Chase’s Removal Of ATM Limits Is The Right Idea But For The Wrong Device

Moving more and increasingly complex payments capabilities to ATMs and away from bank branches is a good thing, as we've argued before with ATM ApplePay and with MasterCard's patent application to turn ATMs into full-fledged POS units. But there is a line where it doesn't make sense and JPMorgan Chase's current debate about removing per-day cash limits crosses that line.

First of all, unlike mobile devices, ATMs have a very physical limitation: Once the cash that some human loaded into the ATM runs out, the ATM loses much of its most-desired functionality. Sure, it can still accept deposits and reveal balances, but not that much more. To be candid, those particular services are much better handled by a mobile app. (Note: That is true up to the limit of mobile deposits which, I assure you, I'll get back to shortly.) The ATM's most powerful function is to dispense cash, as that is something mobile apps can't do. When the money is gone, the ATM becomes rather pointless.

Moving more and increasingly complex payments capabilities to ATMs and away from bank branches is a good thing, as we've argued before with ATM ApplePay and with MasterCard's patent application to turn ATMs into full-fledged POS units. But there is a line where it doesn't make sense and JPMorgan Chase's current debate about removing per-day cash limits crosses that line.

Finally, An Event Where PF Is The Focus, Not A Footnote

Given how important payment facilitators are to the rapidly emerging and morphing payments landscape in 2016, it's stunning how few places there are to explore the implications of being a PF today. Plenty of meetings and symposium exist for chatting about payments in general or virtual currencies or mobile payments, but the opportunities to really delve deeply into PF issues are practically non-existent. Until now.

If you can swing by Las Vegas on April 19, PaymentFacilatator.com—in conjunction with Double Diamond Group, Rich Consulting and the Electronic Transactions Association—will present our version of Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About PFs, But Were Too Geeky To Ask. Officially, though, it's dubbed simply TRANSACT 16’s Payment Facilitator Day – In Depth and On Target.

Given how important payment facilitators are to the rapidly emerging and morphing payments landscape in 2016, it's stunning how few places there are to explore the implications of being a PF today. Plenty of meetings and symposium exist for chatting about payments in general or virtual currencies or mobile payments, but the opportunities to really delve deeply into PF issues are practically non-existent. Until now.

Risk Teams Are All Over The Map When It Comes To PFs

Compliance and risk leaders in the Americas, Europe, and Asia exhibit a polarity in their attitudes about payment facilitators. First, there are those who either endorse or oppose. Second, there are PFs that are either fit or unfit for partnership. This yields three observations: Risk teams see PFs in general as either "friends" or "foes"; Risk teams categorize PFs into "safe bets" or "wild cards"; Risk teams demand oversight rights when working with PFs.

G2 recently conducted a survey with acquirers globally. The results showed a greater willingness among banks and processors to work with PFs in EMEA and APAC. In the Americas, one-half of respondents actively work with PFs. In EMEA and APAC, the numbers were closer to two-thirds. When asked if they knew if there were PFs in their portfolios, there was some doubt. A significant number of acquirers in all regions had either discovered a merchant unknowingly acting as a PF in the past year or did not know if that activity was occurring.

Compliance and risk leaders in the Americas, Europe, and Asia exhibit a polarity in their attitudes about payment facilitators. First, there are those who either endorse or oppose. Second, there are PFs that are either fit or unfit for partnership. This yields three observations: Risk teams see PFs in general as either "friends" or "foes"; Risk teams categorize PFs into "safe bets" or "wild cards"; Risk teams demand oversight rights when working with PFs.

Visa’s New SMB Rules Add PF Complexities

When Visa recently added more rules on its smallest merchants—PCI Level 4s—it created a sales opportunity for payment facilitators by giving SMBs an even stronger reason to outsource its payments activities. At the same time, it added more complexity to PCI management for those PFs.

Mike Cottrell, head of global sales and marketing at ProPay, tried to put the new rules into perspective for payment facilitators in this week's PaymentFacilitator.com podcast.

When Visa recently added more rules on its smallest merchants—PCI Level 4s—it created a sales opportunity for payment facilitators by giving SMBs an even stronger reason to outsource its payments activities. At the same time, it added more complexity to PCI management for those PFs.

Banks Simply Can’t Handle Technology As Well As PFs

We have made the argument before that when it comes to mastering the technology required for next-generation payments, the structure of banks doesn't permit it and the attitude of bankers won't allow it. Seems that we're not alone. McKinsey & Company has now come to the identical conclusion.

In a fascinating report, McKinsey's argues that bank's technological intransigence—which creates the economic hole that payment facilitators are uniquely qualified to fill—dates back hundreds of years before credit cards. "Banking has historically been one of the business sectors most resistant to disruption by technology. Since the first mortgage was issued in England in the 11th century, banks have built robust businesses with multiple moats: ubiquitous distribution through branches; unique expertise such as credit underwriting underpinned by both data and judgment; even the special status of being regulated institutions that supply credit, the lifeblood of economic growth, and have sovereign insurance for their liabilities (deposits)," the McKinsey report said.

We have made the argument before that when it comes to mastering the technology required for next-generation payments, the structure of banks doesn't permit it and the attitude of bankers won't allow it. Seems that we're not alone. McKinsey & Company has now come to the identical conclusion.

When Payments Disruptions Hit Nashville, Things Are Looking Good

In the world of payments and transportation, the initial phrase of a disruptive technology is to eat away at the user base of traditional payment and transportation methods. But you know things are being really disrupted when those traditional forces embrace the disruption as a way to improve their offerings. In Nashville, Tennessee, that has now happened with Uber and Lyft. As those services disrupt and transform the very notion of urban transportation, mobile payments are going along for the ride—and it's a beautiful one-way trip.

These are the exact kinds of changes that payment facilitators will deliver. And as cities and their commuters rapidly move into next-generation payments, the demands will expand to all kinds of businesses—especially small merchants—who will now have a ready-made customer base itching for new payment methods, but with no way to deliver. Enter their regional PF. Transportation is arguably the most important sector to modernize because the repetition involved (a regular commuter can use such a service 10 times a week, with five roundtrips) is the best way to quickly get a population comfortable with new payment procedures.

In the world of payments and transportation, the initial phrase of a disruptive technology is to eat away at the user base of traditional payment and transportation methods. But you know things are being really disrupted when those traditional forces embrace the disruption as a way to improve their offerings. In Nashville, Tennessee, that has now happened with Uber and Lyft. As those services disrupt and transform the very notion of urban transportation, mobile payments are going along for the ride—and it's a beautiful one-way trip. These are the exact kinds of changes that payment facilitators will deliver.

Square’s Design Miracle: EMV, NFC And An Amazing $49 Pricetag

FastCompany recently took a fascinating deep-dive into the strategy and tactics behind Square's design. It's a terrific read, if only to explain the design genius behind a thoroughly under-appreciated feat of engineering. It's certainly no surprise that the Square team would have taken so much time perfecting it's design, which delivers a beautiful—yes, I think it's beautiful—fast and truly effortless interface. The biggest surprise here is how difficult it was to deliver the price they needed to hit.

It's a longheld project reality that you can have your timeline, your price or your scope, but never all three. Such realities don't cut it at Square. What is going on here is Square making a strategic longterm bet on mobile payments. Their top brass felt that someone has to suck it up price-wise to get the market moving. It's a loss-leader mentality, but not in the quintessential razor-and-razor-blade mode. It's more in the "we'll pay a lot more now for a big slice of this worthless pie, betting that we can make this pie worth a bundle if we make the first move." And Square's engineering team has succeeded in a big way, not merely in capturing marketshare but in moving the entire market.

FastCompany recently took a fascinating deep-dive into the strategy and tactics behind Square's design. It's a terrific read, if only to explain the design genius behind a thoroughly under-appreciated feat of engineering. It's certainly no surprise that the Square team would have taken so much time perfecting it's design, which delivers a beautiful—yes, I think it's beautiful—fast and truly effortless interface. The biggest surprise here is how difficult it was to deliver the price they needed to hit.

Transaction Laundering: How Not To Get Taken To The Cleaners

One of the cyberthief's favorite tactics these days is transaction laundering, where the bad guy takes their bad transactions—usually for drugs, gambling, counterfeit goods or human trafficking—and runs them through seemingly good web sites, ones ostensibly trying to sell innocuous products. There are things that a payment facilitator can do to thwart such efforts and that is the focus of this week's PaymentFacilitator.com podcast, featuring Deana Rich, president of Rich Consulting.

One of the less-commonly-used but quite effective tactics, Rich said, is do some secret shopping, both on the PF's own customer sites as well as suspected fraudulent sites. That is literally making purchases from both kinds of sites and seeing what then happens. Rich said she was recently talking "with a banker who told me that she had done that on a site she suspected to be bad and then she made the purchase and it never came through her own system. She never saw it because the purchase didn't really occur. They weren't really selling anything on that site. They were really selling stuff on the bad site. It was that secret shopping, using your own payment card to purchase things, that let her know what went wrong."

One of the cyberthief's favorite tactics these days is transaction laundering, where the bad guy takes their bad transactions—usually for drugs, gambling, counterfeit goods or human trafficking—and runs them through seemingly good web sites, ones ostensibly trying to sell innocuous products. There are things that a payment facilitator can do to thwart such efforts and that is the focus of this week's PaymentFacilitator.com podcast, featuring Deana Rich, president of Rich Consulting.

Facebook Wants A Piece Of In-Store Payments

Finding experimental features hidden in code is like reviewing patents for clues as to a company's future plans. Given that most trialed ideas—let alone patented ones that never get to trials—are never productized. That said, code in a product suggests a somewhat more serious interest. And it was inside code of the latest version of Facebook's Messenger that Facebook planted some hints of plans to enable in-store payments.

To be fair, there's as yet no concrete details about how this may materialize nor how Facebook would fulfill in-store product purchases. Still, it's intriguing. "Tucked inside the code for Facebook’s Messenger are clues for how the chat app plans to become a marketplace, including an unreleased feature that lets people use the app to buy things in stores," said a story in The Information. "But the unreleased features suggest Messenger’s push to shape itself as a social commerce platform is accelerating more quickly than previously known. And the interest in store purchases is notable. The software includes commands allowing a user to 'pay in person' or 'pay directly in Messenger when you pick up the item' with 'no cash needed.' One developer who has worked with Facebook said Messenger has a large team working on integrating online and offline services, like using the app for purchasing items in retail stores."

Finding experimental features hidden in code is like reviewing patents for clues as to a company's future plans. Given that most trialed ideas—let alone patented ones that never get to trials—are never productized. That said, code in a product suggests a somewhat more serious interest. And it was inside code of the latest version of Facebook's Messenger that Facebook planted some hints of plans to enable in-store payments.

Cyberthieves Use Far Better Security Than Do Banks. Aren’t You Embarrassed?

This shouldn't be the least bit surprising, but it's downright humiliating how bad our security habits are with our top financial institutions when you take a look at large criminal enterprises. If fraudsters and entry-level terrorists can be bothered to use robust authentication security, why can't the good guys?

"If you are a seller on Alphabay -- a darkweb site that sells 'drugs, stolen data and hacking tools,' you'll have to use two-factor authentication (based on PGP/GPG) for all your logins," said the depressing story in BoingBoing. "Alphabay requires you to use a unique seven-word phrase to recover passwords (as opposed to easily researched questions like high-school football team, mother's maiden name, etc), and says there is no way to recover a lost password without this phrase. Finally, Alphabay requires a four-digit PIN to transfer bitcoin to your personal wallet."

This shouldn't be the least bit surprising, but it's downright humiliating how bad our security habits are with our top financial institutions when you take a look at large criminal enterprises. If fraudsters and entry-level terrorists can be bothered to use robust authentication security, why can't the good guys?

Questions Every New Payment Facilitator Should Ask Its Payments Attorney

Under the latest card brand rules, payment facilitators are being held to exacting requirements. Note that the acquirer is now able to terminate a PF contract immediately with "good cause." So while state and federal regulation may get the bulk of the attention, those are hardly the only areas of potential rules-enforced disasters.

Visa’s Core Rules, for example, have the PF being "liable for all acts, omissions, cardholder disputes, and other cardholder customer service related issues caused by the Payment Facilitator's Sponsored Merchants" and "is responsible and financially liable for each transaction processed on behalf of the sponsored merchant, or for any disputed transaction or credit." MasterCard similarly requires that "the payment facilitator must ensure that each of its submerchants complies with the standards applicable to merchants." Understanding the limitations and obligations that the card brands impose upon PFs is crucial to ensure the ongoing operations of business.

Under the latest card brand rules, payment facilitators are being held to exacting requirements. Note that the acquirer is now able to terminate a PF contract immediately with "good cause." So while state and federal regulation may get the bulk of the attention, those are hardly the only areas of potential rules-enforced disasters.

NRF Pushes Back Against Debit Swipe Fee Cap

The National Retail Federation (NRF) last week pushed back against debit card swipe fees, saying the fees are still far too much.

"In most cases, 24 cents per transaction represents a significant savings over the prior non-competitive pricing," NRF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Mallory Duncan said in a statement. “However, it is still substantially higher than issuers’ incremental costs."

The National Retail Federation (NRF) last week pushed back against debit card swipe fees, saying the fees are still far too much.

MasterCard Uses Golf To Demo Virtual Reality

MasterCard, which has sometimes struggled with Internet-of-Things (IoT) efforts, used a golf tournament to (dear readers, please forgive me for what I am about to perpetrate) gulf the digital divide from putting green on a golf course's putting green. (Whatever you just said, I probably deserved it.)

In all fairness, MasterCard put on an impressive virtual reality demo at its sponsored Arnold Palmer Invitational. "While out on the course, golfers might simply tap their golf glove at the point-of-sale to buy refreshments from the beverage cart," said a MasterCard statement. "MasterCard is taking it a step further with a concept designed in collaboration with Wearality, an Orlando-based start-up that designs virtual reality glasses and wearables, to allow consumers to identify an item within the experience - such as a golf shirt - and buy it without leaving the virtual world." Let's put this into context.

MasterCard, which has sometimes struggled with Internet-of-Things (IoT) efforts, used a golf tournament to (dear readers, please forgive me for what I am about to perpetrate) gulf the digital divide from putting green on a golf course's putting green. (Whatever you just said, I probably deserved it.)

Alibaba-Backed Paytm Gets Into Movie Theater Tickets—But They Have Bigger Things In Mind

India payments powerhouse—and Alibaba-financed—Paytm has cut a deal with India's largest multiplex movie theater chain (PVR) to sell movie tickets in mobile and online. Why make the move now, with physical movie theaters a quickly dying industry? Those tickets will unleash a lot more one night at the cinema.

