Editors note: This is the free edition of Payments Insider, a briefing on all things payments produced by BI Intelligence.
APPLE NIXES CARRIER BILLING RUMOURS: Reports of an Apple deal with China Mobile to charge for app purchases through users’ phone bills are not true, a company spokesperson tells us. Apple has long avoided carrier billing in favour of linked credit and debit card accounts, a strategy that has helped the company amass nearly 600 million cards on file and avoids splitting app sale proceeds with carriers. Apple’s app revenue in China went up an estimated 70% last quarter, according to App Annie. The Apple spokesperson noted that app purchases in China are often confirmed through an SMS text, and said the carrier billing rumours might have arisen due to confusion over the feature. (Keith Griffith, BI Intelligence)
APPLE RECRUITING PUSH? Payment industry ears will be glued to Apple’s earnings call tomorrow, searching for clues about the company’s mobile payments strategy, which CEO Tim Cook hinted at during Apple’s last earnings call in January. “It’s a big opportunity,” he said. Evidence is building that Apple is up to something. Re/code reports that the company is recruiting aggressively for senior roles on its mobile payments team. The hunt is said to include top roles in product and business development. Apple declined to comment. That follows rumours of an iPhone with integrated near-field communication (NFC), which experts say would be a certain signal that Apple is moving into payments. (Re/code)
CHINESE BANKS WIN REGULATORY CAP FOR ONLINE PAYMENT TRANSFERS: China will cap the amount of money consumers can transfer from bank accounts to online payment platforms, Reuters reports. The move comes soon after several high-level officials at Chinese banks clamored for regulation, claiming the industry couldn’t compete with the more loosely licensed online money market funds, such as AliPay’s Yu’e Bao. Consumers have shifted a reported $US80 billion from traditional banks into those online alternatives. The size of the new transfer caps is dependent on a particular consumer’s financial status (Reuters)
SQUARE DENIES ACQUISITION TALKS: Several outlets are reporting Square’s strenuous denials that it was in acquisition talks with Google. “We have never seriously considered selling to anyone or been in any talks to do so,” Square spokesman Aaron Zamost said in a statement to USA Today. But pundits say that if reports of Square’s burn rate are true, the company had better find a buyer — and fast. “For a viable business, Square needs to scale its way to massive payment volumes,” writes Forbes’ Steven Bertoni. “That’s why Square is trying to sell itself to a rich owner with enough cash to survive the cash bleed as it hunts for larger customers.” (USA Today, Forbes)
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “In the short term, we want Stripe to enable more commerce online … When you think about how much we spend … there’s at least a 10-fold gain possible,” says Patrick Collison, Stripe co-founder, in a interview with the Financial Times. (Financial Times)
AMEX EXPANDS WITH WAL-MART: American Express announced that its Serve pre-paid card will now be available to Wal-Mart customers. Serve is a reloadable prepaid card that can be purchased at 4,100 Wal-Mart stores. Customers can reload their accounts at 19,500 Wal-Mart, CVS, and 7-Eleven locations in the U.S. That means Serve basically turns retail locations into bank branches. Serve is accepted anywhere that accepts Amex, and can also be used to withdraw cash at ATMs.
Oddly, AmEx already offers a similar product at Wal-Mart called Bluebird. In fact, the two cards are so similar that it’s not clear what the difference is beyond the fact that the press release says Bluebird is targeted at the “unhappily banked” and Serve is targeted at the unbanked. (American Express)
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