has been in testing in Portland, Ore., but Dunkin’ Donuts expects to make the app available nationally in 2016. Other Cardfree clients include Taco Bell, Sonic Drive-In, and Checkers/Rally’s. Dunkin’ Donuts expanded the test to Massachusetts and Rhode Island, press reports said. Dunkin’ Donuts has more than 8,000 U.S. locations. Cardfree chief executive Jon Squire helped develop the Starbucks Card mobile program while working at mobile developer mFoundry, which Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) bought in 2013, and also has experience at CorFire, which Mozido Inc. purchased in 2014.

 

Chase Pay

Parent: JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Headquarters: New York

Year Founded: 2015

Web site: chasepay.com

Pricing: Volume-related fixed fee for merchants

Field Notes Chase Pay is the mobile wallet that mega-bank JPMorgan Chase announced in October and that is expected to go live in mid-2016. The wallet will leverage Chase’s 94 million credit and debit card accounts and its closed-loop ChaseNet network that includes the huge Chase Paymentech merchant-acquiring operation. Starbucks has signed on as Chase Pay’s first big merchant. Merchants will pay a volume-based fee, but not payment-network interchange on Chase Pay transactions. That’s not all—the wallet will work at locations belonging to the CurrentC mobile-payments network created by the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) consortium of 40 big-box retailers, airlines, and grocery chains representing 70 consumer brands, including Wal-Mart and Target. But the former has announced its own mobile wallet, Walmart Pay, and the latter is rumored to be planning one. Point-of-sale Chase Pay transactions will use barcodes, as does MCX. Chase Pay will offer single-click online and in-app purchases. Transactions will be tokenized and support merchants’ loyalty programs, Chase says.

 

clearXchange

Parent: Early Warning Services LLC

Headquarters: Scottsdale, Ariz.

Year Founded: 2011

Web site: clearxchange.com

Pricing: Set by member and user banks

Field Notes Founded as a way for customers of some of the nation’s biggest banks to send electronic payments to each other, clearXchange was sold by its owner banks in late 2015 to another bank-owned entity, Early Warning Services, which specializes in fraud control. Some 25 million consumers, about a quarter of the founder banks’ online users, have registered to use clearXchange. The service is now focusing on expanding real-time payments. That function had been available to customers of the same bank, but in March, clearXchange announced that its first inter-bank real-time transactions could occur between customers of Bank of America and U.S. Bank. Early Warning’s seven owner banks, which besides BofA and U.S. Bank are Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, PNC, and BB&T, are looking to expand clearXchange by bringing on more financial institutions as users, though not owners.

 

Coin

Parent: Coin Inc.

Headquarters: San Francisco

Year Founded: 2013

Web site: onlycoin.com

Pricing: $124 standard pricing, discounted in April to $99

Field Notes Universal-card specialist Coin Inc., which enables consumers to consolidate multiple payment cards onto one device and has shipped more than 250,000 devices since April 2015, was met with a lawsuit earlier this year by two consumers alleging that Coin misrepresented the level of merchant acceptance and that its promise of not having to carry the original cards could not be kept. Coin did not comment at the time. Coin’s premise is that consumers can use its device to load up to eight credit or debit cards—even gift, loyalty, or membership cards—as long as the cards have a magnetic stripe. Users select which card to use by pressing a button on the card. A display shows the last four digits of the chosen card’s account number, its expiration date, and its card-verification value. Then, the Coin card can be swiped through a magnetic-stripe reader. The latest version of the device, released in August, also contains a near-field communication (NFC) chip for contactless payments.

 

Coinbase

Parent: Coinbase Inc.