Why make a movie theater play now, when even the most aggressive movie industry defenders concede that the shared physical viewing of films will surrender to the better pricing and much stronger convenience of watching films at home or via mobile devices? It's a smart move. Once shoppers have completed the digital movie transition, mobile payment options will surround them, assuming they haven't already paid Amazon or Netflix directly. But by tying in physical movie payments with Paytm, they are making the mobile connection in a physical context. When those consumers make the inevitable move to a more digital experience, the account and the mindset will already be established. Better yet, Paytm will know the entertainment habits/choices made by those consumers, allowing for very effective marketing moves later.

India payments powerhouse—and Alibaba-financed—Paytm has cut a deal with India's largest multiplex movie theater chain (PVR) to sell movie tickets in mobile and online. Why make the move now, with physical movie theaters a quickly dying industry? Those tickets will unleash a lot more one night at the cinema.

Uber’s Deal With Green Dot Illustrates Payments Potential

When Uber and Green Dot last week rolled out Uber Checking By Go Bank, it offered little more than a slightly more convenient way for workers to get paid and to be paid more timely. In payments, though, it can be those little conveniences and small elements of automation that can build into a massive change. And who understands that digital disruption concept better than Uber—and payment facilitators.

The idea is straight-forward: When Uber drivers want to get paid for hours logged, use what Uber is calling Instant Pay. They can log in 24x7 and "cash out your earnings instantly and easily at any time, with no minimum deposit or transaction fees." The cash is loaded onto their Uber Debit Card. The near-term advantages are that workers control when they get paid—no more waiting until the company dictated date of, let's say, the 15th of each month—and the account can be isolated. That isolation means that they don't need to share sensitive bank account details with their employer if they don’t want to.

When Uber and Green Dot last week rolled out Uber Checking By Go Bank, it offered little more than a slightly more convenient way for workers to get paid and to be paid more timely. In payments, though, it can be those little conveniences and small elements of automation that can build into a massive change. And who understands that digital disruption concept better than Uber—and payment facilitators.

A Surreal Peek Into The Payment Data Underworld

If you're in the mood for a truly surreal peek into the stolen payment card data market, check out this profile of a data-seller called Joker's Stash, over at KrebsOnSecurity. This vendor's employees, solely selling illegal stolen data mind you, "set themselves apart by focusing on loyalty programs, frequent-buyer discounts, money-back guarantees and just plain old good customer service." Heck, it's hard enough to get legitimate retailers to do that.

Indeed, the Bitcoin-accepting company markets itself as proudly only selling data that it's own people stole, as opposed to selling what any lowlife on the street steals. And it offers limited guarantees: "All sales are final, although some batches of stolen cards for sale at Joker’s Stash come with a replacement policy — a short window of time from minutes to a few hours, generally — in which buyers can request replacement cards for any that come back as declined during that replacement timeframe." Even their loyalty program is better than that offered by some large retailers.

If you're in the mood for a truly surreal peek into the stolen payment card data market, check out this profile of a data-seller called Joker's Stash, over at KrebsOnSecurity. This vendor's employees, solely selling illegal stolen data mind you, "set themselves apart by focusing on loyalty programs, frequent-buyer discounts, money-back guarantees and just plain old good customer service." Heck, it's hard enough to get legitimate retailers to do that.

Class Action Merchant EMV Lawsuit Could Make The EMV Transition A Lot Messier

EMV has always delivered more than its fair share of headaches and surprises—and this week even has the MasterCard CEO doing some EMV griping of his own—but a class action lawsuit filed last week is raising yet another troubling EMV question. Is the liability shift appropriate if merchants have done everything in their power to embrace EMV? If backlogs from the card brands are why a merchant doesn't have an EMV greenlight, is it fair to punish them with the liability shift?

Like every payments issue, there are details to be dealt with. Did the merchant submit all paperwork in a reasonable timeframe? One can't file 10 minutes before the deadline and then blame the backlog for a lack of approval. Still, it's an interesting question. And the lawsuit from B&R Supermarkets and Grove Liquors goes further than saying that the backlog was unexpected or larger than expected. The filing accuses the card brands—and other payments players—of deliberately being slow, in an attempt to push off liability costs on as many merchants as possible, regardless of their EMV efforts.

EMV has always delivered more than its fair share of headaches and surprises—and this week even has the MasterCard CEO doing some EMV griping of his own—but a class action lawsuit filed last week is raising yet another troubling EMV question. Is the liability shift appropriate if merchants have done everything in their power to embrace EMV? If backlogs from the card brands are why a merchant doesn't have an EMV greenlight, is it fair to punish them with the liability shift?

Accenture Study: Most Boards Of Large Banks Have Little Tech Background

Under the least surprising things ever category comes a new report—from Accenture—that barely six percent of the board members at large banks have any meaning technology background. The findings certainly explain the tech-hesitations coming from banks, especially when it comes to reducing payments friction.

This is much of the reason why payment facilitators have such a critical role to play with banks—a role that banks neither want to nor are able to execute themselves.

Under the least surprising things ever category comes a new report—from Accenture—that barely six percent of the board members at large banks have any meaning technology background. The findings certainly explain the tech-hesitations coming from banks, especially when it comes to reducing payments friction.

MasterCard Draws Its Line In Silicon: MobileWallet Vendors, Go This Far And No Farther

Speaking at the Barclays Emerging Payments Forum on Tuesday (March 15), MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga told attendees that MasterCard has no problem with the many mobile wallets today, as long as they don't cross the line and try to change key parts of payments infrastructure.

Banga said that current mobile wallets are supporting MC's goal of converting cash and checks into digital transactions. As long as they keep doing that, Banga will be happy to play along. "I will support everything so long as it protects the ecosystem and does not damage the relationship between merchants, banks, these (mobile wallet) players and us. The moment it changes that and it starts playing with the data, then I’ve got a problem. If it's basically a passthrough and it's not affecting the ecosystem and it's actually attacking cash, I'm all for it. If you do things that make it complicated for the ecosystem to work cleanly, I'm not going to be supportive."

Speaking at the Barclays Emerging Payments Forum on Tuesday (March 15), MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga told attendees that MasterCard has no problem with the many mobile wallets today, as long as they don't cross the line and try to change key parts of payments infrastructure.

Venmo/PayPal Go Overboard On Compliance

If you’re trying to use Venmo to pay someone for sitting your Persian cat or for buying a used Persian rug, don’t actually use the word “Persian” or be prepared to wait longer. And you can thank a compliance program that is perhaps going a few steps too far.

Although opting—understandably—to be vague on specifics, the PayPal-owned Venmo responded to media reports that is has coded its systems to be on the lookout for certain words, including Persian. "There has been recent discussion around specific keywords associated with payments within Venmo that have caused us to pause the transaction and review. We understand the frustration this may cause," Venmo said on its blog.

If you’re trying to use Venmo to pay someone for sitting your Persian cat or for buying a used Persian rug, don’t actually use the word “Persian” or be prepared to wait longer. And you can thank a compliance program that is perhaps going a few steps too far.

With Better-Than-Expected Earnings From Square, Comes A Sharp Spike In Its Non-Payment Business

Square late on Wednesday (March 9) posted earnings that topped analyst estimates and briefly sent its stock soaring 3.7 percent in after-market trading. But of potentially greater interest to the payment facilitator community is that Square's non-payment revenue hit 15 percent, which is about triple what it was when Square launched its IPO.

In Q415, Square reported gross payment volume (GPV) soaring 47 percent—year over year—to $10.2 billion. The most surprising stat, though, was from Square's Software and Data Products group. In that same quarter, that software/data products revenue shot up 52 percent (compared with the prior quarter), to $22 million. "From payment processing to point of sale, hardware to software, business financing to payroll and more, we have built a cohesive commerce ecosystem that helps sellers start, run, and grow their businesses," Square said in an unattributed portion of its news release. "This makes us unique and stands in marked contrast to the rest of the industry, which forces sellers to laboriously piece together hardware, software, and payments services from many different vendors."

Square late on Wednesday (March 9) posted earnings that topped analyst estimates and briefly sent its stock soaring 3.7 percent in after-market trading. But of potentially greater interest to the payment facilitator community is that Square's non-payment revenue hit 15 percent, which is about triple what it was when Square launched its IPO.

FTC Launches PCI Probe. Ruh-Roh

On Monday (March 7), the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a government investigation of PCI, zeroing in on potentially excessive charges, inconsistency in enforcement and rampant conflicts of interest. As famed QSA Scooby Doo would have said, "Ruh-roh."

None of this is news to the FTC and it's part of the reason for the investigation, which FTC is officially calling a study. "We have heard these issues," said David Lincicum, an FTC attorney in the division of privacy and identity protection, who is the lead attorney on the study and is also managing the study. "We go into this looking to get information, to get some details about what the interactions look like."

On Monday (March 7), the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a government investigation of PCI, zeroing in on potentially excessive charges, inconsistency in enforcement and rampant conflicts of interest. As famed QSA Scooby Doo would have said, "Ruh-roh."

ExxonMobil Now Accepts ApplePay, But Rejects NFC. Bad Move

Wanting to avoid having to purchase and install NFC-friendly card readers at its stations, ExxonMobil has opted to use ApplePay but only as an in-app method, from within the petro company's own app. Although it might make short-term economic sense from ExxonMobil's perspective, it may be a big hit with over the long-term and it could damage some consumer perceptions of NFC payment convenience.

ApplePay has several solid user-experience advantages and cashiers at retailers that accept a lot of ApplePay transactions (think Whole Foods, TraderJoe's or McDonald's) typically find it the fastest payment experience. The service will be offered initially at 6,000 Exxon and Mobil gas stations in 46 states, with an additional 2,000 stores slated to join by this summer.

Wanting to avoid having to purchase and install NFC-friendly card readers at its stations, ExxonMobil has opted to use ApplePay but only as an in-app method, from within the petro company's own app. Although it might make short-term economic sense from ExxonMobil's perspective, it may be a big hit with over the long-term and it could damage some consumer perceptions of NFC payment convenience.

Australia’s Crackdown On “Excessive” Interchange

A bill passed by both houses of the Australian Parliament bans companies "from charging an excessive payment surcharge." But what does Parliament consider excessive? That is partially dictated by rules from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

The bill requires that interchange must "reflect the cost of using the payment methods for which they are charged." Does it allow for any margin? And if so, how much would Parliament consider reasonable? In a report from PwC (aka PricewaterhouseCoopers) Australia, "whether a surcharge will be deemed excessive is dependent upon whether there is a Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) standard or regulation in place. The RBA is currently consulting on a standard and is due to make a decision in May 2016. The Bill will not become operative until the standard is in place." It added: "If an infringement notice is issued it will impose a penalty of 600 penalty units ($108,000) for a listed corporation and 60 penalty units ($10,800) for a body corporate that is not a listed corporation."

A bill passed by both houses of the Australian Parliament bans companies "from charging an excessive payment surcharge." But what does Parliament consider excessive? That is partially dictated by rules from the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

States Seek Reasonable-Sounding—But Logistically All-But-Impossible—Payment Rules

Some state legislatures are pushing some potential laws aimed at giving consumers—and their heirs—more control over their digital lives. But in doing so, some are preparing to impose rules on merchants that neither the merchant—nor the merchant's payment facilitator—are likely to be able to obey.

The thrust of the rules—under consideration in states such as Oregon and Connecticut—are honorable. They are intended to avoid the heart-wrenching stories of a parent or other next-of-kin unable to access a deceased loved one's e-mails or social media interactions. But the legislation goes beyond that in some cases, granting consumers much more control over their digital footprints. In Connecticut, for example, the bill "would allow consumers to ask stores you no longer do business with to delete your personal information so that your personal information would not be compromised in the event that the company is hacked," according to a report from NBC Connecticut. That's where things get dicey.

Some state legislatures are pushing some potential laws aimed at giving consumers—and their heirs—more control over their digital lives. But in doing so, some are preparing to impose rules on merchants that neither the merchant—nor the merchant's payment facilitator—are likely to be able to obey.

How A PF Can Clear The Confusing Regulatory Thicket Of Money Transmitters

As states, U.S. federal regulators along with country regulators across the globe try and set rules for money transmitters, payment facilitators are temporarily caught in the middle.

That is how Heather Mark—director of compliance at ProPay and our guest for this week's PaymentFacilitator.com podcast—sees the environment. When all of the conflicting particulars are set aside, there are only two situations where a PF gets into the money transmitter definition mess. First, there is the issue of "who has the ultimate control of the funds being transmitted," Mark said. Secondly, she points to circumstances "where payment facilitators are injecting themselves into the payments process." If a PF's activities take it into either of those scenarios, "then chances are pretty good that they will fall under the money transmitter provision," Mark said.

As states, U.S. federal regulators along with country regulators across the globe try and set rules for money transmitters, payment facilitators are temporarily caught in the middle.

Dwolla’s $100K CFPB Security Fine Wasn’t For What It Did As Much As What It Said

Dwolla got slapped down hard on Wednesday (March 2) by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for a series of security violations. But due to a dearth of meaningful federal security laws, CFPB's $100K fine of Dwolla had to follow in the footsteps of fellow federal regulator Federal Trade Commission. They can't punish a company for what it did nearly as easily as they can punish it for not doing what it says.

That said, once Dwolla opened the door to federal investigators by boasting about its security on its Web site, every security violation discovered was fair game. Takeaway: In the same way that marketers of publicly-held companies were beaten down by senior staffers from investor relations to never say anything publicly without IR's blessing, payment facilitators today must reign in anything involving security that even smells a little of hype. See? Our mothers were right. Boasting can deliver real problems. Once those doors were opened, according to a federal consent order published on Wednesday, security violations aplenty were found.

Dwolla got slapped down hard on Wednesday (March 2) by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for a series of security violations. But due to a dearth of meaningful federal security laws, CFPB's $100K fine of Dwolla had to follow in the footsteps of fellow federal regulator Federal Trade Commission. They can't punish a company for what it did nearly as easily as they can punish it for not doing what it says.

The Balance Move By Square Cash Could Push Square To Full Financial Services Status

When P2P app Square Cash announced a move to support cash balances a few days ago, it seemed a minor enough new capability. But as is true for so many things about Square, the fear is not what payment facilitator extraordinaire Square is today, but what Square will morph into tomorrow.

"There's not a major impact over the short term, but a very significant potential impact over the long term," said Rick Oglesby, senior analyst for Double Diamond Group. First, let's briefly look at what Square Cash added.

When P2P app Square Cash announced a move to support cash balances a few days ago, it seemed a minor enough new capability. But as is true for so many things about Square, the fear is not what payment facilitator extraordinaire Square is today, but what Square will morph into tomorrow.

