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Foursquare Meets PayPal

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More consumers want to pay with their phones.

According to a Generator Research study, mobile banking will reach $633 billion by 2014. In addition, a comScore report found that 29.8 million Americans accessed financial services accounts (bank, credit card or brokerage) via their mobile device in the fourth quarter of 2010, a year-over-year increase of 54 percent.

Hoping to capitalize on this trend, a Des Moines, Iowa-based technology firm has created the first geo-location mobile payment system.

“When you use Foursquare, it knows who is close to you,” says Dwolla CEO and co-founder Ben Milne. “Just imagine that, instead of checking in at that location, you’re actually engaging in a transaction. Dwolla Spots actually recognizes your location and [nearby] merchants who accept Dwolla payments.”

Retailers won’t have to buy a new reader, open a new merchant account or take on additional credit card fees to incorporate Dwolla, which can also help reduce – even eliminate – credit card fees, Milne says. And a Dwolla Spots’ map updates itself in real time as new businesses add the service.

“It shows users who accepts those payments, and when you walk into the store, you can actually tap onto the location and pay from inside the app,” Milne says. “The merchant has a view that shows them incoming payments.”

Retailers can execute branding inside the application free of charge. “They can put their logo up for free, and anytime anyone pays with Dwolla, it costs them less money than a plastic card,” Milne says. “There’s an extra API that allows you to tie into third-party software and hardware applications … The cost to utilize the system is only 25 cents a transaction, regardless of the size of the transaction.”

Fewer fraud risks
Dwolla Spots faces fewer fraud risks than credit cards, Milne says.

“With our servers, we don’t have to worry about the same types of security issues as you do with a credit card,” Milne says. As with a PayPal transaction, the other party never sees a consumer’s financial data. “The merchant is never exposed to that data,” Milne says. “Even if someone stole your phone, they would have to have your e-mail address, your password and your PIN to create fraud with your account,” he says.

As of March, more than 500 Des Moines businesses (primarily retailers) were using Dwolla Spots to generate about $1 million a month in transactions. Dwolla Spots has also been tested in New York, Southern California, Boulder, Colo., and Texas.

Spots is currently available in the Apple app store; Android and Windows 7 versions are set to be released later this year.

“This model is being proven right now,” Milne says. “The market will react to consumers wanting to utilize their devices in the areas that they want to spend money.”