When you talk about the future of payment technology these days, the conversation quite often now turns to Bitcoin. It was literally the first question asked this morning of Visa brass during the firm’s earnings call (CEO Charlie Scharf said they’re monitoring it but remain unfazed).
But despite its run-up in value and the coincidentally increasing number of retailers accepting it, Bitcoin is still not playing an enormous role in people’s daily lives.
The same cannot be said of the following 10 companies and products, which are already transforming how everyone from average Joes and Janes, to small businesses, to the impoverished, do their finances.
Check it out:
1) Imagine a service that “provides you with a fast, convenient and secure way to make and receive payments,” one which describes itself as “the best alternative to carrying cash, using checks or ATM cards, travelling to and from the bank, and waiting in long lines to process payments.” Sounds like Bitcoin right? Nope. It’s Nigerian mobile payment service Paga, which passed 1 million registered users in November.
2) M-Pesa is the Kenyan version of Paga. More than 50% of the country’s adult population use the service to remit money to relatives, to pay for shopping, utility bills, or taxis. The service now has branches in India, South Africa, Tanzania and even Afghanistan.
3) Bitcoin evangelists like to say the cryptocurrency will be huge for the “global unbanked,” or those without access to financial services. But InVenture is already doing something about that right now, by creating a standardized credit scoring system for the 2.7 billion people worldwide who fall into this category. Users text daily sales and costs to Inventure, which are compiled into a formula to come up with a score that is then passed on to lenders.
4) You may have seen Venmo ads blasted all over the New York City subway (featuring Venmo employee “Lucas”). Venmo allows you to painlessly, unawkwardly send payments through your phone just by texting.
5) Splitwise is often used in conjunction with Venmo. Let’s say you just went on a week-long canoeing trip to beautiful Quetico National Park in Ontario with five of your closest friends. Each paddler paid for a different part of the trip at different times, so each owes someone else money. Splitwise lets you sort it all out.
6) Cover allows you to prearrange your dinner bill if you’re going with a big group, so you don’t have to reenact the Congress of Vienna to figure it all out later. It’s sort of like Splitwise, but for eating out. In fact you don’t even have to wait for the check — the restaurant just plugs into Cover when you’ve stopped ordering.
7) BI’s Dylan Love recently described Simple, the startup looking to replace your bank, as “easy, as in iPhone easy,” adding “it’s changed the way I interact with my money and I’m recommending it to friends like mad.” The company offers free ATM withdrawals, as well as free tools for checking your balance, depositing checks, tagging and categorising your purchases.
8) One can argue Ripple is the most ambitious firm here. The company wants to change how all forms of money and currency, including Bitcoin, are digitally transferred on the Internet, creating a new and cheaper payment “rail” that would replace how all bank transfers are currently executed.
10) Balanced, a Stripe competitor, also allows a single website that deals with lots of other clients to process payments. Some see Balanced as a less cumbersome version of Stripe, since every client has to sign up for it, whereas online the marketplace guy needs to sign up for Balanced.
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