Headquarters: San Francisco

Year Founded: 2012

Web site: coinbase.com

Pricing: For merchants, the first $1 million in transactions are free, after which a 1% fee applies

Field Notes Coinbase is one of the most popular entry points for consumers and merchants interested in trading in, accepting, or buying things with the digital currency Bitcoin. Now just shy of 4 years old, it claims 3.6 million users with 5.4 million wallets, 42,000 merchants, and 8,000 developer apps. The user count has shot up 71% in the past year, while the number of wallets has more than doubled. The merchant count, however, is up only 8% as many merchants remain skeptical about Bitcoin acceptance. In November, Coinbase launched its Shift card, a Visa-branded plastic card the company claims is the first Bitcoin-based debit card in the U.S. Coinbase users in 24 states are eligible to receive the card, which eases Bitcoin spending at any merchant that accepts Visa. The card comes with a $10 “issuance” fee.

 

CurrentC

Parent: Merchant Customer Exchange LLC (MCX)

Headquarters: Needham, Mass.

Year Founded: 2012

Web site: currentc.com

Field Notes MCX’s CurrentC mobile-payments service has been a slow-motion specialist among digital-wallet companies. CurrentC finally started its beta in Columbus, Ohio, in September, and as of mid-April the pilot is still in progress, with no definite word on any expansion. A dozen MCX merchants are participating, including CVS, Exxon, Sears, and Wendy’s, as well as Wal-Mart and Target. Users complete transactions with barcodes connecting the CurrentC mobile app to point-of-sale readers. Besides its backing by 40 top retailers, restaurants, and petroleum marketers, the app boasts ease of use, loyalty rewards, and tight security for consumers as well as low-cost acceptance for merchants. And last fall, MCX cut deals with JPMorgan Chase & Co. and BIM Networks Inc. that dramatically broaden the payment choices users will have. The Chase deal brings an open-loop option, the fledgling Chase Pay service, to the CurrentC wallet, while BIM will make automated clearing house transfers more widely available, with guaranteed payments to merchants.

 

Deluxe eChecks

Parent: Deluxe Corp.

Headquarters: Shoreview, Minn.

Year Founded: 2010

Web site: verifyvalid.com

Pricing: Starts at $30 for 50 electronic checks for consumers

Field Notes Following Deluxe Corp.’s 2015 acquisition of VerifyValid, which offers ways to convert paper checks into electronic versions using an online service or a mobile app, the service is now marketing under the Deluxe eChecks moniker. The app enables a user to create a check image and email a link to it to the payee, who can retrieve it and print it out. Recipients can deposit the printout or turn it back into an image using their bank’s remote-capture app. They can also leave the image as is and request that VerifyValid deposit the item for them. With image exchange, payments can often be cleared the same day. Another advantage is that checks, unlike other payment methods, are almost universally accepted. In February, Deluxe said Rete+Pay, a payments platform serving third-party medical insurance administration providers, would use its Deluxe eCheck service.

 

Dwolla

Parent: Dwolla Inc.

Headquarters: Des Moines, Iowa

Year Founded: 2008

Web site: dwolla.com

Pricing: Free

Field Notes Money-transfer specialist Dwolla has been busy. In March, it received a $100,000 penalty from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau over data-security issues. The bureau fined Dwolla for, among other things, failing to encrypt user data in its system and misrepresenting its security policies. In addition to the fine, the CFPB required Dwolla to fix the alleged security flaws and train its employees in security procedures. Not all was negative for Dwolla in the past year. In February, the company launched an application programming interface aimed at usage-based providers like utility companies, advertising platforms, cloud-services vendors, and charities that might bill users on a regular basis. That followed a move in September, when it began offering a white-label service that lets banks, businesses, and government agencies send payouts to users or customers using an API. In June, Dwolla eliminated its 25-cent transaction fee. It had charged the fee, typically paid by the recipient, on transactions exceeding $10.

 

Facebook Messenger

Parent: Facebook Inc.

Headquarters: Menlo Park, Calif.

Year Founded: 2015

Web site: messenger.com

Pricing: No charges to senders or receivers

Field Notes Messenger is Facebook’s direct-messaging service. Under the direction of vice president of messaging and former PayPal president David Marcus, the huge social network added person-to-person payments for U.S. users in June 2015 after a few months of testing. Both senders and receivers on Messenger must have a debit card. On her first transaction, the sender enters her debit card number, taps a dollar-sign icon, enters the amount, and hits a “pay” button, which sends a message to the person with whom she is conversing. To claim the funds, the receiver opens the conversation within Messenger and taps “add card” to enter his debit card details if it’s a first-time transaction for him. The funds will settle into the bank account associated with his card within a few days. Facebook added Uber hailing and payment functionality to Messenger, via PayPal’s Braintree platform, in late 2015. In-store payments could be next, according to the Silicon Valley rumor mill.

