We didn’t have a clear fulfillment process in place to make a large quantity of small payments to our customers… This could have been problematic for us, as raising a cheque is 600 percent more expensive than using the Post Office Payout service.
For people like me who can’t even be bothered to go down to the Post Office office, there’s Obopay’s AOL instant messenger plugin, enabling you to make payments directly from your AIM Buddy List. The Obopay AIM plugin is accessible via your desktop or your mobile phone, so no matter where you are, you can access your Obopay account using AIM. Since Obopay comes with a pre-paid MasterCard, this means that one of your buddies can send you cash via AIM and then you can go spend it using the card. I’ll see if I can find out what the charges are so we can compare it with Post Office barcodes.
I have a suspicion, though, that neither of these schemes will generate the volume that Wal-Mart’s new Wal-Money Card will. According to today’s Financial Times, Wal-Mart are going to launch a pre-paid card (it will actually be a pre-paid Visa product from GE Money) targeting the 60 or so million unbanked in America: they want these people to use the card as a “quasi-bank account” and (assuming that you can get one just by wandering in to Wal-Mart and picking it up — no “Real ID” or any such silliness) then not only will they do so, they’ll do so enthusiastically because they go to Wal-Mart all the time already. Given the we were discussing only recently the possibility of a pre-paid cards as a solution to the problem of the high cost of payments for the unbanked (ie, the apparent law of payments that says the poorest people must pay the highest transaction costs) I think Wal-Mart are on to a winning proposition and it can only be a matter of time before (eg) Tesco do the same in the U.K.
These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]