Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Prepaid Phone Top-Ups Available at ATMs

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Prepaid Phone Top-Ups Available at ATMs

Article excerpt

In Europe and Latin America, the dominant type of cell phone payment plan is prepaid. In the U.S., where postpaid plans dominate, the prepaid market is nevertheless growing and currently numbers about 20 million users who collectively account for about $800 million in transactions per month. Numerous carriers provide the service.

The phones can be loaded, or "topped up," by calling a toll-free number or logging onto a website. Credit cards can be the source of funds, but people also purchase top-up cards from retailers, and then call in the code printed on the card.

Boston Communications Group (better known as bcgi), Bedford, Mass., developed a product that allows prepaid phone top-ups to be done at automated teller machines. U.S. Bank and bcgi are jointly marketing the service, known as Wireless Wallet ATM Recharge Service. U.S. Bank, Minneapolis, began using bcgi's ATM Recharge product last September to offer phone minute top-ups at its nearly 4,500 ATMs in 24 states, and officially announced the program on Nov. 15, according to Patty Henneke, vice-president and ATM banking manager. The bank does not surcharge ATM users for these transactions, but gets a share of every transaction from the carriers.

Five wireless carriers are currently participating: AT&T Wireless, Boost Mobile, TracFone, Page Plus and Virgin Mobile. The first three support real-time top-ups, meaning that once a transaction is completed at an ATM, it's instantly added to the person's wireless account. …

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