There is a lot of innovation happening in the payments space, and the competition is heating up at a greater place than ever before. New products from PayPal and Amazon show great potential, and Google continues to expand its Wallet offering. Even Facebook has aspirations of making a mark in the space, but today, I want to talk about a company that has arguably made a bigger impact in a quicker amount of time on businesses (at least when it comes to consumers paying small businesses) than possibly any of these.
That company is Square, and this week, it launched a new offering that just might be the simplest way to make an online payment to anyone, including businesses, that there is.
Have you used Square in the past? Do you intend to? Let us know in the comments.
Square is quite well known these days. Launched just a few years back, Square was already being used by 1/8 of merchants in the U.S. who were accepting credit cards by the end of 2011. President Obama's campaign was using it for donations. Cabs started using it. By June, Square was in use by over 20,000 retailers. It later scored a major mainstream deal with Starbucks, while also continuing to cater to its small business roots. It now has gift cards, Passbook integration, and much more. Founder Jack Dorsey even appeared on 60 minutes earlier this year to talk about Square. The segment was titled "The Innovator," if that tells you anything.
Suffice it to say, Square now has the brand recognition it needs to get the masses on board with new offerings that make their lives easier.
And that was before Square had a payment product that makes things as simple on consumers and businesses as paying for and accepting payments by email. That's what Square launched this week in Square Cash.
Square teased the offering back in May, offering it on an invitation-only basis, telling people to "forget the ATM". The offering is now live for anyone with a U.S. debit card. It lets anyone transfer money via email for free without even having to sign up for an account.
Just send the recipient an email, Cc firstname.lastname@example.org, enter the amount you wish to send in the subject line, and attach a note in the body if you like. Send it, and Square will send you a reply asking you to link your debit card. After you do that, the recipient will be emailed a link to deposit the money you sent them into their own bank account.
“Square has always believed in creating solutions for individuals and businesses that work with the tools they already have in their pocket,” said Square Cash lead Brian Grassadonia. “Square Cash makes it convenient to send money to anyone—without making them jump through hoops to retrieve it. Now it’s easier than ever to split a bill, send a birthday gift, or settle up with a friend, no matter where you are.”
It works from any email client, and any device (phones, tablets, desktop). This gives it a significant leg up over some other competitors, at least for the time being. If you'll recall, Google recently launched a feature that also lets you send payments by email via Google Wallet. It's only for Gmail though, it's only for desktop so far, and it hasn't even rolled out to all users yet. Plus, there's a transaction fee.
While they're not really necessary, Square Cash also has Android and iOS apps, just in case you like a pretty interface to go along with your email sending.
Square Cash isn't without its drawbacks. It doesn't support credit cards, for example. According to Daniel Bean at Yahoo News, who offers up a nice feature comparison among Square Cash, Venmo, PayPal and Google Wallet, "The weekly limit is $250 unless you link a mobile phone number and Facebook account, or verify your full name, part of your Social Security number and date of birth — then it's raised to $2,500."
Apparently people in Hawaii and Tennessee (and the rest of the world outside of the U.S.) can't use it to send cash yet either.
But that's not a whole lot of friction, and some issues may go away in time. Availability will almost certainly be expanded in time. Square itself recently expanded into Japan.
Square has already won over countless businesses with its simplicity. It's hard to imagine that many of them won't simply start taking payments by email via Square Cash. Forbes contributor Joshua Steimle wrote this week about his experience already using it to pay $500 to a contractor.
"Based on the experience I would have to say the credit card industry as we know it is dead. Or at least soon will be," he wrote.
Pretty bold words.
He says that after sending the email, his contractor received an email asking for her debit card info, and after putting that in was just waiting for the money to show up in her bank account, but pointed to a comment from a Twitter users saying they had received money in just three hours:
Wow, @Square Cash says money is transfers in 2 biz days. I received the money in my bank account in less than 3hrs. Color me impressed.
— Marshall Haas (@marshal) October 17, 2013
"Why is Square Cash the end of the credit card companies?" writes Steimle. "It’s not just Square Cash, it’s what Square Cash represents–the ability to transfer dollars quickly and easily without fees. Square Cash may be the face today, but it will be 20 other companies tomorrow, unless the credit card companies start lobbying Washington to change the regulations on these types of transactions 'for our protection.'"
And that's just it. Even if Square itself doesn't become the go to service for the majority, it's clearly on to something huge here with Square Cash - something that is going to have a major impact on consumers and businesses alike.
Your move, other payment platforms.
Do you see Square has having a major impact with this new offering? Let us know in the comments.