EMV Liability Shift Delivering Surprises To Restaurants

One of the unintended consequences of merchant protections prior to the EMV liability shift in October is that they shielded retailers from seeing a lot of the fraud going through their stores. The problem? That caused quite a few smaller merchants to reach the erroneous conclusion that the frauds that they didn't see didn't exist.

"We're now just seeing the fraud that always existed," said Georgia Stavrakis, the senior director of loss prevention at Heartland Payment Systems and the secretary of MAC. Stavrakis, the guest for this week's PaymentFacilitator.com podcast, as seen a lot of retailers who looked at their level of known fraud and chose to not bother implementing EMV. In short, the fact that they were shielded from seeing their true fraud rate caused them to not fear having to pay for their fraud. The liability shift, therefore, didn't frighten them. "People were misinterpreting the data that we had from before the shift. People were looking at their records, saying 'OK, I've never had a chargeback in 16 years so I don't really care when the liability shift comes because I won't have a dispute,'" Stavrakis said during the podcast. "The reality is that you could have had hundreds of thousands of fraudulent transactions at your location before October. You just didn't know about it because the bank wasn't going to waste its time or money to send that to you."

One of the unintended consequences of merchant protections prior to the EMV liability shift in October is that they shielded retailers from seeing a lot of the fraud going through their stores. The problem? That caused quite a few smaller merchants to reach the erroneous conclusion that the frauds that they didn't see didn't exist.

Is The Cash Disappearance A PF Goldrush?

The friend of my monetary enemy is my monetary enemy. In short, as long as fraudsters take a liking to $100 bills in the U.S., 1,000-franc notes in Switzerland and 10,000-yen pieces of paper in Japan, they should quickly head to the economic graveyard. Turns out, they are indeed going there—and sooner than many expect. But this news is critically important to the payment facilitator world. It provides PFs an opportunity where banks are literally unable to deliver.

How does this impact PFs? Surprisingly directly, actually. As far as cash is concerned, someone has to terminalize the world, especially in emerging markets. Is it going to be the banks? Not a chance. PFs are positioned to create acceptance worldwide of digital payments. In many developing countries, this is a powerful opportunity for fintech companies in the PF world to fill the vacuum that is increasingly going to be left thanks to the rapid demise of cash. Small merchants dramatically outnumber their larger siblings and it's those legions of small merchants that are driving these economies. Why won't the banks do this? They can't because bank business plans won't permit it. Banks have a minimum bar for profitability per merchant and that number is simply far too high for many very small merchants. The banks have to spend the equivalent of hundreds of U.S. dollars for each merchant to onboard those small merchants, with endless paper and process.

The friend of my monetary enemy is my monetary enemy. In short, as long as fraudsters take a liking to $100 bills in the U.S., 1,000-franc notes in Switzerland and 10,000-yen pieces of paper in Japan, they should quickly head to the economic graveyard. Turns out, they are indeed going there—and sooner than many expect. But this news is critically important to the payment facilitator world. It provides PFs an opportunity where banks are literally unable to deliver.

What Do Risk and Compliance Teams Really Think About PFs?

With the number of payment facilitators set to grow meaningfully over the next few years, each acquirer will make a decision—embrace or abstain. Choosing which side of the fence depends on whether an acquirer primarily sees PFs as sources of growth or risk. When G2's Dan Frechtling hears from compliance and risk leaders, this is not a spontaneous choice. It’s a conditional, pragmatic, step-by-step journey. Even the believers have adopted a trust-but-verify stance.

The compliance and risk teams who embrace PFs envision a new scalable sales channel that fuels growth. They focus on a few PFs with which to succeed. Said one compliance head, "We choose a small number opportunistically because they take so long to get over the board." Those teams that avoid PFs take a shorter term view of ROI, deeming PFs too hard to onboard in relation to potential fee revenue. Some even have a visceral fear over what could go wrong. "We see them as a risk we don’t want to touch, so we avoid them like the plague," said one manager.

With the number of payment facilitators set to grow meaningfully over the next few years, each acquirer will make a decision—embrace or abstain. Choosing which side of the fence depends on whether an acquirer primarily sees PFs as sources of growth or risk. When G2's Dan Frechtling hears from compliance and risk leaders, this is not a spontaneous choice. It’s a conditional, pragmatic, step-by-step journey. Even the believers have adopted a trust-but-verify stance.

Think You’re So Tough, Apple? Meet Bankers In China

Payments professionals who have lost battle after battle fighting with Apple Pay's people on getting reasonable fees know that Apple sees its lock on iPhones and iPads as a reason to not bother having to negotiate on rates. You want in? Pay up. Well, you can take some solace in Apple getting a taste of its own apple-flavored medicine.

Feeling a strong strategic need to get into the government-managed Chinese market, Apple found itself on the weaker end of negotiations with bankers. With government backing, there was little fear of being undercut by a rival bank. The result? This report from Caixin Online: "Apple will earn fees from Chinese banks when customers use its mobile payment service for purchases, but they will be about half of what the U.S. tech giant charges in the United States."

Payments professionals who have lost battle after battle fighting with Apple Pay's people on getting reasonable fees know that Apple sees its lock on iPhones and iPads as a reason to not bother having to negotiate on rates. You want in? Pay up. Well, you can take some solace in Apple getting a taste of its own apple-flavored medicine.

A Shopper’s Checkout Friction Resistance Level Changes Hourly

The idea that shoppers abandon shopping carts when they run into checkout friction has been said so often that it is approaching cliché status. The truth is much more nuanced and complicated. The level of checkout-friction-resistance changes—for the identical consumer—repeatedly during the merchant interaction.

Let's consider that abandoned shopping cart consumer. They ran into some site stumbling block, got frustrated and bolted. Let's further assume that the shopper is somehow reeled back in, most likely with a friendly-phrased text message. Whatever level of resistance/tolerance that shopper had before they abandoned, it's now ten times more sensitive. A hassle that they would have tolerated before is now cause to run away—and they won't be coming back. But let's tweak that scenario slightly. This time, that same consumer runs into some friction, which is that a price seems too high or the choice of color/style is too limited. That shopper then does some Google searching, visits a bunch of other sites and ultimately comes to the conclusion that your offering's price/color/style is the best available. That consumer sheepishly comes back to complete the purchase. The situation is now flipped. That consumer's resistance to checkout friction is now dramatically lower, perhaps ten times lower. Having discovered that your deal is the best they'll get, they will put up with far more hurdles than they would have before they did that research.

The idea that shoppers abandon shopping carts when they run into checkout friction has been said so often that it is approaching cliché status. The truth is much more nuanced and complicated. The level of checkout-friction-resistance changes—for the identical consumer—repeatedly during the merchant interaction.

Why The ChasePay/Starbucks Deal Makes A Difference

When Chase revealed on Tuesday (Feb. 23) that it had cut a deal with Starbucks to incorporate ChasePay into the SBUX mobile app this year, it signaled that ChasePay needs to be taken seriously. More precisely, it means that the mocha-merchant mobile-powerbroker takes ChasePay seriously, which is perhaps the best endorsement it could get.

ChasePay's previous big deal was with MCX, which, to be fair, isn't exactly the endorsement you want in mobile payments to be taken seriously. But for those care about mobile money—and who in this space doesn't?—nobody disses Starbucks.

When Chase revealed on Tuesday (Feb. 23) that it had cut a deal with Starbucks to incorporate ChasePay into the SBUX mobile app this year, it signaled that ChasePay needs to be taken seriously. More precisely, it means that the mocha-merchant mobile-powerbroker takes ChasePay seriously, which is perhaps the best endorsement it could get.

Patent Wrap: MasterCard’s Plan To Turn An ATM Into A POS

In this week’s look at interesting payments patents issued and/or applied for, PayPal and MasterCard inventors are our payments patent people with a trio of invention applications all filed on Feb. 18. MasterCard's filing envisions using all of those strategically ATMs for a lot more than cash-dispensing. This makes even more sense given that cash-dispensing will become increasingly unnecessary as in-person purchases go digital.

Meanwhile, PayPal wants to aggregate purchases from multiple merchants in one quasi-session. And MasterCard also has an idea for a way to use payment data to identify physically-proximate consumers with similar buying patterns.

In this week’s look at interesting payments patents issued and/or applied for, PayPal and MasterCard inventors are our payments patent people with a trio of invention applications all filed on Feb. 18. MasterCard's filing envisions using all of those strategically ATMs for a lot more than cash-dispensing. This makes even more sense given that cash-dispensing will become increasingly unnecessary as in-person purchases go digital.

Regulators Sharpening Their Ordinance Knives For New Payments

Although regulators have never been mainstays of payment facilitators' holiday card lists, as payments grow increasingly complex, those regulators will become even more ever-present and, candidly, resented. As state regulators—along with their federal counterparts from the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, plus some global regulators—zero in on newer payment methods, their chief focuses will be organizational structure.

Specifically, initial questions will focus on "whether compliance functions are adequately staffed, whether we have enough risk managers looking at all of the pieces of the puzzle and whether the board is involved. We're starting to see these regulators ask these questions," said Ellen Berge, law partner at Venable LLP as well as panel leader for the compliance panel at the Merchant Acquirers Committee (MAC). Berge discussed these issues during this issue's edition of the PaymentFacilitator.com's weekly payments podcast.

Although regulators have never been mainstays of payment facilitators' holiday card lists, as payments grow increasingly complex, those regulators will become even more ever-present and, candidly, resented. As state regulators—along with their federal counterparts from the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, plus some global regulators—zero in on newer payment methods, their chief focuses will be organizational structure.

Google Compare Shutting Down

Google is shutting down Google Compare (which at one point had been called Google Advisor), the search engine's service to deliver price quotes on payment cards, insurance and mortgages—and to sometimes sell those products directly to shoppers.

This likely says less about Google's commitment to the financial services space and more about the difficulties selling those kinds of highly regulated products. Sometimes, it's best to leave these matters to payment facilitator professionals, Google. Stick to your searches.

Google is shutting down Google Compare (which at one point had been called Google Advisor), the search engine's service to deliver price quotes on payment cards, insurance and mortgages—and to sometimes sell those products directly to shoppers.

Global Payments Wrap: MasterCard’s Selfie—And Other Biometric—Authentication—Trials Do Well With The Dutch

This week’s global payments news takes us to the Netherlands, France, India and Brazil. As MasterCard promises to continue and extend its selfie biometric authentications trials in various countries, it found impressively positive results in one region. Dutch participants, given the option of either a fingerprint or a selfie in lieu of a password during a six-month trial, decidedly went bio.

Visa is rolling out Visa Checkout to France, India, Ireland, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom later this year, the card brand announced. And Paytm is close to finalising technology outsourcing contracts worth Rs 125 crore to manage the back-end for its payments bank which the company expects to roll out in August

This week’s global payments news takes us to the Netherlands, France, India and Brazil. As MasterCard promises to continue and extend its selfie biometric authentications trials in various countries, it found impressively positive results in one region. Dutch participants, given the option of either a fingerprint or a selfie in lieu of a password during a six-month trial, decidedly went bio.

To A PF, The World Of Parking Is Doing Anything But Standing Still

Pity the poor standalone parking meter, nestled between communities' sidewalks and streets. A dozen years ago, five million were scattered across the U.S.. Today, according to the International Parking Institute, no one even bothers to count them any more. New York City is preparing to abandon its 85,000 meters to a PF-fueled mobile system, joining Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh with similar plans.

The movement is hardly surprising. Many of those metal poles could only handle coins and retrofitting them for magstripe—let alone EMV or NFC—is expensive and short-sighted. To get much of the money from those poles requires a municipal employee/contractor to physically move from pole to pole. The system for fining those who disobey the parking rules is equally inefficient. Enter Jon Ziglar, the CEO of PF Parkmobile, whose company is behind many of those municipal parking meter obliteration efforts. His vision is far cleaner. A mobile app pays for the space and can even text a driver when the time is about to run out. But this gets better. Parkmobile is in pilots today with Ford and BMW to integrate the app directly into cars. Marry the efficiency of a mobile app with a smartcar that can park itself and parking takes on a delightfully 21st Century shine.

Pity the poor standalone parking meter, nestled between communities' sidewalks and streets. A dozen years ago, five million were scattered across the U.S.. Today, according to the International Parking Institute, no one even bothers to count them any more. New York City is preparing to abandon its 85,000 meters to a PF-fueled mobile system, joining Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh with similar plans.

PF Flint Mobile Shuts Down, Turns Business Over To Stripe

Payment facilitator Flint Mobile's payments business was effectively shuttered on Monday (Feb. 15), seemingly a victim of a payments player coming into an already-developed market too late and with insufficiently deep pockets. The beginning of the end happened on Feb. 5, when "Flint abruptly suspended all new signups and closed all card processing for current accounts. Users who tried to process cards were met with a message saying, 'You have exceeded your processing limits.'"

A visit to the site late on Wednesday (Feb. 17) by PaymentFacilitator.com found a seemingly active homepage, but clicking on the Sign Up Now button delivered the note "New signups suspended. We are currently transitioning to a new platform. We appreciate your patience." Alas, it seems that patience will serve no purpose. Although it appeared that company executives, between Feb. 5 and Feb. 17, were indeed trying to find a way to keep the business going, it didn't work out.

Payment facilitator Flint Mobile's payments business was effectively shuttered on Monday (Feb. 15), seemingly a victim of a payments player coming into an already-developed market too late and with insufficiently deep pockets. The beginning of the end happened on Feb. 5, when "Flint abruptly suspended all new signups and closed all card processing for current accounts. Users who tried to process cards were met with a message saying, 'You have exceeded your processing limits.'"

Javelin Report Finds What PFs Already Know: Faster Onboarding Is Critical

Onboarding speed isn't merely a consumer nice-to-have, according to a new Javelin study, but it has a concrete impact on whether customers engage at all and how many dollars they entrust.

"Banks and credit unions can boost the profitability of a new customer an estimated $212 a year with effective onboarding that emphasizes engagement," the report said. "Fully engaged customers are four times more likely than inactive customers to identify the new bank or credit union as their primary FI. Fully engaged customers not only 2.7 times more financial accounts than inactive customers at the new FI, but they also intend to open more accounts in the next 12 months." How much more? Three accounts versus an average of one-half of one account.

Onboarding speed isn't merely a consumer nice-to-have, according to a new Javelin study, but it has a concrete impact on whether customers engage at all and how many dollars they entrust.

We’re Not Playing Games. Actually, We Are. In-Game Payments Beget More In-Game Payments

An Israeli mobile game analytics firm has dived deeply into in-game payments and has issued a report on what makes pinball wizards pay.

The report from Soomla notes that average revenue per daily active user (ARPDAU) "is as low as 9¢, but it varies drastically across genres, with board and racing games averaging to 28-32¢. However, adventure, arcade, role playing and educational games generate less than 3¢ in ARPDAU."What is much more interesting is how rapidly users are willing to pay in a second game once they have paid in the first. Logically, that makes sense, in that someone who has already shown a willingness to buy will probably buy again. But what is unexpected is how rapidly those figures are climbing.

