Sending money by cell phone

MasterCard is using Obopay's system as the underpinnings of its own branded mobile P2P service, MoneySend. Once you have set up a MoneySend account, you can dispatch cash via cell phone text message, a dedicated mobile phone application or the company's Web site. Pre-registered recipients get a text alert the moment funds are credited to their account. Others get a text explaining how to go about retrieving their money. For the moment, all MoneySend accounts are linked to a prepaid MasterCard issued by The Bankcorp Bank of Wilmington, Del. However, MasterCard says other banks will sign up in 2010.

Other entrants in the mobile P2P game

CashEdge, a behind-the-scenes of electronic money transfer services, recently launched a product called POPmoney that lets owners of accounts at five participating banks send money to an e-mail address, mobile phone number or bank account.

Fiserv Inc., owner of the CheckFree bill paying service, says it is working with a number of banks to let individuals send money from their bank accounts to an e-mail address or mobile phone number. Payments will be deposited directly into the recipient's bank account.

The potential 800-pound gorilla in the mobile P2P market might well be a company that almost every consumer is familiar with: Amazon. Millions of Americans already store their credit, debit and bank account information, e-mail addresses and mobile phone numbers in the retailer's database. Although the retailer has not promoted the service, the Amazon Payments Web site tells customers how to use their Amazon accounts to "send money to your friends and family." In addition to initiating a payment from the Amazon site, you can easily zap cash from one cell phone to another using a service called Amazon TextPayMe. In either case, the funds are held in your Amazon account, and can be spent on merchandise, transferred to other people or deposited in your bank account.

At this rate, it's just a matter of time before cell phone payments are as much a part of your financial life as online bill paying and cash machines.

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