As I have written many times in this blog, from the moment I had the chance to work in the development of 'traditional' retail banking software, I immediately became interested as a 'customer' & software engineer to this new wave of rival services and applications, especially those related with micro-payments and 'electronic' wallets. Despite the fact that traditional banks, today move forward modernizing most of their 'retail' service offering, I still believe they are less flexible and a bit slower comparing to other companies in the field.
For a month or so, I have been using 'daily' the e-payment solution of Soldo. The company is one of the newcomers in the electronic-micro payments world. Currently their service is in beta, so I was very happy to be one of the few to try and evaluate their offering. Special thanks to my friend M.Charatzas.
So how does it work? When I 'entered' the service, I simply had to download an iOS application, complete the registration (adding my personal details). Upon activation, I got an 'electronic' wallet where I could see my balance, top up my account, search my transactions, get a virtual credit card (Mastercard) and a new real card (sent via post). My new wallet (or account), can be credited either by regular bank account transfer, or by using one of my regular 'cards' from my traditional bank and 'debit' it. The overall process took just a few minutes, and the real card was sent within one week. Sweet!
During my initial week I did transfer a small amount of money to my new wallet, and started using the e-card and the regular one (it is contact less as well) in different places. In general I did not have any problem, only in one place the contact- less payment was not working). The real added value of these services is not the regular debit/credit card use. This is something already provided by traditional services.
So the more you get to use the app, the more you get addicted to the plethora of information around your payments. The notifications upon each payment (or failed payment) are instant, the transaction history is simple enough and easy to use, so I can scroll through my payments and check available details. I am able to see during the previous month, when and how much money I did spent. I really like the 'today' view, where you get to check how much money you spent this very day.
Also I am able to control many aspects of the regular and virtual card like, like the max amount I can debit the card in each transaction (I guess parents would really love that kind of feature), or the basic types of payments my card can be used for. For example I can enable or disable my Sold Card, for 'Online' payments, 'cash points' or payments 'abroad'. Of course at the end of the day, in case someone, steals your card, with the switch you can completely de-activate it and report that has been compromised.
The more I use, this kind of interactive payments, the more I get a feeling that I am in control of the overall process. So kind of 'security'. This is the main reason I am eventually switching to a 100% daily use of my Sold wallet. For example, there are a few cases, that I do feel a bit unsure when my card is 'walking' around 'shops' or restaurants, or when you get to a very busy place where a dozen of people 'attack' the point of sales, example a bar, and the personnel just swipe 1000 cards per minute trying to serve the people. In all these cases, I have stopped using my regular card in favor of Soldo, the moment my card is debited I get the notification and I can see what is happening or double check.
Also, during traveling out of the UK, I can complete my transactions, based on the current 'exchange' rate of GBP and the Euro, with no extra fees! How cool is that!
Up until now the experience was very nice and I am very happy with this kind of services and offerings. I find my self to use this card more often comparing to my regular bank's card and it I think I might switch completely for day to day use and online shopping.
I am sure there are other products and services out there and I am very excited in general, because retail banking and micro-payments is a world where I totally believe there is room for improvement and innovation, both in the IT (software development) and business wise.
So hello new world of micro-payments and e-wallets!