An Israeli mobile game analytics firm has dived deeply into in-game payments and has issued a report on what makes pinball wizards pay.

Reading The SEC Filing Tea Leaves: What To Make Of New Visa/Square And Amex/Costco Details?

As a business reporter, nothing is more relaxing than sitting back with a pile of freshly-filed SEC documents and digging in. But two different filings this week—related to Visa/Square and Amex/Costco—may have raised a lot more questions than they answered.

Let's set aside the numbers for the moment. Visa has a slice of Square and has had it for years, as the cardbrand has previously disclosed. There was never a need to disclose the exact size of Visa's investment or the equity stake because Square was privately held at the time of the investment and it certainly wasn't material to Visa. That forces the question: Why disclose the numbers now?

As a business reporter, nothing is more relaxing than sitting back with a pile of freshly-filed SEC documents and digging in. But two different filings this week—related to Visa/Square and Amex/Costco—may have raised a lot more questions than they answered.

Card Data Breaches Are Unseen Mobile Payments Killers

As payment facilitators see an increasingly high percentage of their transactions going through mobile, it's critical to acknowledge the many ways mobile payments could be harm. For example, I got a new debit card last month. Nothing unusual about that in itself. However, I may add that this is the third card in less than a year from the same issuer.

The reason: card data breaches. A few years ago, this would have been a minor inconvenience, but today a fresh card results in the myriad of digital connections I have being unceremoniously cut off. For the last couple of weeks, I've been revisiting the experience of a few months back when I had to re-establish card details with Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, Starbucks, my gym membership and countless others. It's frankly a huge pain in the ass. Again.

As payment facilitators see an increasingly high percentage of their transactions going through mobile, it's critical to acknowledge the many ways mobile payments could be harm. For example, I got a new debit card last month. Nothing unusual about that in itself. However, I may add that this is the third card in less than a year from the same issuer.

Costco Learning An Expensive Lesson About The Cost Of Switching Cards

Intrigued by how Costco is discovering the many expensive complexities in transitioning from store-branded card to another.

Costco has said that it needs more time than originally announced to make its move from Amex to Citigroup Visas. It had initially announced an April 1 cutoff date but the retailer now says it will be closer to "the middle of summer."

Intrigued by how Costco is discovering the many expensive complexities in transitioning from store-branded card to another.

Visa Offering More Goodies For PF Merchant Magicians

When Visa on Tuesday (Feb. 9) officially rolled out its Visa Consumer Transaction Controls program, it provided puzzle pieces that payment facilitators are much better positioned to use than others in the payments arena.

What the program does is it allows account holders "to set simple, convenient, and effective spending controls, receive transaction alerts, or even temporarily suspend their accounts using a simple on/off feature," Visa said. "Spending controls can be applied to different transaction types, date ranges, or overall card spending to offer consumers visibility and control over their money. Alerts can be sent by text, mobile app, or email in when transactions take place." The magic is that these are capabilities that Visa will support, but others will have to put the programming effort into integrating these apps, mobile devices and anything else. The apps that PF merchants will be using can leverage these or not. Few merchants will see much reason to put in the development talent to make them happen as they don't directly boost sales. That's where PF magic comes in.

When Visa on Tuesday (Feb. 9) officially rolled out its Visa Consumer Transaction Controls program, it provided puzzle pieces that payment facilitators are much better positioned to use than others in the payments arena.

Global Payments Wrap: Bad News For MasterCard Out Of Australia

This week's global payments news takes us to Australia, the U.K., the Czech Republic, India and Hong Kong. Australia's ANZ Mobile Pay opts for Visa over MasterCard. Following a Visa-only deal announced from NAB Pay late last month, the ANZ move means double bad Australian bank moves for MasterCard.

American Express Global Business Travel's new system promises to "locate all travelers worldwide, visualize which travelers are closest to a potential travel disruption and enables travel and risk managers to not only locate impacted travelers but also communicate with them in real-time. The GBT solution enables companies to communicate with traveller via SMS, email, or a mobile application, and prioritize aid to those travelers with the greatest need," said an Amex statement.

This week's global payments news takes us to Australia, the U.K., the Czech Republic, India and Hong Kong. Australia's ANZ Mobile Pay opts for Visa over MasterCard. Following a Visa-only deal announced from NAB Pay late last month, the ANZ move means double bad Australian bank moves for MasterCard.

Payments Patent Wrap: How Does A Payment Device Know Whose Voice Command To Obey?

In this week's look at interesting payments patents issued and/or applied for, Amazon and Visa are the guests of honor. Amazon was issued a patent on Tuesday (Feb. 9) for a way to help POS and other systems differentiate different people, when they are all giving voice commands. Amazon: POS, listen to the sound of my voice. No, not her voice. My voice.

Visa was issued a patent on Tuesday (Feb. 9) for ways to identify one user that works with multiple payments devices. The problem? "Each portable payment device associated with a single account within a payment processing system is distinguished using track data. The track data from the portable payment device is read at each of a plurality of merchant point of sale terminals (POS). Rather than relying on the PAN alone, a merchant may utilizes the track data, or a proxy thereof, as the unique identifier for the portable payment device," Visa's patent filing said.

In this week's look at interesting payments patents issued and/or applied for, Amazon and Visa are the guests of honor. Amazon was issued a patent on Tuesday (Feb. 9) for a way to help POS and other systems differentiate different people, when they are all giving voice commands. Amazon: POS, listen to the sound of my voice. No, not her voice. My voice.

PF Confusion May Yet Endanger This Embryonic Market

Confusion regarding the term payment facilitator poses a great risk to the PF community. It is only a matter of time before a registered PF goes belly up due to a lack of understanding of the risk associated with taking liability for sub merchants and meeting the rules of the card brands. When a PF does go belly up, there is a real risk of stifling innovation due to increased regulations.

SAAS providers, community heads and point-of-sale providers all need payments and view a PF license as the panacea to their challenges in processing payments. Investments are at stake and an expectation of get to market reigns supreme. Yet many providers, in their quest to get to market fast, don’t have sufficient information to make an informed decision as to what it means to be a registered PF. The notion of simply signing a merchant agreement and paying $5,000 to register seems all too easy. The liability, regulatory requirements, audits, PCI and flexibility take a back seat in the go-to-market strategy.

Confusion regarding the term payment facilitator poses a great risk to the PF community. It is only a matter of time before a registered PF goes belly up due to a lack of understanding of the risk associated with taking liability for sub merchants and meeting the rules of the card brands. When a PF does go belly up, there is a real risk of stifling innovation due to increased regulations.

Can Anyone Really Tell The Payments Impact On Revenue?

Although it's all-but-universally accepted that the more customer-desired payments options a merchant offers the better, it's often tricky to measure the revenue-specific results. David Cost, VP of e-commerce for apparel site Rainbow Shops, found this out a few months ago when his site started accepting PayPal. Revenue increased at the same rate it historically has, but 20 percent of payments almost immediately started being fulfilled by PayPal.

The tricky question is: Would the shoppers who used PayPal have made those identical purchases anyway, using Visa/MasterCard? Or did the PayPal move save those sales and prevent the revenue from plunging?

Although it's all-but-universally accepted that the more customer-desired payments options a merchant offers the better, it's often tricky to measure the revenue-specific results. David Cost, VP of e-commerce for apparel site Rainbow Shops, found this out a few months ago when his site started accepting PayPal. Revenue increased at the same rate it historically has, but 20 percent of payments almost immediately started being fulfilled by PayPal.

Podcast: A Preview Of Next Month’s MAC Show

The Merchant Acquirers Committee (MAC) show will unfold in Las Vegas March 8-10 and MAC President Richard Parrott makes his case this show will be a different kind of payments event. Specifically, it will be much more specific.

In this week's PaymentFaciliators.com podcast, Parrott argues that the show will be far more granular than other payments show, allowing for payments professionals to learn specific techniques and methods, rather than broad overviews of industry trends.

The Merchant Acquirers Committee (MAC) show will unfold in Las Vegas March 8-10 and MAC President Richard Parrott makes his case this show will be a different kind of payments event. Specifically, it will be much more specific. In this week's PaymentFaciliators.com podcast, Parrott argues that the show will be far more granular than other payments show, allowing for payments professionals to learn specific techniques and methods, rather than broad overviews of industry trends.

The Bank ATM Deals With ApplePay Promise What NFC Needs: Normalcy

When the news hit recently that Bank of America and Wells Fargo were preparing to integrate Apple Pay into their ATMs—on top of an existing deal with Android Pay—it promised a healthy dose of what NFC wallets need more than anything else right now: Normalcy.

At a practical level, the banks can position this as little more than an attempt to eventually phase out the plastic ATM card, not to mention then greenbacks they represent—which, of course, is true. But payment facilitators and others are relying on mobile wallets becoming more than a novelty for the geekiest of shoppers at a handful of the most tech-friendly retailers. For them, the ATM move has delightful potential.

When the news hit recently that Bank of America and Wells Fargo were preparing to integrate Apple Pay into their ATMs—on top of an existing deal with Android Pay—it promised a healthy dose of what NFC wallets need more than anything else right now: Normalcy.

Global Wrap: Russia Wants To Imprison Bitcoin Users

This week's look at payments stories from around the globe stops at the U.K., Russia, Hungary and the European Union. Choose your currency carefully in Russia these days as the Russian Finance Ministry doesn't mess around. The Ministry wants to punish anyone who uses Bitcoins with a 500,000 ruble (about $6,500 U.S.) fine and two years in a "corrective labor" camp, according to a report in Crypto Coins News. The story says that corrective labor is just what it sounds like: "a combination of penal detention and forced labor."

After the Hungarian Competition Authority slapped MasterCard with a HUF 88 million (about $318,000 U.S.) fine "for abusing its market position," the card brand said it would appeal the fine, according to a report in The Budapest Business Journal. And the EU wants to cap cash payments in an anti-terror move.

This week's look at payments stories from around the globe stops at the U.K., Russia, Hungary and the European Union. Choose your currency carefully in Russia these days as the Russian Finance Ministry doesn't mess around. The Ministry wants to punish anyone who uses Bitcoins with a 500,000 ruble (about $6,500 U.S.) fine and two years in a "corrective labor" camp, according to a report in Crypto Coins News. The story says that corrective labor is just what it sounds like: "a combination of penal detention and forced labor."

The PF Space In Mexico: Salary Debit Cards The Key To The Future

The Mexican payment space is growing rapidly, but it's a country where cash still accounts for some 85 percent of all transactions. It's communities are cursed with large pockets of extreme poverty and banks are viewed with high suspicion.

Although, at a glance, this land seems an ill fit for payment facilitators to flourish, it's a market ripe for growth. And it's businesses that are overwhelmingly paying employees with debit cards that could be the key. "In Mexico, cash is still king, by far," said Ignacio Hidalgo, the director of consulting for a Mexican PF called Marketing Ideas and Technology (MIT, pronounced mēt). Hidalgo said the current environment is simply far more conducive to cash than payment cards or mobile money.

The Mexican payment space is growing rapidly, but it's a country where cash still accounts for some 85 percent of all transactions. It's communities are cursed with large pockets of extreme poverty and banks are viewed with high suspicion.

Visa Adds New Level 4 PCI Requirement, As The PF Attractiveness Gets A Lot Stronger

In a late holiday gift for PFs everywhere, Visa has upped the requirements for PCI Level 4 (small businesses) merchants. Specifically, as the end of January 2017, those small merchants "must use only Payment Card Industry (PCI)-certified Qualified Integrators and Reseller (QIR) professionals for point-of-sale (POS) application and terminal installation and integration."

Although few would argue that using trained and approved vendors to do any POS work is not a good idea, merchants are already feeling that the burdens of getting and staying PCI compliant are too high. Given a PF's willingness to take on all of the PCI aggravation, that offer just got more attractive to Level 4s.

In a late holiday gift for PFs everywhere, Visa has upped the requirements for PCI Level 4 (small businesses) merchants. Specifically, as the end of January 2017, those small merchants "must use only Payment Card Industry (PCI)-certified Qualified Integrators and Reseller (QIR) professionals for point-of-sale (POS) application and terminal installation and integration."

Event-Booker Placefull Converts To PF, Creates A Sizable Profit Event

One of the key advantages to being a payment facilitator is that it is the desired brand of the merchant that appears on the customer's statement. That certainly delivers the expected marketing boost (brand reinforcement) for the merchant, but event-booking PF Placefull is fond of that brand appearance for a very different reason: far fewer chargebacks.

"We have always wanted the merchant brand to have the most presence. One of the things we didn't like with a Paypal or Stripe experience—other than it's not a pretty-looking site—is that we never wanted to have a broken experience," said Placefull CEO Ryan Hamlin. "Now it’s ABC Bowling that will appear on the bill statement. The amount of disputes and, frankly, fraud was much higher before because people would see something on their statement and would call and dispute it."

One of the key advantages to being a payment facilitator is that it is the desired brand of the merchant that appears on the customer's statement. That certainly delivers the expected marketing boost (brand reinforcement) for the merchant, but event-booking PF Placefull is fond of that brand appearance for a very different reason: far fewer chargebacks.

How Flexible Is The PF Model?

The strength of any payment model is not merely how well it performs for merchants, but also how elastic it is in terms of being relevant to many kinds of companies and geographies. That is the topic for this week's PaymentFacilitator.com podcast, with guest Todd Ablowitz, president of Double Diamond Group.

Ablowitz pointed to a recently-profiled company called RunSignUp.com as a good example of how flexible the PF model can be. The PF model lets merchants and software companies seamlessly integrate payments "without this artificial wall between the payment gateway and the merchant account," Ablowitz said. "This removes many of the barriers. Banks move slowly and they have a lot of bureaucracy."

The strength of any payment model is not merely how well it performs for merchants, but also how elastic it is in terms of being relevant to many kinds of companies and geographies. That is the topic for this week's PaymentFacilitator.com podcast, with guest Todd Ablowitz, president of Double Diamond Group.

Patent Wrap: If A Stylus Is Out-Of-Date, How About Stylus Integrated Into A Plastic Card?

Our weekly look at the most interesting—or perplexing—Patents or Patents Pending from the payments industry brings us two from MasterCard. MasterCard on Tuesday (Jan. 26) was issued a patent for a creative way to integrate a high-tech stylus with plastic cards.

Can Privacy Be Maintained By Analyzing Consumer Spend? Yes, But It's Not Easy. The patent applicaton described "a method for maintaining consumer privacy in behavioral scoring includes a first computing system and a second computing system. The first computing system disguises consumer characteristics and maps disguised consumer characteristics to unencrypted account identifiers, and then transmits the data to the second computing system. The second computing system encrypts the account identifiers upon receipt, and maps the encrypted account identifiers to anonymous transaction data."