 

Google Wallet

Parent: Alphabet Inc.

Headquarters: Mountain View, Calif.

Year Founded: 2015

Web site: google.com/wallet/

Pricing: Free for senders and receivers

Field Notes Google Wallet actually dates back to 2011 when search-engine giant Google Inc., now the main subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., launched its first iteration of a mobile wallet for purchases and person-to-person payments that, despite some major innovations, failed to gain much traction. But last September Alphabet/Google transferred the purchasing functions to Android Pay and rolled out a downsized Google Wallet mainly for P2P payments from Android and iOS mobile devices. The system uses MasterCard Inc.’s MasterCard Send platform, which enables payments to anyone in the U.S. with an email address, for faster transactions than under the old service. Besides the P2P utility, the “new” Google Wallet carried over another feature of the old one, the Wallet Card, a MasterCard debit card to tap the Wallet balance for in-store purchases. But Google will discontinue the Wallet Card on June 30 as part of an effort to improve sending and receiving funds, with new features promised to come this year. Google’s email service, Gmail, also enables P2P payments.

 

LevelUp

Parent: SCVNGR Inc.

Headquarters: Boston

Year Founded: 2011

Web site: thelevelup.com

Pricing: $99 monthly fee plus one-time set-up fees of $149 per location, $150 for a scanner, and $100 for a compatible tablet

Field Notes By contrast to its early days, news lately about LevelUp, a mobile payment and marketing provider, has been subdued. In 2014, NCR Corp. added LevelUp as an option for merchants using its NCR Silver tablet-based point-of-sale system. In April, the company raised $5 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that did not disclose the intent of the funding or the investors. In December, LevelUp announced an integration with Gusto, a vendor of restaurant point-of-sale software. LevelUp also is continuing a patent-infringement lawsuit it filed in 2015 against DailyGobble Inc., which does business as app developer Relevant.

 

Microsoft Payments

Parent: Microsoft Corp.

Headquarters: Seattle

Year Founded: 2011

Web site: microsoft.com

Pricing: To be determined

Field Notes Microsoft’s foray into the broader mainstream payments flow appears to be still in the development stage. While last year the computing giant was said to be obtaining money-transmitter licenses under the Microsoft Payments Inc. moniker, little more has surfaced about the company’s intent. Several blogs that follow Microsoft and its Windows products reported in December the company’s wallet app for Windows 10 Mobile was updated to enable users to load all retail loyalty cards. The app, according to Microsoft’s store Web site, also can display boarding passes, tickets, membership cards, and coupons. Consumer reviews, however, discount the app’s capabilities.

 

Mobile Photo Payments/Mobile Photo Bill Pay

Parent: Mitek Systems Inc.

Headquarters: San Diego

Year Founded: 2012

Web site: miteksystems.com

Pricing: Financial institutions pay fees to Mitek and set retail pricing

Field Notes Mobile Photo Payments and Mobile Photo Bill Pay leverage Mitek’s imaging technology, which was first used for remote deposit capture. Mobile Photo Payments enables consumers to take a picture of a bill with a smart phone, followed by a picture of the check or credit or debit card with which they will pay the bill, without creating an account or log-in credentials. The software captures account numbers and other relevant data. The older Mobile Photo Bill Pay works through financial institutions’ online-banking sites. Recently, Mitek has promoted its identity-verification products and Commercial Mobile Deposit Capture service that enables businesses to make batched deposits with a mobile device. One early adopter of the deposit service, a food distributor, generates more than 7 million invoices and receives more than 3 million payments annually, Jim DeBello, chairman, president, and chief executive, said during an earnings call earlier this year, and has a need for the service.

