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Homeless accept debit card donations

Samuel Gibbs
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Stockholmers can now support their city’s homeless population in the most technologically sophisticated way possible, thanks to an initiative by Swedish payment firm iZettle.

The firm has been working with Situation Sthlm — a street magazine sold by homeless people to earn a legitimate income — supplying the magazine sellers with smartphones and card readers that allow debit and credit card payments to be taken on the spot.

iZettle provides a small unit that plugs into the smartphones, allowing cards to be swiped. The card owner then writes then signature on the screen, or enters their pin in the reader.

A successful month-long trial saw five sellers, each equipped with a smartphone and iZettle card reader, sent out onto the streets of Stockholm to sell their Situation Sthlm magazines, costing just under £5 per issue.

Situation Sthlm publishes professional writing in a magazine sold by the homeless or disadvantaged on the streets of Stockholm. It is the first organisation of its kind to offer card payments.

The phones and card readers are kept and charged at Situation Sthlm’s main offices, and are collected each day when sellers pick up their magazines.

Sweden is edging closer to a “cashless society” where barely anyone below the age of 40 carries cash on a routine basis, said iZettle chief executive Jacob de Geer, who said that the public were happy to trust their card details to homeless people because they trusted the credit card chop system.

“The banks have done a great job with the card infrastructure so that it is so robust, secure and trusted, that people don’t really mind where they use their cards these days with the chip,” said Mr. de Geer. “It was extremely well received. All the phones were returned safely and are still in use.” EMV smart card technology, better known as Chip and PIN in the U.K., was trialled in Northampton in 2003 and rolled out nationwide in the U.K. in 2004. It replaced the magnetic swipe and signature authorisation previously used with a secure chip authenticated by the input of a user’s PIN.

iZettle is a market leader for mobile payments in the U.K. with a Bluetooth chip and PIN card machine, which started life in 2010 in Sweden releasing its first mobile payment solution in 2011. Since then it has rolled out to nine markets including seven in Europe, as well as Mexico and Brazil in South America.

iZettle launched in the U.K. in 2012 after meeting regulatory requirements and being certified as a payment providers both in the EU and U.K.

“Simplify, simplify, simplify is our core ethos,” explained Mr. de Geer. “Regulation is the biggest challenge to mobile payments in most countries — we spend a lot of time and effort meeting criteria and gaining certification. We’re regulated almost like banks.” The U.K. is one of iZettle’s strongest growth markets with thousands of card readers and accounts being set up every month.

The U.K. is being used as a test bed for iZettle’s progressive simplification of payments. It recently rolled out a new smart rate system, where the percentage of each transaction kept by iZettle is variable from 2.75 per cent to 1.5 per cent dependent on how many transactions you’ve had over a month.

“We’re trying to change the payments market,” said Mr. de Geer. “We first started with the mobile card reader that could accept payment anywhere, but we also tackled the highly complex fees that traditional card processors and banks charge merchants.” After an initial set-up fee of £99 for each reader device, iZettle charges a percentage of each transaction in commission. There is no long-term contract or monthly fee.

“We want to help our customers grow their businesses. From electricians and carpenters, everyone should be able to take card and make money,” said Mr. de Geer. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013


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