Our weekly look at the most interesting—or perplexing—Patents or Patents Pending from the payments industry brings us two from MasterCard. MasterCard on Tuesday (Jan. 26) was issued a patent for a creative way to integrate a high-tech stylus with plastic cards.

National Australia Bank Pushing Android NFC Payments

This week's global payments report hits Australia, Asia, U.K., Hong Kong and China. The National Australia Bank (NAB) has updated its mobile banking app to enable Visa Debit account holders to make tap-and-go payments..

Asian Shoppers Driving Global Stat: 34 Percent Online Transactions Now Mobile. Asian markets took an outsized amount of influence on the global stats. U.K. Banks Change Rules For Reimbursing Errored Online Payments. The circumstances are limited, but in cases where there is no dispute, the funds now have to be replaced within 20 working days.

This week's global payments report hits Australia, Asia, U.K., Hong Kong and China. The National Australia Bank (NAB) has updated its mobile banking app to enable Visa Debit account holders to make tap-and-go payments.

Ford’s Mobile Wallet TipToes Into IoT Payments

When Ford rolled out its mobile wallet this month, it took to heart the concept of contextual payments, focusing on paying for parking from within the vehicle as well as leasing alternative vehicles. But it's view of mobile was using a smartphone, rather than making the payments automobile-embedded. Although iPhones may weigh much less than two tons, few Apple Pay transactions will work at 80 MPH.

"FordPass, part of Ford’s transformation into an auto and mobility company, aims to do for car owners what iTunes did for music fans," Ford said. "Launching in April, FordPass reimagines the relationship between automaker and consumer. Membership is free—whether you own a Ford vehicle or not—by registering online." *Sigh* It's not a good sign for business when Visa talks about integrating payments in cars and Ford thinks it can accomplish anything with a mobile app on someone else's hardware. It owns the cars and that's where its customers are. Why not place the payments apparatus right there in the car's dashboard, in a place where rivals can't reach?

When Ford rolled out its mobile wallet this month, it took to heart the concept of contextual payments, focusing on paying for parking from within the vehicle as well as leasing alternative vehicles. But it's view of mobile was using a smartphone, rather than making the payments automobile-embedded. Although iPhones may weigh much less than two tons, few Apple Pay transactions will work at 80 MPH.

Patent Wrap: Why Limit POS Communications To Payments?, Wonders MasterCard

This week's wrapup of the latest in payments patent applications and patents issued.

MasterCard: Why Limit POS Communications To Payments? In a U.S. Patent application filed by MasterCard on Jan. 14, the card brand envisioned using POS data connections as a more flexible communication system, with messages going "to an entity that is neither a payment account issuer nor the transaction acquirer."

This week's wrapup of the latest in payments patent applications and patents issued. MasterCard: Why Limit POS Communications To Payments?

Sports Event PF Running Between Processors

Payment Facilitator RunSignup.com is all about trying to take the complexities out of managing running events. It's service and products include means to track times, tracker runners during events, assist with registration and creating customized sites. Making races easy is one thing. Making payments easy is, well, a much more uphill rocky path.

When the company started in 2009, they solely used Braintree to process transactions. As of March 2015, they added Vantiv and it's that Vantiv relationship that turns them into a traditional PF, said RunSignup.com CFO Kevin Harris. The company finds the terms and capabilities of Vantiv more to its liking—referring to its customers, Harris said "We'd like to funnel them all through Vantiv, candidly"—but there's a reason it needs to continue to offer both.

Payment Facilitator RunSignup.com is all about trying to take the complexities out of managing running events. It's service and products include means to track times, tracker runners during events, assist with registration and creating customized sites. Making races easy is one thing. Making payments easy is, well, a much more uphill rocky path.

Can Starbucks Pull A Payments Pied Piper With Musical Mobile Money?

Starbucks is working with Spotify on a music deal, one where Starbucks customers will be able to easily download songs from the Starbucks playlist. Here's the hook: It's a backdoor route to more mobile payments.

Before you dismiss this as too bizarre to have any payments impact, music has had some surprising influences on retail purchases. To be precise, it's not the music itself as much as allowing the shopper to be in control of the music.

Starbucks is working with Spotify on a music deal, one where Starbucks customers will be able to easily download songs from the Starbucks playlist. Here's the hook: It's a backdoor route to more mobile payments.

Global Wrap: In China, 360,000 Mobile Payment Viruses Detected In 2015

This week's wrapup of payments news around the globe brings us to Brazil, China, Nigeria, the Netherlands, France, India, Canada and the U.K..

In China, 360,000 Mobile Payment Viruses Detected In 2015. As many as 25.05 million mobile phone users in 2015 became victims of various viruses in China amid the growing popularity of mobile payment in the country, according to a report from the Tencent Research Institute and reported by ChinaDaily.com.

This week's wrapup of payments news around the globe brings us to Brazil, China, Nigeria, the Netherlands, France, India, Canada and the U.K..

Carrier Billing’s New Friends May Prove To Be PF Good Fortune

Carrier billing is hardly a new concept, but some coverage has focused on renewed carrier billing efforts from the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google. Part of the reason that carrier billing has not, thus far, gone very far is that most consumers trust their carriers less than a convicted child molester politician. But carrier trust and likability aside, carrier billing has—on paper—a lot going for it. And payment facilitators are uniquely positioned to benefit from this move.

Carrier billing sidesteps some security concerns because the payment details reside with a company that already has them. Although that's certainly not risk-free, it's a zero increase in risk. More precisely, it's less risky than turning over payment credentials to an unknown merchant for a one-time transaction, especially if it's a faceless e-commerce site. From the merchant's perspective, there is the potential for much lower fees as interchange—in the traditional sense—is gone, especially if the consumer pays that carrier bill via check or, much more likely, ACH.

Carrier billing is hardly a new concept, but some coverage has focused on renewed carrier billing efforts from the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Google. Part of the reason that carrier billing has not, thus far, gone very far is that most consumers trust their carriers less than a convicted child molester politician. But carrier trust and likability aside, carrier billing has—on paper—a lot going for it. And payment facilitators are uniquely positioned to benefit from this move.

How Obamacare Ushered In PF-Friendly Payments

Payment facilitator Softheon is an old hand at handling healthcare insurance matters, "dating back to the Romneycare days," said Softheon CEO Eugene Sayan. But Softheon these days—contrary to the PF reputation of focusing only on small businesses—works with the biggest of the U.S. insurance companies, processing a healthy percentage of Obamacare health plans, along with quite a few state plans.

What makes Softheon's move especially interesting is that it was able to position a new system for payments on top of a new system for insurance. "We took payment reform and piggybacked it onto healthcare reform," Sayan said. The twist is that when Softheon started with healthcare insurance, payments had almost universally been done by check, with a smattering of direct withdrawals. Using payment cards for insurance premiums was unheard of then. Thanks to Softheon and others, that's no longer true.

Payment facilitator Softheon is an old hand at handling healthcare insurance matters, "dating back to the Romneycare days," said Softheon CEO Eugene Sayan. But Softheon these days—contrary to the PF reputation of focusing only on small businesses—works with the biggest of the U.S. insurance companies, processing a healthy percentage of Obamacare health plans, along with quite a few state plans.

Small Biz Mobile Weakness Is PF Strength

Forget online banking, from old-fashioned desktops and tablets. New stats show that transactions and financial interactions from mobile-only banking alone last year surpassed those done in physical branches, according to figures published Tuesday (Jan. 12) by Javelin Strategy and Research.

But as much as this reaffirms conventional wisdom that mobile is taking over almost all forms of payments, it’s far from universal. This banking mobile embrace is distinctly not happening with smaller community banks as they mirror the same mobile problems that are plaguing small businesses in just about every other vertical. And therein lies the PF opportunity.

Forget online banking, from old-fashioned desktops and tablets. New stats show that transactions and financial interactions from mobile-only banking alone last year surpassed those done in physical branches, according to figures published Tuesday (Jan. 12) by Javelin Strategy and Research. But as much as this reaffirms conventional wisdom that mobile is taking over almost all forms of payments, it’s far from universal. This banking mobile embrace is distinctly not happening with smaller community banks as they mirror the same mobile problems that are plaguing small businesses in just about every other vertical. And therein lies the PF opportunity.

Podcast: The Tricks To Mastering The PF ROI

Just because a business adopts a payment facilitator business model, that doesn't mean that its executives let those new procedures touch every aspect of their business. But not doing so can literally cost a business money by robbing it of some of the benefits that initially attracted those execs to the PF model.

New PF companies run that risk "if we don't do a good job of building the metrics that measure the success of our throughput, as in how many apps an hour, what volumes are we looking at, what SIC codes?" said Joni Floyd, a 35-year veteran ISO exec, who penned a column about these conundrums last week, in our new podcast. "A lot of times, the financial operations or the settlement accounting of an organization doesn't really change when you go from a strict direct merchant to a sub-merchant model. All of the chargeback fees might be dropped into the same general ledger account. Sub-merchant and direct merchant losses might not be recorded correctly," Floyd said. "One of the challenges to the back-office of the operation, in parallel with implementing the payment facilitator model, is making sure that our financial operations team records the expenses relative to both direct merchants and sub-merchants so that we don't overburden our sub-merchant categories with expenses that don't pertain to them, like chargebacks, write-offs due to risk or bankruptcies."

Just because a business adopts a payment facilitator business model, that doesn't mean that its executives let those new procedures touch every aspect of their business. But not doing so can literally cost a business money by robbing it of some of the benefits that initially attracted those execs to the PF model.

MasterCard’s Payments-Integrated Fridge Leaves Futurists Cold

When MasterCard used the Consumer Electronic Show on Tuesday (Jan. 5) to unveil its Groceries By MasterCard program, it was an all-too-common payments trend: the introduction of an interesting product with long-term potential, but with the initial version being so limited as to be almost pointless.

The idea behind the Groceries introduction is compelling. The concept is that the card brand would integrate payments deep within Samsung’s new Family Hub refrigerator, a first-class example of the Internet Of Things becoming reality. That is until you start asking questions.

When MasterCard used the Consumer Electronic Show on Tuesday (Jan. 5) to unveil its Groceries By MasterCard program, it was an all-too-common payments trend: the introduction of an interesting product with long-term potential, but with the initial version being so limited as to be almost pointless.

With Lyft Investment, Is GM Getting Out Of The Car Business Or Are Cars Getting Out Of The GM Business?

When Lyft announced on Monday (Jan. 4) that it had just closed a $1 billion round of funding—which included $500 million from General Motors—it struck some as puzzling. Why would an automaker like GM want a big chunk of a car-on-demand service? Did Toyota ever make a huge strategic invest in Yellow Cab? The answer lies in huge imminent changes within the car industry, as it inches its way from a product business to a service business.

The other half-billion came from more traditional investors, with the Kingdom Holding Company dropping $100 million (bringing Kingdom's total Lyft investment to $250 million) and the rest coming from Janus Capital Management, Rakuten, Didi Kuaidi and Alibaba. This all brings Lyft's current valuation to about $5.5 billion. But where's the strategic link between a car-maker and a ride-sharer? That's where things get interesting.

When Lyft announced on Monday (Jan. 4) that it had just closed a $1 billion round of funding—which included $500 million from General Motors—it struck some as puzzling. Why would an automaker like GM want a big chunk of a car-on-demand service? Did Toyota ever make a huge strategic invest in Yellow Cab? The answer lies in huge imminent changes within the car industry, as it inches its way from a product business to a service business.

Apple Envisions P2P In Every Possible Way

With Apple's P2P rollout and partnerships getting closer, it's not surprising that Apple was granted a Patent for the approach last month. But what was not expected was how inclusive and extensive Cupertino envisions P2P being, with the capability integrated into almost every iPhone function.

"It’s clear that Apple is planning to provide an OS-wide payments integration that provides merchants with marketing benefits such as the ability to promote certain deals directly into the OS, such as geo-location based promotions into Maps, or via e-mails or instant messages, all with the ability to compete purchase/pre-order with one click based on Apple Pay enrollment and identity information stored on the device," said Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst with payments consulting firm Double Diamond Group, Oglesby argues that this is the logical next move for Apple, as Apple Pay moves into its second-year year with growing market maturity and acceptance.

With Apple's P2P rollout and partnerships getting closer, it's not surprising that Apple was granted a Patent for the approach last month. But what was not expected was how inclusive and extensive Cupertino envisions P2P being, with the capability integrated into almost every iPhone function.

The Confusing Side Of Chase Pay

When Chase rolled out Chase Pay late last year, it risked customer confusion because it was adding a new payment mechanism to the Chase mobile packages already offered. Chase customers already have a Chase Visa card and, based on Chase’s recommendation, more than a million of those cards are already loaded into Apple Pay. Now Chase Pay will be automatically added to the Chase mobile app that already has 21 million active Chase customers, which guarantees there will be a significant overlap with the users of Apple Pay. The goal of Chase Pay is to have all 21 million Chase customers use Chase Pay with their existing Chase-issued credit, debit, and prepaid cards for in-store payments, which of course means they will need to learn how to use Chase Pay.

Cardholders will retain all the same rewards and consumer protections using Chase Pay as they have with their existing cards. Currently the Chase web site identifies the primary benefit as merchant discounts. But Chase customers that already have Chase cards provisioned into Apple Pay or Android Pay will confront an impossibly confusing choice relative to acceptance. Since Chase Pay will have a limited acceptance footprint that is different than the limited footprint associated with the NFC-based competitors, it strikes Mercator that a customer will simply become even more unsure what mobile app is accepted at which merchant locations and will revert instead to the tried and true physical card.

When Chase rolled out Chase Pay late last year, it risked customer confusion because it was adding a new payment mechanism to the Chase mobile packages already offered. Chase customers already have a Chase Visa card and, based on Chase’s recommendation, more than a million of those cards are already loaded into Apple Pay. Now Chase Pay will be automatically added to the Chase mobile app that already has 21 million active Chase customers, which guarantees there will be a significant overlap with the users of Apple Pay. The goal of Chase Pay is to have all 21 million Chase customers use Chase Pay with their existing Chase-issued credit, debit, and prepaid cards for in-store payments, which of course means they will need to learn how to use Chase Pay.

Why Are Merchants So Afraid Of Mobile Payments?

With all of the hoopla surrounding mobile payments, there is often little attention paid to the pragmatic obstacles faced by retailers in the field. And those obstacles are causing a river of fear, loathing and more fear among merchants when they consider mobile payments. Today, the ease in which a customer can order a pizza is becoming almost as important as the recipe for the sauce. But when it comes to mobile, it's all about ordering, loyalty, and offers—pretty much everything but payment. Why is payment not top of mind? From the chain’s perspective, it's an ugly topics about increased costs and added complexities. For many of my restaurant clients, mobile payments cause more problems than it solves.