 

MoneyGram Online

Parent: MoneyGram International Inc.

Headquarters: Dallas

Year Founded: 2010

Web site: moneygram.com/paybills/

Pricing: Varies, typically $1.99-$12.99

Field Notes MoneyGram, the No. 2 domestic wire-transfer firm after Western Union, enables payments to over 13,000 utilities, auto lenders, mortgage and credit card issuers, apartment owners and other billers through its agents or MoneyGram Online. Online payments require the sender to use a credit or debit card and are capped at $3,000 every 30 days. MoneyGram offers same-day and two- and three-day payment options.

 

Mozido

Parent: Mozido Inc.

Headquarters: Austin, Texas

Year Founded: 2005

Web site: mozido.com

Field Notes Mozido’s technology enables mobile transactions for both banks and merchants, and lately its focus has been on near-field communication (NFC), but with a twist called host card emulation. With HCE, mobile-wallet issuers can forgo the phone’s secure element and instead manage payment credentials via a cloud configuration. That offers wide flexibility and frees up issuers from having to pay fees to mobile network operators or device manufacturers for access to the secure element. Now Mozido is leveraging the technology, along with tokenization, for a service it calls noPOS, which aims to eliminate the traditional retail checkout. The service is starting out with an order-ahead feature, a “framework for checking out without having a point of sale involved,” as the company explains. Others, like Starbucks, are offering a similar feature with spectacular success so far.

 

Openbucks

Parent: Openbucks Corp

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Year Founded: 2011

Web site: openbucks.com

Pricing: Free for consumers

Field Notes Openbucks operates a gift card payment network that enables consumers to use physical gift cards to buy digital content at what the company says are hundreds of online-gaming and other Web sites. Target customers are teenagers and other consumers who don’t have credit cards or have them but don’t want to use them online. Online merchants pay a flat percentage of the transaction to Openbucks. Merchants fall into one of three categories: online gaming, e-commerce, or mobile top-up. Customers include YTPals, a service to help YouTube publishers gain subscribers, and Wargaming.net, an online-gaming service. Available globally, Openbucks also offers an application programming interface integration to enable online and mobile acceptance of its payment method. To use the gift cards online, consumers select the Openbucks payment option on a site and enter the card number and PIN printed on the card. Consumers pay no fees to use the card. Merchants pay an undisclosed fee to accept Openbucks.

 

PayPal

Parent: PayPal Holdings Inc.

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Year Founded: 1998

Web site: paypal.com

Pricing: For payment acceptance within the U.S., top rate, for up to $3,000 in monthly sales, 2.9% plus 30 cents; for PayPal Here, 2.7% for card swipes and 3.5% plus 15 cents for manually entered transactions; for person-to-person payments in the U.S., 2.9% plus 30 cents when funded with a credit or debit card

Field Notes PayPal’s big news is that it once again is an independent company, having split from long-time owner eBay Inc. last summer. The now publicly traded PayPal has been busy since. It announced an in-app payments capability using Venmo, a peer-to-peer service. Pay With Venmo allows users to pay with their Venmo accounts within a merchant app much as they would do with PayPal. The service is piloting with Gametime, a vendor of concert and sports tickets, and Munchery, a meal-delivery service. PayPal says it will add more merchants over time and launch it commercially later in the year. PayPal’s in-store payment-acceptance program also gained new life when Macy’s Inc. agreed to accept the payment method online and in its stores. PayPal also reached an agreement with processor First Data Corp. that will allow First Data’s merchants to handle tokenized PayPal transactions in their stores. This is an about-face for First Data. In 2013, as PayPal began its in-store program in earnest, First Data said it would block PayPal acceptance.

 

People Pay

Parent: Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (FIS)

Headquarters: Jacksonville, Fla.

Year Founded: 2013

Web site: fisglobal.com

Pricing: Set by financial institutions

Field Notes People Pay is FIS’s white-label person-to-person payment service currently offered by about 200 of the processor’s financial-institution clients—double the number from last autumn—who can put their own brands on the service and set retail pricing. 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. Coming enhancements include the ability to send e-gift cards, and an expansion of FIS’s partner networks, thereby increasing People Pay’s reach.

