Mobile money misery

 
£20 note Could we live in a cashless society?

Wouldn't it be great if you could leave your wallet at home and pay for everything with your mobile phone? Well, OK, not everybody is in love with the idea of the cashless society, but the march of mobile money seems unstoppable right now. Or does it? As an enthusiast early adopter of anything which might make life simpler, I've been trying out these new ways of paying - and I'm on the verge of chucking it in.

My frustration came to a head after I was sent £1 last week by someone using the Barclays Pingit system. Actually not just someone, but the man I consider the guru of digital money, Dave Birch, a consultant who writes about the subject and advises many of the leading players.

A few weeks earlier I'd been trying out O2's new mobile wallet, and after negotiating my way through about a dozen passwords, pet's names, best friend at school and other security paraphernalia I'd finally managed to send £1 via text message to Dave. He was now returning the favour (without interest, I may add - that's consultants for you).

Having registered once for Barclays Pingit - and then not used it - I assumed it would be easy to retrieve my £1 from Mr Birch. Not so. First I had to register my own bank account to the Pingit account to receive payments. That involved another string of passwords - and a verification code. Which would arrive from Barclays in the form of a letter to my home - how very 21st Century!

A week later, the letter arrived, and last night I excitedly punched the code into the Pingit app and waited. After about thirty seconds, the app crashed and refused to reopen, while I contemplated smashing the phone against the wall. Eventually, I did manage to get it going again and found that the £1 had made its way into my account. Exultant, I decided to send my wife £5 via the Pingit app. She is now looking daggers at me over the breakfast table and wondering why I can't simply hand her a fiver.

And here's the problem with mobile money right now. There are plenty of ways of using your phone to pay - from Pingit, to O2's mobile wallet, to the PayPal app or NFC phones where you simply swipe to pay. But right now the aggravation factor still outweighs the potential benefits.

In the developing world, it's a different story. Some recent figures showed that in Kenya, for instance, 96% of mobile phone owners use a mobile payments system - mainly MPESA which helps users transfer cash via text message. In countries where many don't have bank accounts, any complexities in using mobile money fade into insignificance besides the sheer usefulness of the service.

Here, though, the mobile money evangelists are struggling to convince consumers that their lives will be made simpler and better once they can pay by phone.

Still, I'm not easily put off. I've now got four different mobile money applications on my phone, and I'm going to see how far I can get without cash. I will report back in a week or so...

 
Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 34.

    Cash remains the only way that ordinary people can keep their transactions anonymous. For some, that means criminality. But for the great majority it means privacy and the inability of someone to press the ultimate RESET button...

  • rate this
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    Comment number 33.

    Mobile money, bank account, wallet, credit card.
    got all 4, but still no money
    :-(

  • rate this
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    Comment number 32.

    A family of 4. We each have an online ISA. Each generates reams of paper through the letter box. Banks can't do online yet, forget mobile!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 31.

    I'm a cash person. I don't really like mobile phones, even for making calls, so I'm not comfortable with the thought of committing my banking details to one of them. To me there is nothing like a pocket full of cash.

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    Comment number 30.

    I would love to make use of my contactless card but here in Coventry they still prefer bartering to coins of the realm yet alone new fangled things like pieces of plastic. So if you do come this way bring cash your contactless card will never leave your pocket.

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    Comment number 29.

    I hate cash - i try to buy everything with my card (contactless where available) but i really dont see the point of this app? If i need to pay a friend, i just set him up as a payee on online banking and i pay him with my banking app. Yes - i need him to tell me his acc num / sort code once,but thats not really that much hassle

  • rate this
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    Comment number 28.

    As with all these sorts of things, it is far easier to start using them when 10-20% of people have switched over and dealt with all the bugs, aggravation, and the banks and shops have all had to deal with all the problems and made it easy.

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    Comment number 27.

    The stupidity of the Barclays PingIt is that only one bank account can be allocated per telephone number. And to increase the stupidity, they now allow multiple phone numbers to a bank account.

    How about the other way round Barclays? How many people have just one bank account?

    Paypal does seem to be better thought out...

  • rate this
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    Comment number 26.

    £15? Buy a sandwich and a coffee in some stores in central London, and most of that's gone! I look forward to the day when I can carry all my money around with me, where my phone IS my bank account, not a proxy. The expenditure limit should be set by the user, so you can buy what you want, but don't inadvertently pay £500 for a sandwich.

    The PayPal app works best for me, so far.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 25.

    Excellent points Rory. Personally I think the contactless credit/debit card (I have a visa debit from Halifax) is the way forward. it limits transactions to £15 and works with NO setup. I use it in Costa and McDonalds all the time very worthwhile. The mobile wallet is good but far to complex for a useful purpose at the moment.

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    Comment number 24.

    23 Tim

    As I understand it, the idea of the "wallet" is to ringfence a relatively small amount of money (say fifty quid), so that transaction controls at point of sale can be simpler and thus quicker than a Chip-and-PIN debit card. Having a payment system with minimal controls attached to your main bank account could leave your whole balance exposed in the event of your phone being stolen.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 23.

    I already have a wallet - it is called my bank account. I expect to pay people by directly paying from my bank account. Paypal does this when I buy goods over Ebay. For whose benefit have they interposed more complexity with this redundant "wallet" ?
    I immediately deleted the Pingit app as useless - why don't developers talk to customers... ?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 22.

    The only thing ping it is good for is checking your balance.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 21.

    Rory - please write a public comment on the point I make so that these developers will eventually create something easy and useful for society.

    I downloaded Pingit with anticipation and was enraged and disappointed to find that it is yet another so called solution that uses a "Wallet" where you have to pay money in from your bank acount to pay money out to others.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 20.

    If it won't scratch the window, don't accept it. What's wrong with cash?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 19.

    In MPesa the money is not in the phone. It wouild not fit!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 18.

    The idea like most concepts is good but has a major flaw. If your NFC enabled phone is stolen, your money is essentially gone. Your bank account could be emptied in minutes. How quickly then can you contact your bank and your mobile operator? If this major problem can be addressed, then mobile wallet might succeed

  • rate this
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    Comment number 17.

    People should get up to date. Kenya has been using Mobile Money with MPesa for years. This week I sent money from my debit card to a person in Kenya for a charge of £3.00; banks charge about £25.00. Yes it takes a little while to set up but it is well worth it. Cheques were thought difficult at first. Then Cards were thought very dodgy. Move on.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 16.

    Here's a suggestion- little bits of paper with a promisary value.
    No need for passwords
    No worries about "Big Brother" watching your every move
    No reliance on internet access, compatability or battery life.
    There IS still a place for cash in our society-just look at how Oyster card users in London are regularly ripped-off, monitored etc.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 15.

    Started an O2 money account the other day. At least 3 different passwords and a confusing website that doesn't give you a clue as to which password you can use. You can't close your account online and have to ring a premium rate number.

    Just created a daft password, rubbished my details and cut up the card. Complete waste of time.

 

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