Let's not beat around the bush: there is loathing among the restaurant industry when it comes to payment card processing and the associated costs. They still are angry about EMV. I am constantly being asked what can be done with technology to reduce or mitigate these costs. "Can the delivery driver swipe a card at the customer's door? Will that help? If the customer orders online, but picks up their pizza in the restaurant, can we just authorize the transaction online and then cancel it and re-do it in the restaurant to get a card present rate? Can we look at alternative forms of payment that will reduce our overall payment processing costs?" And while these are all good ideas, each one comes with technical and operational challenges that are non-trivial and, in some cases, can make the situation worse than before.

With all of the hoopla surrounding mobile payments, there is often little attention paid to the pragmatic obstacles faced by retailers in the field. And those obstacles are causing a river of fear, loathing and more fear among merchants when they consider mobile payments. Today, the ease in which a customer can order a pizza is becoming almost as important as the recipe for the sauce. But when it comes to mobile, it's all about ordering, loyalty, and offers—pretty much everything but payment. Why is payment not top of mind? From the chain’s perspective, it's an ugly topics about increased costs and added complexities. For many of my restaurant clients, mobile payments cause more problems than it solves.

Payment Patent Package: Using Beacons To Shrewdly Choose Checkout Lanes

This week's holiday-theme gragbag of payments patents and patents pending focuses on privacy—and why no one should have it. PayPal was issued a Patent on Tuesday (Jan. 5) for a way to use retailer-based wireless beacons to calculate how much a shopper is buying and to then send them to the best checkout lane. It may or may not be the best lane for that shopper, but it will be the best to move the greatest number of customers out as quickly as possible. The patent argued that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few.

"At various merchant locations, such as a merchant's retail store, a user may browse items and/or services for sale from the merchant and select various items/services for purchase from the merchant. These items/services may be grouped in areas together, such as a produce or bakery of a shopping market or a computers or televisions section of an electronics store. Based on the amount of items/services purchased, the user may spend a different amount of time completing a checkout and payment. For example, purchasing one bag of apples may be very quick; however, purchasing enough vegetables, meat, condiments, and hamburger buns for a barbeque may take a considerably larger amount of time," the Patent said.

This week's holiday-theme gragbag of payments patents and patents pending focuses on privacy—and why no one should have it. PayPal was issued a Patent on Tuesday (Jan. 5) for a way to use retailer-based wireless beacons to calculate how much a shopper is buying and to then send them to the best checkout lane. It may or may not be the best lane for that shopper, but it will be the best to move the greatest number of customers out as quickly as possible. The patent argued that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few.

Global Wrap: Visa Europe Falling Out Of Love With Bitcoin

In Visa Europe's end-of-the-year payments wrap, it went out of its way to indicate that when it comes to virtual currencies, the Euro cardbrand has a roving eye.

"When 2015 arrived, a lot of innovation chatter in Fintech focused on Bitcoin, but as we leave the year, that focus has shifted substantially to the blockchain. If we think back to how it was perceived a year ago and then how it is understood today, it’s clear that another transformation is happening," the Visa Europe post said. "2015 has turned blockchain into something the industry has to live with. It is no longer a choice anymore. Recent news speculating about the identity of its creator and the formalisation of virtual money as a commodity, just makes it more real than ever before."

In Visa Europe's end-of-the-year payments wrap, it went out of its way to indicate that when it comes to virtual currencies, the Euro cardbrand has a roving eye.

Swing The Risk And Benefit From The Math

As an industry, we can immediately grasp the benefit and value of the Payment Facilitator model. We can examine, cipher and build the mathematical equations around the cost/benefit of expedited on-boarding, the value of aggregated funds, reduced cost of signing and supporting as well as the increased sales funnel due to expanded MCC’s.

What we are minimizing, or perhaps overlooking all together in the value chain formula, is the shift in the type of loss category experienced with traditional direct merchant portfolios as compared to a PayFac operating sub-merchant model. In traditional direct portfolios, loss categories that skew to the high end of the scale typically include bankruptcies or other financial interruptions, merchant/cardholder collusion/bust out schemes and cardholder fraud that results in Chargeback losses. The common theme of these loss categories - they are event driven and typically unpredictable.

As an industry, we can immediately grasp the benefit and value of the Payment Facilitator model. We can examine, cipher and build the mathematical equations around the cost/benefit of expedited on-boarding, the value of aggregated funds, reduced cost of signing and supporting as well as the increased sales funnel due to expanded MCC’s.

Just What The Payments Industry Needs: The Mike Tyson Digital Wallet

When Bitcoin Direct on Monday (Jan. 4) unveiled the Mike Tyson Digital Wallet, it was asking for trouble. You know it's a bad sign when your marketing move is so awful that Time Magazine can't resist making fun of it.

The point of a celebrity endorsement is that the celebrity's brand has some positive attributes—bravery, intelligence, beauty, talent—that a company wants attributed to its brand. What exactly was the positive association Bitcoin Direct had in mind? How would this make consumers more comfortable using Bitcoin? In the world of payments marketing, this is arguably the most "what were these people smoking?" move since Softcard—known then as ISIS (which itself was an interesting bit of name association)—hired a sleight-of-hand artist to demonstrate its mobile wallet at the South by Southwest conference in Austin back in 2012.

When Bitcoin Direct on Monday (Jan. 4) unveiled the Mike Tyson Digital Wallet, it was asking for trouble. You know it's a bad sign when your marketing move is so awful that Time Magazine can't resist making fun of it.

Is TargetPay/WalmartPay A Return To Payments Yesteryear?

When word came out last month that Target was preparing its own mobile wallet app called TargetPay, which followed Walmart's confirmed Walmartpay, which itself followed the announcement of ChasePay, it started to feel as though the payments world was de-evolving into an earlier era.

In the days before Visa and MasterCard came to dominance, almost every major retailer had their own payment card (the Macy's card, the Bloomingdale's card). From a customer experience perspective, it became clear that allowing shoppers to pay for everything with just one or two cards would much more effectively encourage plastic purchases. Fast-forward now to mobile payments in 2016. We are now seeing two distinct camps: the one-for-all-and-all-for-one camp featuring Google Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal and potentially even MCX's CurrentC; and the one-for-one group with WalmartPay, TargetPay and Starbucks. (To be precise, Starbucks is a footnote here, given its use of ApplePay.)

When word came out last month that Target was preparing its own mobile wallet app called TargetPay, which followed Walmart's confirmed Walmartpay, which itself followed the announcement of ChasePay, it started to feel as though the payments world was de-evolving into an earlier era.

Walmart Pay: For The Retailer Who’s Given Up Trying To Get His Way

When Walmart last week introduced Walmart Pay, it was shown to be a simple app that would accept "any major payment type" but it would only work at Walmart. In short, it was the last thing that interchange-fee-hating Walmart wanted to do, especially in the mobile world. MCX's original vision, a merchant utopia where transactions were done in the non-interchange grab-the-money-directly-from-the-shopper's-bank-account universe and one app was used at thousands of different merchant stores, was Walmart's dream.

Mike Cook is the Walmart Senior VP/Assistant Treasurer who initiated the idea of MCX and pushed it so aggressively that many involved—and especially those who chose to not be involved—said the name virtually stood for Mike Cook Exchange. When Walmart Pay was announced, it was Cook whose name was on a statement issued to the media. Said Cook: "We remain committed to MCX, and recently launched acceptance of CurrentC in all of our locations in the Columbus market. We view Walmart Pay and CurrentC as complementary mobile payments solutions, and expect the two to build off each other’s success." Walmart expects "the two to build off each other's success"? If Walmart had even the slightest confidence that MCX and CurrentC were going to enjoy even a modicum of success, Walmart Pay wouldn't have been rolled out. It's true they will support both—there's not a lot of reason to not do so—but Walmart Pay is everything Walmart didn't want to do.

When Walmart last week introduced Walmart Pay, it was shown to be a simple app that would accept "any major payment type" but it would only work at Walmart. In short, it was the last thing that interchange-fee-hating Walmart wanted to do, especially in the mobile world. MCX's original vision, a merchant utopia where transactions were done in the non-interchange grab-the-money-directly-from-the-shopper's-bank-account universe and one app was used at thousands of different merchant stores, was Walmart's dream.

Payments Patent Potpourri: A Way For Visa To Ride The Payment Rails Faster

This is our weekly plunge into some of the more interesting patents awarded in the payments space.

Visa Needs To Ride The Rails Faster—And These Are Literally Rails. On Tuesday (Dec. 15), Visa was granted a patent that deals with how transactions can be approved quickly enough for the increasingly-popular mobile public transit payments.

This is our weekly plunge into some of the more interesting patents awarded in the payments space. Visa Needs To Ride The Rails Faster—And These Are Literally Rails. On Tuesday (Dec. 15), Visa was granted a patent that deals with how transactions can be approved quickly enough for the increasingly-popular mobile public transit payments.

The Struggles Of Social Media Authentication For PFs

On December 8, Facebook said that the number of active business Pages on Facebook has grown to 50 million, a 25 percent increase since 40 million in April. This casual announcement from Facebook is significant for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it confirms what payment facilitators have known for years: Social payment needs are soaring.

Specifically, FB's stats illustrate the explosive, global growth in the number of small merchants while simultaneously reminding merchants how much they need to embrace social media as both a marketing and communications tool.

On December 8, Facebook said that the number of active business Pages on Facebook has grown to 50 million, a 25 percent increase since 40 million in April. This casual announcement from Facebook is significant for a few reasons, not the least of which is that it confirms what payment facilitators have known for years: Social payment needs are soaring.

Global Wrap: Russia Offers Card Brand Alternative, Citi Guts Loyalty Benefits In Australia

This week's reports—from Russia, Taiwan, Australia, China, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Canada— show the continued shifts in payments strategies across the globe.

Russian Banks Issue First Payment Alternative To Visa, MasterCard. The move on Tuesday (Dec. 15) reveals the Mir card, which translates to "peace," "world" and "Bite me, U.S. card brands." According to a story in The Rakyat Post, Mir was issued "by a string of banks, among them Gazprombank, Rossiya bank and others blacklisted by the West following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year."

This week's reports—from Russia, Taiwan, Australia, China, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Canada— show the continued shifts in payments strategies across the globe.

Deloitte: Ignorance Isn’t Bliss. It’s Killing Mobile Payments

On Wednesday (Dec. 9), Deloitte released a major mobile report and concluded that mobile payments is suffering from a payments industry self-inflicted wound: an almost criminal lack of shopper and store associate education about mobile payments.

This is one of those good news/bad news situations. The good news is if the payments industry leaders act smart, this problem can not only be solved, but reversed. Consumer and store employee education will sharply boost mobile payments usage—and that will on top of a continual influx of new mobile shoppers as more people upgrade to NFC-friendly smartphones. The bad news is—when was the last time you saw a lot of payments industry leaders acting smart?

On Wednesday (Dec. 9), Deloitte released a major mobile report and concluded that mobile payments is suffering from a payments industry self-inflicted wound: an almost criminal lack of shopper and store associate education about mobile payments.

Gift Cards Are Soaring. Keep Gifting, But For Heavens Sake, Stop Carding

A report released Tuesday (Dec. 8) projected U.S. gift card spend will hit $130 billion in 2015, an increase of more than six percent compared with last year. The stats from the ninth annual CEB TowerGroup report were hardly surprising, so why note it? Is it time the industry seriously considering changing the name of gift cards?

The stored value mechanisms are increasingly likely to be digital. And unlike their payment card counterparts—which even in Apple Pay appear as pictures of their plastic rectangular historical selves—the so-called giftcards are running away from their plastic ancestry. And run quickly they should. The next step will be P2P transactions, with a parent or a friend zapping someone $100 that can only be spent at Walgreens. Shortly after that, the gift transaction might be limited to not a specific store, but to a product category. Why? Let's say a parent is sending money to a college-attending offspring and wants the money going to grocery fruits and vegetables and not beer and music.

A report released Tuesday (Dec. 8) projected U.S. gift card spend will hit $130 billion in 2015, an increase of more than six percent compared with last year. The stats from the ninth annual CEB TowerGroup report were hardly surprising, so why note it? Is it time the industry seriously considering changing the name of gift cards?

Payment Card Attorney Encourages Credit Unions To Reject Home Depot Data Breach Settlement

In a conference call on Monday (Dec. 7) organized by MasterCard, credit unions and other financial institutions were encouraged to reject data breach settlement offers from Home Depot, arguing that the offers are too vague.

In a blog post from the Credit Union National Association that described that conference call, Joseph Guglielmo, lead counsel for financial institutions in the case, was quoted as making the key presentation. "Until Home Depot discloses all of the facts relating to its agreement with MasterCard, we recommend that financial institutions reject any settlement that requires them to release their claims in court and does not offer a significant reimbursement for their losses, beyond what they’re already entitled to,” Guglielmo was quoted as saying.

In a conference call on Monday (Dec. 7) organized by MasterCard, credit unions and other financial institutions were encouraged to reject data breach settlement offers from Home Depot, arguing that the offers are too vague.

Payment Patent Potpourri: MasterCard Wants To Combine Purchase History With Police Files

Patents and Patent Pendings issued give a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, strategies and possible future product plans of payments company executives. Although many issued patents never morph into products, someone thought the idea was worth preserving as an option.

But it can also include plenty of "What the heck were they smoking?" ideas. This week's batch of Patents and Patent Pendings—from Visa, MasterCard, Paypal and eBay—doesn't disappoint.

Patents and Patent Pendings issued give a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, strategies and possible future product plans of payments company executives. Although many issued patents never morph into products, someone thought the idea was worth preserving as an option. But it can also include plenty of "What the heck were they smoking?" ideas. This week's batch of Patents and Patent Pendings—from Visa, MasterCard, Paypal and eBay—doesn't disappoint.

Global Wrap: In Australia, MC Exec Lashes Out At Apple/Amex Deal

This week's global payments report has investments from Mexico, India and the U.K., an Australian cyber currency IPO delayed for the fifth time, a Canadian Amex small merchant initiative and a MasterCard exec lashing out at the Apple/Amex deal in Australia.

There's more fallout from Apple's decision to launch in Australia (and Canada, for that matter) only with American Express cards. This time, it's from a MasterCard exec crying foul, arguing that regulators take a more lax regulatory position with Amex than with other card brands. Eddie Grobler, division president of MasterCard Australasia, said "Apple Pay launching in Australia with Amex proprietary cards was a symptom of its ability to charge merchants much higher fees than Visa or MasterCard and therefore having much fatter margins to share with Apple, which has been demanding a cut of the fees paid to banks before allowing them onto Apple Pay."