 

Popmoney

Parent: Fiserv Inc.

Headquarters: Brookfield, Wis.

Year Founded: 2009

Web site: popmoney.com

Pricing: Set by financial institutions. Senders on popmoney.com pay 95 cents per transaction. No fee to recipients

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. Today more than 2,400 banks and credit unions offer Popmoney, including 185 that offer real-time payments, a feature Fiserv added in 2013. Popmoney charges senders 95 cents per transaction. Currently, funds sent via Popmoney must be deposited into an eligible account, but a coming token-based new feature, called Popmoney Send Cash, will enable recipients by year’s end to go to potentially as many as 30,000 ATMs linked by Fiserv’s Accel debit network to retrieve their cash. The recipient receives a text or email notification of the transfer, in addition to an 11-digit passcode that will be needed at the ATM. The Popmoney button will be displayed on the ATM screen, and upon successful entry of the passcode, the cash will be dispensed, with no card necessary.

 

PowaTag

Parent: 964 Bidco Ltd.

Headquarters: London

Year Founded: 2010

Web site: N.A.

Field Notes: 2016 has proven to be a turbulent year so far for PowaTag, the flagship product of the defunct Powa Technologies Ltd., a once high-flying startup whose product lineup also included PowaPOS and PowaWeb. Acting as administrator, Deloitte in March broke up Powa Technologies, which reportedly entered the month with $250,000 in cash and $16.4 million in debts, and sold off its product lines. 964 Bidco, led by businessman Ben White, picked up PowaTag, an app that allows consumers to buy products by scanning photos, advertisements, quick-response codes, or audio waves. The app stores both payment and delivery information. But PowaTag’s troubles may not be over. Another U.K. company, Ensygnia, says it put Powa on notice some time ago that PowaTag’s technology potentially infringes intellectual property Ensygnia holds for a similar product called OneScan. The formal notice isn’t a legal action, but Ensygnia says it will “not hesitate” to enforce its patent rights if it “becomes aware of any infringement,” according to a statement it gave to Business Insider, a technology publication.

 

Qwick Codes

Parent: MagTek Inc.

Headquarters: Seal Beach, Calif.

Year Founded: 2012

Web site: quickcodes.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 and a Qwick Code expiration date. 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.

 

Ripple

Parent: Ripple Labs Inc.

Headquarters: San Francisco

Year Founded: 2012

Web site: ripplelabs.com

Field Notes: Banks, money transmitters, and clearing houses can use Ripple as a settlement technology and alternative to correspondent banking to facilitate straight-through processing with no reserve funding required. For example, a consumer with a branded card can only use that card at merchants that accept it. But participants on the Ripple network can hold balances in one currency and send payments in another. Ripple says the system enables payments that are less expensive than conventional payments, and are settled within seconds. In effect, Ripple is a shared public database that tracks accounts and balances. As with Bitcoin and the public blockchain, anyone can view the ledger and see a record of all activity on the Ripple network. But unlike Bitcoin, Ripple’s XRP does not rely on mining to create coins. Instead, XRP uses a distribution method that requires each participant to have an account. A year ago, Ripple was penalized $700,000 by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for failing to register as a money-service business.

 

Samsung Pay

Parent: Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.

Headquarters: Suwon, GY, Republic of Korea

Year Founded: 2015

Web site: samsung.com/us/samsung-pay/

Field Notes: Not content to let rival smart-phone maker Apple Inc. steal all of the mobile-payments thunder, Samsung in September one-upped Apple Pay with Samsung Pay. Like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay can connect to point-of-sale terminals via near-field communication. But, unlike Apple Pay and another NFC-based competitor, Android 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. Of course, some consumers are using both modes, but so far NFC is winning out, with 83% having used NFC and 59% MST, according to March data from Phoenix Marketing International. As for adoption, Samsung Pay has some catching up to do. Some 12% of cardholders had loaded a card into Samsung Pay, compared with 18% for Apple Pay, according to Phoenix Marketing’s data. This year, Samsung plans to bolster its mobile-payment service with loyalty tools for merchants and a reseller program aimed at acquirers.

