I was just checking out PayPal (maybe I'm a bit behind on these things) because both my Citibank credit card statements came advertising a new service from Citi called "C2it," where you can email money to people. It sounded like what I heard PayPal does, except C2it is being offered by one of the biggest banks in the world.
The two services are not identical, but they're based on the same idea (and probably technology too). PayPal's been around a while, and it essentially allows you to email money to anyone (even if they're not yet on PayPal, sending them money prompts them to sign up), with no credit card numbers or other insecure stuff changing hands. The transaction takes place on PayPal's server, transferring from one PayPal "account" (connected to your credit card or bank account) to another. It's a very cool idea and has been running "in the background" for a while. Apparently it's a big deal on eBay, which may have brought the notice of Citi and proven it as a safe, workable transaction method.
Now, Citi is offering this service on a MUCH wider scale, which may finally help SOLVE one of the biggest problems online commerce has faced so far: the real pain-in-the-ass of actually exchanging money, facilitating the customer's easy purchase.
An old-school credit card merchant account is expensive and a real drag to use, and people REALLY have to like your stuff to go thru the whole rigamarole of snail-mailing you a check. If this thing catches on in the general public - and I think it will, if the big banks are trying it -- then that problem is GONE.
Citi is being cautious with it, essentially only offering the same services as PayPal's "Personal" account level, and attaching restrictions on dollar amounts. However, PayPal has MUCH wider options, including a FANTASTIC "Business" account! ANYONE can sign up for it (over 18 with a checking account anyway). YOU could have the ability to take DIRECT payments from your customers ON YOUR WEBSITE with NO setup charge, NO monthly fee, and only a max of 2.2% service charge on each transaction -- TODAY!!
You read that right. Essentially a FREE full-service merchant server on your site, with no upfront costs. The money is transferred into your PayPal account INSTANTLY - then you transfer it to your bank account at your convenience. NO WAITING. You can have the payment and ship out your customer's order TODAY.
Now I know, some of you are going to go, "Oh, that will never work, it can't be safe, yada yada..."
Look. If frickin' CITIBANK is getting behind it -- in fact, the Citi division Travelers' Insurance protects all PayPal accounts up to $100,000 -- then IT'S SAFE and IT'S A GOOD THING. It takes 5 minutes or less to sign up.
I'm not trying to be a shill for Citi or anything, either. We've all blathered about what a pain it is to do sales over the web. This is the first really workable, fast, inexpensive, effective way to do web transactions that I've seen yet, that's all. Please, take a look. This could be the future of your self-publishing living. Some quick points that jump into mind:
* The service works both ways. If you have a customer that wants to return something or is unhappy, YOU CAN GIVE THEM A MONEYBACK GUARANTEE, since you can just email them their money back.
* This COULD eventually be a workable way to process "micropayments": you could easily work out a way to actually CHARGE PEOPLE TO VIEW STUFF ON YOUR SITE, a penny a page or something. Right now you can't do that, since the fee for a transaction smaller than $15 is 30 cents, but if enough people use this, the economy of scale could work out so even tiny transactions are feasible.
I should think that it would be easy to expand this so that every financial institution on the existing Automated Clearinghouse Service -- that's pretty much every bank on the planet, kids -- is on the network, and would publish an email address to which to send payments, like "email@example.com". Any company that collects bills of any kind could do the same: "firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org!"
Anyway, this could really help us little dudes trying to sell our stuff online and not sell out to big evil corporations. [img]/resources/ubb/smile.gif[/img]
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