This week's global payments report has investments from Mexico, India and the U.K., an Australian cyber currency IPO delayed for the fifth time, a Canadian Amex small merchant initiative and a MasterCard exec lashing out at the Apple/Amex deal in Australia.

The Periodic Visa/MasterCard Obit Is As Wrong As It Is Boring

Throughout the years, the biz obituary has been repeatedly written for Visa and, to a lesser extent, MasterCard. Just about every movement that has threatened to destroy them—such as mobile firms creating their own rails to handle payments—has generally made them stronger, such as when those same mobile firms ended up realizing that it's cheaper to just use what the card brands already spent billions to create.

Every few years, another supposed card-brand-killer comes up. Remember how Durbin was supposed to be the end of Visa? And then it was ISIS/Softcard and Google Wallet? Not only were those obits wrong then, but given the realities today of card-brand-controlled tokenization, it's even more wrong now. The latest obit crafted was this investment column, which even went so far as to pencil in a date for the Visa/MasterCard tombstone, with a hed declaring "MasterCard and Visa Stock Could Crumble in 2016." (An old journalism professor years ago told a colleague that he should look at any headline that says "could" or "may" and see if it would be just as true were it changed to "could not" or "may not." If it was, kill that headline.)

Throughout the years, the biz obituary has been repeatedly written for Visa and, to a lesser extent, MasterCard. Just about every movement that has threatened to destroy them—such as mobile firms creating their own rails to handle payments—has generally made them stronger, such as when those same mobile firms ended up realizing that it's cheaper to just use what the card brands already spent billions to create.

RentMoola Deal Signals Major Upheaval In The Rental World

In the world of payment facilitators, it's hard to envision a segment more in need of payments updates than apartment rentals—one of the last nature preserves for the American Check. A deal announced on Tuesday (Dec. 1) between RentMoola and MasterCard is a very optimistic sign.

The deal itself is simple, but the potential implications are anything but. The deal positions MasterCard as RentMoola's preferred payment brand in the U.S. and Canada, which that tenants and condo owners get an unspecified preferred rate "as well as (again, unspecified) rewards with exclusive offers." This arrangement will include MasterPass "in early 2016," which presumably means any time before July. Replacing checks with payment cards is a step in the right direction, but where rental payments can really shake things up is when the process bypasses the landlord.

In the world of payment facilitators, it's hard to envision a segment more in need of payments updates than apartment rentals—one of the last nature preserves for the American Check. A deal announced on Tuesday (Dec. 1) between RentMoola and MasterCard is a very optimistic sign.

Amex Quietly Shuts Down Its Small Biz Saturday Credit Offers

For the last five years, American Express has championed its Small Business Saturday campaign the day after Black Friday, an attempt to get shoppers to refocus their attention on small local businesses. But this year, it quietly dropped a credit it gave to shoppers who participated (the amounts varied, but it was $30 last year).

Amex confirmed that it halted the incentives and said that it had replaced the cash with other program elements. Amex spokesperson Sravanthi Agrawal listed some of what they are doing instead of issuing the credits. The small business initiative is a very good idea, but when trying to persuade shoppers to change their retail habits, there is little—nay, there is nothing—more effective than a direct cash credit. No number of Neighborhood Campion programs or community events is going to be nearly as persuasive as a $30 credit going directly to the shopper.

For the last five years, American Express has championed its Small Business Saturday campaign the day after Black Friday, an attempt to get shoppers to refocus their attention on small local businesses. But this year, it quietly dropped a credit it gave to shoppers who participated (the amounts varied, but it was $30 last year).

Payment Patent Potpourri: PayPal and MasterCard Get Creative On Authentication, Plus Can Thunder Predict Transactions?

The U.S. Patent Office has been busy approving some wacky payment ideas and we're going to periodically tell you about some of our favorites. The winners this week are two unrelated ideas on mobile-based authentication from PayPal and MasterCard—including the length of a shopper's finger, how they walk and bits of their voice conversations—plus a MasterCard idea on exploring weather-to-purchase correlations on an individualized basis.

This Patent, issued on Tuesday (Dec. 1), is based on the length of a consumer's finger in a secondary fashion. What it actually does is ask the user to create a specific drawing, a task that will be done in a unique way by consumers because of their hand designs and other factors.

The U.S. Patent Office has been busy approving some wacky payment ideas and we're going to periodically tell you about some of our favorites. The winners this week are two unrelated ideas on mobile-based authentication from PayPal and MasterCard—including the length of a shopper's finger, how they walk and bits of their voice conversations—plus a MasterCard idea on exploring weather-to-purchase correlations on an individualized basis.

MasterCard Survey Finds That Australians Prefer NFC Over Cash. But That’s Not The Whole Story

In a survey that MasterCard commissioned in Australia, most participants said that they preferred contactless payments compared with cash. But the fineprint tells a different—and more perplexing—story. The card brand said the survey audience was "1,005 Australians aged between 18-64 years old, who have a credit or debit card." Nothing about them having an NFC-friendly smartphone, which is an important detail when gauging the interest and acceptance of contactless payments.

Of those surveyed, only 64 percent said they preferred contactless to cash, which means 36 percent still preferred cash. (See why it's critical to know if they even have the ability to do mobile payments?) Even worse, it wasn't a reference to all cash payments, but it was limited to "small transactions under a $100 instead of entering their PIN," MasterCard said. That raises the question of what would happen to that 64 percent stat when it tops $100 and PIN-entry becomes an issue? Does paper money regain its favored spot in Australian consumer wallets?

In a survey that MasterCard commissioned in Australia, most participants said that they preferred contactless payments compared with cash. But the fineprint tells a different—and more perplexing—story.

Use Apple Pay, Get Free Rides On The London Underground

The only viable long-term way to get shoppers to change their preferred payments method is to give them a reason to do so. Whether that's a discount for using NFC rather than plastic or greenbacks, coupons/discounts that are only available using a specific payment method or some other perk, consumers need to get something concrete. This is the bulk of the message that MCX is screaming. Someone at Apple is paying attention.

With its U.K. rollout, MasterCard announced free Apple Pay travel days until the end of the year, but only on Mondays. Technically, the fares aren't free but riders will have those fares reimbursed. "Customers can travel on Tube, buses, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London," said a MasterCard statement. "From a standing start to today, over 220 million journeys have been made using contactless bank cards and devices with over one million contactless journeys made every day. Currently, contactless journeys made across all modes make up nearly 25 percent of pay as you go journeys." More to the point, though, those contactless payments have generated non-travel contactless payments.

The only viable long-term way to get shoppers to change their preferred payments method is to give them a reason to do so. Whether that's a discount for using NFC rather than plastic or greenbacks, coupons/discounts that are only available using a specific payment method or some other perk, consumers need to get something concrete. This is the bulk of the message that MCX is screaming. Someone at Apple is paying attention.

Global Wrap: WeChat Unveils Overseas Social Payments, The Importance Of Amex In Australia

The first week of December shows a lot more international payments activity, with this week's news spotlighting shifts in Australia, China, the Netherlands, Africa and Germany.

When Apple Pay was launched in Australia last month, the fact that only Amex cards were supported was unusual. (And statements from MasterCard that cash in Australia is losing to mobile and contactless raised more questions than they answered.) But some of the explanations for that situation are now becoming clear.

The first week of December shows a lot more international payments activity, with this week's news spotlighting shifts in Australia, China, the Netherlands, Africa and Germany.

Court Of Appeals Speaks Up For The Payments Industry

When the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday (Nov. 30) slapped down the Cook County sheriff for trying to cut off payments on behalf of Backpage.com, the appellate court in effect set new rules for payment processors and card brands. The panel didn't voice an objection to Visa and MasterCard opting to cut off Backpage, but merely to a law enforcement agent trying to persuade—bully?—those businesses.

In short, the panel stood up for the payments industry and ordered that Sherriff Thomas J. Dart not "coerce or threaten credit card companies, processors, financial institutions, or other third parties with sanctions intended to ban credit card or other financial services from being provided to Backpage.com."

When the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday (Nov. 30) slapped down the Cook County sheriff for trying to cut off payments on behalf of Backpage.com, the appellate court in effect set new rules for payment processors and card brands. The panel didn't voice an objection to Visa and MasterCard opting to cut off Backpage, but merely to a law enforcement agent trying to persuade—bully?—those businesses.

MasterCard Thinks It Can Standardize Mobile Loyalty. And It Might Be Right

For mobile payments to move into the massive adoption phase, some version of loyalty/couponing will be essential. Otherwise, once the novelty wears off, there are simply no sustainable reasons for shoppers to stick with mobile. But with every mobile player preparing to somehow push loyalty, the chance of having conflicting incompatible technology is all-but-certain. Can MasterCard change that?

On Tuesday (Nov. 17), the number two card brand introduced a loyalty middleware specification that it hopes will be adopted widely enough to give mobile loyalty a chance to grow seamlessly. Given that few if any mobile payment schemes will be offered without support for at least one issuer's MasterCard, the card brand seems a sufficiently politically neutral player to sidestep the usual vendor resistance. In MasterCard's statement, the brand said it's proposed specification "enables mobile applications to offer a seamless connection between payment, promotions and loyalty redemption. It enables consumers to select their loyalty card, the coupons/promotions they want to redeem, and make a payment in a single or double tap at a contactless terminal."

For mobile payments to move into the massive adoption phase, some version of loyalty/couponing will be essential. Otherwise, once the novelty wears off, there are simply no sustainable reasons for shoppers to stick with mobile. But with every mobile player preparing to somehow push loyalty, the chance of having conflicting incompatible technology is all-but-certain. Can MasterCard change that?

Square Sets IPO Price At $9, Far Below Expectations

When Square's IPO launches Thursday (Nov. 19) morning, it will start off seeking $9/share, which values the company at $2.66 billion, half of where it had valued a year ago. Even its IPO prospectus had estimated a range of $11-$13. Square is arguably the industry's best-known payment facilitator.

"It’s a signal that Square will face a challenge when it finally goes public," noted TechCrunch. "Square’s pricing — below its previous valuation — is one of many instances of valuations being written down among late-stage startups." Fair or not—FYI, it's not—Square is facing Wall Street analysts who need to pigeonhole Square direct competitors. But the Square business model, size and customer based is sufficiently unusual that there really are no like-for-like rivals.<

When Square's IPO launches Thursday (Nov. 19) morning, it will start off seeking $9/share, which values the company at $2.66 billion, half of where it had valued a year ago. Even its IPO prospectus had estimated a range of $11-$13. Square is arguably the industry's best-known payment facilitator.

Global Wrap: European Parliament Insisting On Mobile Payment Standards

The global payments space was brimming with activity this week, as next month's holidays loom ever closer.

Three major Thailand mobile operators—Advanced Info Service (AIS), Total Access Communication (DTAC) and True Move—have struck a deal that is supposed to allow consumers to easily transfer money amongst the group starting Dec. 1. All users need do is key in the receiver's mobile number. No bank account details needed.

The global payments space was brimming with activity this week, as next month's holidays loom ever closer.

We Won’t Publish The Week Of Nov. 23, For Thanksgiving

In observation of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, PaymentFacilitator.com will not publish the week of Nov. 23, either on our sites or in our weekly newsletter.

We will be back the first week of December with all of the news that PFs need, along with a few extra goodies as we unveil some new editorial features and prepare to launch our podcast series.

In observation of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, PaymentFacilitator.com will not publish the week of Nov. 23, either on our sites or in our weekly newsletter. We will be back the first week of December with all of the news that PFs need, along with a few extra goodies as we unveil some new editorial features and prepare to launch our podcast series.

Wall Street Loves Comparisons, Which Is Why Square Is Driving It Crazy

As PF extraordinaire Square begins its IPO perp walk (aka roadshow), it is seeing consumer media criticism (such as this piece from USA Today) that its numbers are not as strong as so-called contemporaries. The problem is Square's business model and execution approach is truly different, so much so that there are hardly any comparably-sized companies that are apples-to-apples comparisons—and certainly none that are already publicly-held.This concern is oft-cited by startups who claim to have no competitors, but with Square, the differences are much more significant.

Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst with payments consulting firm Double Diamond Group and a longtime tracker of Square, said he was concerned about the influence exerted by comparisons like the ones USA Today made."This article keeps talking about tech companies and, if that’s the benchmark, then it probably isn’t that pretty. But if the benchmark is payments companies, Square is very pretty," Oglesby said. "This is not a Facebook or a Twitter, but relative to the competitors listed in the article—which aren’t really even competitors—I’ll take Square."

As PF extraordinaire Square begins its IPO perp walk (aka roadshow), it is seeing consumer media criticism (such as this piece from USA Today) that its numbers are not as strong as so-called contemporaries. The problem is Square's business model and execution approach is truly different, so much so that there are hardly any comparably-sized companies that are apples-to-apples comparisons—and certainly none that are already publicly-held.

Apple Wants Into P2P Payments, Talking With Chase, CapOne, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp

In an attempt to control as much consumer payments as possible, Apple is in negotiations with J.P. Morgan Chase, Capital One, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp to launch a bank-account-based P2P payments service, according to a Wednesday report in The Wall Street Journal. If successful, it's value would be huge to Apple, but not on a per-transaction fee basis. The goldmine would be the data, the equivalent of knowing every check, money transfer and payment card transaction made by millions of its customers.

Beyond the privacy implications of a consumer goods company having so much consumer personal data—on top of whatever health data is being gathered through Apple's Health app—there are also security concerns. The more avenues of access that exist into a bank account, the more chances there are for a glitch to withdraw more than expected or for the ultra-sensitive bank account routing numbers to leak where a cyberthief could see it.

In an attempt to control as much consumer payments as possible, Apple is in negotiations with J.P. Morgan Chase, Capital One, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp to launch a bank-account-based P2P payments service, according to a Wednesday report in The Wall Street Journal. If successful, it's value would be huge to Apple, but not on a per-transaction fee basis. The goldmine would be the data, the equivalent of knowing every check, money transfer and payment card transaction made by millions of its customers.

MC Makes Its Zero Liability Worldwide, In A Move That Visa Can’t Yet Match

MasterCard on Wednesday (Nov. 11) globalized its zero liability policy, in effect delivering the kind of consistent worldwide shopper protection that Visa can not yet offer. But it will take MasterCard—which has been working on the policy change for a year—until as late June 30, 2016, to support all regions, giving Visa time to react.

This competitive differentiator is because MasterCard is one global organization, whereas Visa's country operations are separated, a move that Visa last week started to address with its proposed reunification of Visa and Visa Europe.

MasterCard on Wednesday (Nov. 11) globalized its zero liability policy, in effect delivering the kind of consistent worldwide shopper protection that Visa can not yet offer. But it will take MasterCard—which has been working on the policy change for a year—until as late June 30, 2016, to support all regions, giving Visa time to react.