 

Self Pay

Parent: Digital Retail Apps

Headquarters: Toronto

Year 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 bar code generated by the retailer’s point-of-sale system for items they are interested in and SelfPay displays an in-store price and product description, also pulled from the retailer’s POS system. The shopper then adds the item to her cart, selects a payment method, and enters a SelfPay PIN. The transaction is routed to the merchant’s payment processor. In February, Digital Retail Apps said it would begin licensing its purchase-verification technology, enabling third parties to integrate the service without requiring development work from scratch. In August, the company received more than $1 million (Canadian) in new funding to enable more talks with retailers.

 

Sequent Software

Parent: Sequent Software Inc.

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Year Founded: 2010

Web site: sequent.com

Field Notes: Known for enabling mobile wallets for financial institutions and other card issuers, Sequent in October took an important step with the launch of the first token service platform for banks that supports a range of cards, including credit, debit, prepaid, private-label, and access-control cards. Card manufacturer CPI Card Group is marketing the TSP to its customers. Tokens are data strings that stand in for actual card credentials but are useless to hackers if stolen. Sequent earlier had introduced tools to let financial institutions provision their wallets using host card emulation rather than a secure element.

 

SimplyTapp

Parent: SimplyTapp

Headquarters: Austin, Texas

Year Founded: 2011

Web site: simplytapp.com

Field Notes: Remember when Google stunned the world with a new OS called KitKat that bypassed the secure element in a mobile phone but still enabled it to perform mobile payments with near-field communication? The company behind that technology, called host card emulation, was SimplyTapp, and its invention has freed up banks and retailers worldwide to offer mobile wallets without having to rely on a chip controlled by device manufacturers or wireless carriers. Mozido thought highly enough of this development to invest $2.5 million in its Austin neighbor early in 2015.

 

Square Cash

Parent: Square Inc.

Headquarters: San Francisco

Year Founded: 2013

Web site: cash.me

Pricing: Free for consumers; 2.75% for businesses

Field Notes: Two-and-a-half years after its launch, merchant processor Square’s Square Cash is the second most-recognized person-to-person payments service after PayPal’s, according to a recent survey. Square says users have sent more than $1 billion online or through the Square Cash mobile app. As with Facebook’s Messenger P2P service, Square Cash consumer users—both sender and recipient—must have a debit card account. Business payments can now be processed with credit cards instead of only debit cards, as in the original iteration, which is why pricing went up from 1.9% to 2.75%. Square last year introduced $Cashtags, which allow recipients to get paid without an email address by supplying a unique identifier consisting of a dollar sign followed by a moniker of the user’s choice.

 

Starbucks Mobile App

Parent: Starbucks Corp.

Headquarters: Seattle

Year Founded: 2009

Web site: starbucks.com

Pricing: Free

Field Notes: This is the mobile app everyone has in mind when they think of a successful merchant-controlled wallet. Since launching the app in a few stores in the fall of 2009 as a way for customers to use their prepaid Starbucks cards, the coffee inpresario has come a long way. More than one-fifth of all U.S. Starbucks transactions now take place through the app, which also allows customers to redeem points through the My Starbucks Rewards program, to which 11.1 million active U.S. members belong. The latest initiative is Mobile Order and Pay, which lets customers order ahead and pick up later in the store. This program, which went national in September, was already processing 6 million monthly transactions early this year.

 

Venmo

Parent: PayPal Holdings Inc.

