Mobile Money


A short guide to the wide world of virtual cash.

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We used to know what money was. It was tangible, something we could hold: a dollar bill, a nickel coin, a check drawn on a local bank, a credit card with a monthly payment. But changes over time often go unnoticed, and that’s the way it has been with money. Long before music became MP3s and TV morphed into YouTube and Hulu, money was changing.

Today digital networks connect global financial markets end-to-end: from exchanges and banks, to ATMs and retail, to computers and mobile phones.

As humans and consumers, the way we think of money, and the way we use it, has not evolved as quickly as money has. But that’s changing. In recent years we’ve begun to use our debit cards where we used to use cash. Most “paychecks” are direct-deposited. We pay our bills online. Millions have used PayPal to buy or be paid for goods on eBay and other sites. With the PayPal iPhone app a friend can pay back a friend, or a parent can send money to their student child at college.

Money is also information, and the financial markets money moves through are all interconnected.

The groundwork has been laid for innovation and rapid evolution in the ways we use money. We are approaching the tipping-point for Mobile Money.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the innovations underway in the Mobile Money space that will accelerate in the second half of 2011 and into 2012:


American Express has just launched, their response to the rise of PayPal, and the accelerated growth in the Mobile Money space. With their iPhone and Android apps, one can make peer-to-peer payments just like with PayPal, but with a twist: Sign up for and you’ll also get a Serve card that can be used anywhere American Express cards are accepted. Think of it as a refillable Starbucks card, but for money. Some Serve transactions have fees, similar to the way things work with a regular American Express card.


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