Visa: Huge Changes For Payments In IoT, Where Context Is King

The imminent Internet of Things (IoT) world—where every watch, car, thermostat, refrigerator, shopping cart and television talk with each other, and everything else—could have a huge impact on PF payments. But, as Jonathan Vaux, Visa's innovation director, recently said, it's really all about context.

Current payment methods (payment cards, whether still in plastic or in a mobile device, cash and even checks) are all about paying for anything anywhere. That's certainly fine and will always be needed—Vaux goes out of his way to defend cash, which he correctly argues isn't going away anytime soon—but there is a huge allure for shoppers to make purchases they are in-context.

The imminent Internet of Things (IoT) world—where every watch, car, thermostat, refrigerator, shopping cart and television talk with each other, and everything else—could have a huge impact on PF payments. But, as Jonathan Vaux, Visa's innovation director, recently said, it's really all about context.

Global Wrap: Nambia Launches A New National Payments System

Payments developments around the globe has mobile commerce taking off across southeast Asia, card swipe fees and surcharges on the hotseat in Australia and New Zealand, foreign card players are facing an easier than expected time entering Chinese marketplaces while PayTM is pushing hard for its Payment Bank in India.
Payments developments around the globe has mobile commerce taking off across southeast Asia, card swipe fees and surcharges on the hotseat in Australia and New Zealand, foreign card players are facing an easier than expected time entering Chinese marketplaces while PayTM is pushing hard for its Payment Bank in India.

Can Candor And A Payments Card Launch Co-Exist?

Even in payments, a little candor can go a long way, especially in public CEO statements about issuing a new kind of payments card. This comes from a British company called Mondo, which is about generate MasterCard Prepaid Debit cards issued by Wirecard Card Solutions, which is a payment facilitator as well as being a prepaid issuer.

Still, it's not often that a payments CEO pledges that customers will have headaches—and yet Mondo CEO Tom Blomfield did just that when introducing the Alpha version of his card.

Even in payments, a little candor can go a long way, especially in public CEO statements about issuing a new kind of payments card. This comes from a British company called Mondo, which is about generate MasterCard Prepaid Debit cards issued by Wirecard Card Solutions, which is a payment facilitator as well as being a prepaid issuer.

The Reunification of Visa/Visa Europe Could Be Good News For PFs And Compliance

When Visa announced Monday (Nov. 2) that it was dropping $23.3 billion to reunite with Visa Europe after the pair functioned as independent companies for eight years, it had a great deal of significance to the PF community. Given the extreme difference in rules between the U.S. payments standards and the European Union, it has been challenging for Visa to deliver global consistency, especially with compliance.

Payment facilitators, for example, can become payment service providers "without the help of a bank, something that cannot happen here" in the U.S., said Deana Rich, president of Rich Consulting and also Partner/Director of Strategy for PaymentFacilitator.com. "Also, EU can be a little more lax on some compliance issues. So, once the dust settles, it will be easier for Visa to level set the Core Rules playing field. Visa often has different rules for different regions, but the EU is drastically different in places. Visa may now be able to tighten up a few things in the EU. Or, maybe, just maybe, learn from the EU and loosen a few things up here (in the U.S.). I believe the former is much more likely."

When Visa announced Monday (Nov. 2) that it was dropping $23.3 billion to reunite with Visa Europe after the pair functioned as independent companies for eight years, it had a great deal of significance to the PF community. Given the extreme difference in rules between the U.S. payments standards and the European Union, it has been challenging for Visa to deliver global consistency, especially with compliance.

Wall Street Vs. Silicon Valley: There’s A New PF Lobbyist In Town

In a payment facilitator-focused fight that could be painted as Wall Street lobbyists against Silicon Valley lobbyists, a tech group—consisting of Amazon, Apple, Google, Intuit and PayPal—has created a payments lobbying group solely designed to counter the influence of traditional financial players, including Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Chase and Citibank. The group announced its formation on Tuesday (Nov. 3).

The new group calls itself Financial Innovation Now (FIN) and argues that it wants to persuade politicians to go a different route. Complicating matters is the diversity of the FIN group. The concerns of Amazon, Apple and Google, for example, are aligned, in that they are major financial players in retail, hardware, mobile and search engines that are exploring payments initiatives, initiatives that are likely to remain secondary to their primary revenue lines. But PayPal and Intuit are much more closely involved in financial services, with PayPal being every bit as much of a pure payments player as Visa.

In a payment facilitator-focused fight that could be painted as Wall Street lobbyists against Silicon Valley lobbyists, a tech group—consisting of Amazon, Apple, Google, Intuit and PayPal—has created a payments lobbying group solely designed to counter the influence of traditional financial players, including Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Chase and Citibank. The group announced its formation on Tuesday (Nov. 3).

Global Roundup: Why Don’t Egyptians Like Mobile Payments?

In this week's wrap of global payments developments, we have payment stats from Egypt that are more lack-of-payment stats, U.K. payments security testing, a Swedish payments spin-off and a new mobile bill pay push in Australia.
In this week's wrap of global payments developments, we have payment stats from Egypt that are more lack-of-payment stats, U.K. payments security testing, a Swedish payments spin-off and a new mobile bill pay push in Australia.

MCX Finally Gets Its Interchange Break—After Chase Hands It To Them

When JPMorgan Chase on Monday (Oct. 26) promised new mobile capabilities for its online Chase Pay program next summer, it chose to take a decidedly retailer-oriented approach. With the lures of lower interchange fees plus all of the fraud cost protections of the EMV liability shift without having to accept EMV, Chase has given retailers concrete reasons to push Chase Pay over other payment methods.

The Chase announcement named MCX (and specifically members Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Shell) as premier partner. Interestingly, the interchange reduction effort that caused MCX to form years ago but had been all but abandoned by the group recently is the centerpiece of Chase's 2016 plans. What MCX couldn't get on their own was handed to them by Chase.

When JPMorgan Chase on Monday (Oct. 26) promised new mobile capabilities for its online Chase Pay program next summer, it chose to take a decidedly retailer-oriented approach. With the lures of lower interchange fees plus all of the fraud cost protections of the EMV liability shift without having to accept EMV, Chase has given retailers concrete reasons to push Chase Pay over other payment methods.

The Chase announcement named MCX (and specifically members Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Shell) as premier partner. Interestingly, the interchange reduction effort that caused MCX to form years ago but had been all but abandoned by the group recently is the centerpiece of Chase's 2016 plans. What MCX couldn't get on their own was handed to them by Chase.

PF Magic: Square Is $150m In The Red, But Still Worth Billions

If you’re still not convinced of the power of the PF model, prepare to be so. Square, perhaps the leading payment facilitator, with 2 million active customers, has finally made it’s financials public via its S-1 filing, and its losses are staggering.

How could this company have attracted private valuations in excess of US$6 billion? Simple: by being a great company with a great plan in an emerging market. Despite being on target to accumulate half a billion in losses in a four-year period, it is a robust business, with solid management on the brink of profitability. Its losses do not result from negative business factors, but rather because management is so excited by its opportunities that it is taking a Amazon-esque approach, forgoing short-term profits to invest in its many future opportunities. One should view the magnitude of the losses not as a negative, but rather as indicative of the magnitude of the opportunity.

If you’re still not convinced of the power of the PF model, prepare to be so. Square, perhaps the leading payment facilitator, with 2 million active customers, has finally made it’s financials public via its S-1 filing, and its losses are staggering.

Welcome To Your New Home For Payment Facilitator News You Can Use

Welcome to PaymentFacilitator.com, your home for an independent and analytical take on the payments issues of concern for the PF community. For our take on the major changes impacting payment facilitators and why this editorial community is needed right now, please drop by our About Us page.

It seems, though, this Letter From The Editor is best used to not promise what we'll deliver in the near future, but to tell you what we are delivering to you right now and why those pieces have the information that you're simply not going to find elsewhere today, especially from the various payments media.

Welcome to PaymentFacilitator.com, your home for an independent and analytical take on the payments issues of concern for the PF community. For our take on the major changes impacting payment facilitators and why this editorial community is needed right now, please drop by our About Us page.

It seems, though, this Letter From The Editor is best used to not promise what we'll deliver in the near future, but to tell you what we are delivering to you right now and why those pieces have the information that you're simply not going to find elsewhere today, especially from the various payments media.

Why Did Most Merchants Miss The EMV Deadline? Many Reasons, But Complexity Is The Top

With the liability shift and October already here, where are all the EMV-compliant merchants? Many are still waiting for software updates. And why is that, given how many years everyone has known about the October 2015 cutover? Seems that the U.S. payments processing space is a lot more complicated than even the payment itself realized, according to Randy Vanderhoof, who, as executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, is the industry's chief EMV cheerleader.

Vanderhoof concedes that most U.S. merchants—60-65 percent, he said—are not EMV compliant today and he blames that on several factors, but payments complexity—and good old-fashioned procrastination—are at the top of his list. "The U.S. market is the most complex payments processing market in the world because we have multiple parties involved in managing the retail POS systems and multiple parties engaged in the processing and acquiring of payment transactions," Vanderhoof said. "In other countries, other markets, the major banks who were then issuers were also the acquirers so they owned the terminals in those merchant locations. They invested in the cards and the terminals and their own banking acquiring network. In the U.S., financial institutions are separated from the merchants and acquirers. This means that there needs to be independent investments and alignments."

With the liability shift and October already here, where are all the EMV-compliant merchants? Many are still waiting for software updates. And why is that, given how many years everyone has known about the October 2015 cutover? Seems that the U.S. payments processing space is a lot more complicated than even the payment itself realized, according to Randy Vanderhoof, who, as executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, is the industry's chief EMV cheerleader.

Vanderhoof concedes that most U.S. merchants—60-65 percent, he said—are not EMV compliant today and he blames that on several factors, but payments complexity—and good old-fashioned procrastination—are at the top of his list. "The U.S. market is the most complex payments processing market in the world because we have multiple parties involved in managing the retail POS systems and multiple parties engaged in the processing and acquiring of payment transactions," Vanderhoof said. "In other countries, other markets, the major banks who were then issuers were also the acquirers so they owned the terminals in those merchant locations. They invested in the cards and the terminals and their own banking acquiring network. In the U.S., financial institutions are separated from the merchants and acquirers. This means that there needs to be independent investments and alignments."

Apple Pay Penetration Stats: The Less We Know, The Better It Is

Although there is no question today that mobile payments are increasing, to what degree is challenging. This confusion was magnified this month when Bloomberg quoted the Aite Group as saying that ApplePay accounts for one percent of all U.S. retail transactions.

Aite denies ever having said that—the analyst said that he said that it was much lower than one percent—and indeed Aite says that Apple Pay represents a tiny fraction of one percent of current U.S. retail sales. IDC estimates that Apple Pay today accounts for about one-tenth of one percent of all retail in-store transactions in the U.S., while Javelin puts that figure at about half—roughly one-twentieth of one percent. When moving from Apple Pay to Google Pay, the estimated slices get even thinner. Crone Consulting president Richard Crone sees Google Pay representing about one-third of Apple Pay transactions. IDC analyst James Wester put Google Pay's figures in an even more vague area: "Google Pay is so small to be incalculable. I can't even estimate what it is because it is so small," he said.

Although there is no question today that mobile payments are increasing, to what degree is challenging. This confusion was magnified this month when Bloomberg quoted the Aite Group as saying that ApplePay accounts for one percent of all U.S. retail transactions.

Aite denies ever having said that—the analyst said that he said that it was much lower than one percent—and indeed Aite says that Apple Pay represents a tiny fraction of one percent of current U.S. retail sales. IDC estimates that Apple Pay today accounts for about one-tenth of one percent of all retail in-store transactions in the U.S., while Javelin puts that figure at about half—roughly one-twentieth of one percent. When moving from Apple Pay to Google Pay, the estimated slices get even thinner. Crone Consulting president Richard Crone sees Google Pay representing about one-third of Apple Pay transactions. IDC analyst James Wester put Google Pay's figures in an even more vague area: "Google Pay is so small to be incalculable. I can't even estimate what it is because it is so small," he said.

Financial Futility: Why Chip & PIN Sucks For Small Merchants

Given the huge importance of small merchants in the U.S. (especially one-location shops, which account for overwhelmingly more retail locations than any other merchant size segment), it's impressive how little attention has been paid to how inappropriate chip and PIN is for those merchants.

In the wake of the U.S. EMV liability shift that kicked in on October 1, there’s been no shortage of debate about Chip and PIN vs. Chip and Signature. Once again, our old friend, the Durbin Amendment, is having its say. And for all the high-minded security-oriented thoughts being dished out, along with the many biased special interests trying to influence the debate, the small and micro-merchant have been left out, as usual.

Given the huge importance of small merchants in the U.S. (especially one-location shops, which account for overwhelmingly more retail locations than any other merchant size segment), it's impressive how little attention has been paid to how inappropriate chip and PIN is for those merchants.

In the wake of the U.S. EMV liability shift that kicked in on October 1, there’s been no shortage of debate about Chip and PIN vs. Chip and Signature. Once again, our old friend, the Durbin Amendment, is having its say. And for all the high-minded security-oriented thoughts being dished out, along with the many biased special interests trying to influence the debate, the small and micro-merchant have been left out, as usual.

Some Interesting Odds And Ends From Money2020 Announcements

At any industry event such as Money2020, companies try and roll out new offerings—even if what they have to say isn't that new or interesting. But in reviewing the self-perpetuating avalanche of accolades, found a few interesting tidbits with that Monday dateline.

New stats from eMarketer: In 2015, mobile payments will total $8.71 billion in the US, with users spending an average of nearly $376 annually using their mobile phone as a payment method. By 2016, total mobile payment transactions will reach $27.05 billion, with users spending an average of $721.47 annually. Total mobile payment sales will rise faster than average spending per user in 2016 because of the growth in the number of overall users of the technology. Mozido confirmed a gateway platform that is optimized for trade between the U.S. and China. Less significantly, the company also announced the availability of it HCE product.

At any industry event such as Money2020, companies try and roll out new offerings—even if what they have to say isn't that new or interesting. But in reviewing the self-perpetuating avalanche of accolades, found a few interesting tidbits with that Monday dateline.

New stats from eMarketer: In 2015, mobile payments will total $8.71 billion in the US, with users spending an average of nearly $376 annually using their mobile phone as a payment method. By 2016, total mobile payment transactions will reach $27.05 billion, with users spending an average of $721.47 annually. Total mobile payment sales will rise faster than average spending per user in 2016 because of the growth in the number of overall users of the technology. Mozido confirmed a gateway platform that is optimized for trade between the U.S. and China. Less significantly, the company also announced the availability of it HCE product.