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Year Founded: 2009

Web site: venmo.com

Pricing: Free for consumers with linked bank account or debit card; 3% for credit card funding

Field Notes: Popular among Millennials who don’t have a problem with other people knowing who they’re paying, Venmo, the person-to-person payments service with a social-network twist, came under PayPal’s wing in 2013 when PayPal bought its parent company, e-commerce merchant processor Braintree, which had acquired Venmo in 2012. Consumers fund their Venmo accounts with their bank accounts or a debit card for free, or with credit cards. All they need is the email address or phone number of the receiver, who must open a Venmo account to claim payment. Venmo processed $7.5 billion in payments in 2015, up 213%, from 2014. In January, PayPal announced an in-app payments feature called Pay With Venmo that will allow users to pay with their Venmo accounts within a merchant app, much as they would do with PayPal. Venmo is testing the new service with Gametime, a vendor of concert and sports tickets, and Munchery, a meal-delivery service. PayPal says it will add more merchants over time and launch it commercially some time this year. Acceptance by businesses, which likely would pay a fee, will help PayPal increase its return from Venmo.

 

Walmart Pay

Parent: Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Headquarters: Bentonville, Ark.

Year Founded: 2015

Web site: walmart.com/cp/walmart-pay/5998388

Pricing: Not yet announced

Field Notes: Wal-Mart isn’t expected to fully roll out this wallet until the middle of this year, but its very existence has roiled the payments business and raised questions about the retailing titan’s commitment to Merchant Customer Exchange, the merchant consortium it helped start in 2012. MCX is behind the CurrentC mobile-payments service undergoing a pilot in Columbus, Ohio. Customers can load major card brands and the Wal-Mart gift card into Walmart Pay, which is part of the Wal-Mart shopping app and links to the point of sale via quick-response (QR) codes. Some 22 million customers use the shopping app monthly, Wal-Mart says. When the rollout is complete, the wallet will work at all Wal-Mart stores but not at Sam’s Club, the warehouse chain owned by Wal-Mart.

 

WingCash

Parent: WingCash LLC

Headquarters: Highland, Utah

Year Founded: 2009

Web site: wingcash.com

Pricing: Merchants pay no transaction fees, but pay fees for upgrading to Brand Cash

Field Notes: WingCash lets users send money via email or social-network connections and the automated clearing house to each other and to participating businesses. The money is represented in a WingCash wallet by so-called WingCash Pages, created by the user’s bank and standing for a sum of cash—anywhere from a penny up to $100—held by the user at the bank. Merchants can also use WingCash to create so-called Brand Cash, promotional money spendable at the merchants’ stores. The service works on desktops or mobile devices, but for now it must be accessed via the Web, as there is no app. The founder is Bradley Wilkes, best known as the entrepreneur behind ProPay Inc., an innovative processor now owned by Total System Services Inc. WingCash is integrated with the ProPay platform, but it faces an uphill battle winning adoption on three fronts: consumers, banks, and merchants.

 

WU Pay

Parent: The Western Union Co.

Headquarters: Englewood, Colo.

Year Founded: 2012

Web site: westernunion.com/us/en/wupay-details

Pricing: Varies by bill amount and funding method

Field Notes: Consumers can use WU Pay to make money transfers to businesses from 17,000 financial-institution online sites that offer bill pay. A consumer logs into her bank site and sets up WU Pay as a payee/biller. Funds are drawn from the consumer’s checking or savings account. WU Pay uses technology from the eBillme online-payment platform that wire-transfer leader Western Union bought in 2011.

 

Xoom Bill Pay

Parent: PayPal Holdings Inc.

Headquarters: San Jose, Calif.

Year Founded: 2001

Web site: xoom.com

Pricing: Varies, commonly $2.99 per transaction

Field Notes: PayPal bought fast-growing online wire-transfer provider Xoom Corp. in November, giving the online- and mobile-payments leader access to 1.5 million active U.S. customers who sent $7.1 billion over the preceding 12 months to people in 40 countries. While remittances to individuals remain Xoom’s biggest business, the company in late 2014 began offering cross-border bill payments from the U.S. The service now covers seven countries—Mexico, five Central American nations, and the Philippines. A Xoom user, for example, can send a payment to four Mexican telephone, gas, electric and cable providers for $2.99 per bill. The payer enters the account number on the Xoom site to get the amount owed. Most of Xoom’s volume goes over the automated clearing house network.

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