Mobile Payments with PayPal

Recently I spent a lovely Saturday morning wandering through one of the better arts and crafts shows in our area. I had no plans to buy anything and only had enough cash for lunch. Even if I was considering a purchase I don’t like carrying large amounts of cash with me. As it happened, I found something that would have been a perfect gift for my husband – except that the artist didn’t take credit cards.

It dawned on me – later, of course – that PayPal’s mobile capabilities are perfect for situations like this. Anyone can safely send money to another person using their mobile phone. And, the person receiving the money can get notified that a payment has been received via their mobile phone. There are apps for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry smart phones, but any phone capable of sending SMS can send/receive payments. Here’s how it works via SMS.

  1. First, you have to set up your mobile phone in your PayPal profile. Once you enter your phone number as a mobile phone, PayPal will send that phone a text message with a confirmation code. Enter that confirmation code on your profile and PayPal will now recognize it for mobile payments. [Note: You'll also be asked to assign a PIN - easier to type on a phone than a long password - for your mobile transactions. I recommend it NOT be the same one you use for your banking.]
  2. To send a payment, send a text to 729725 with the amount and email address (or phone number) of the individual you are sending it to. For example, send 10 to fred@bedrock.com will tell PayPal to send $10 to Fred.
  3. The recipient is notified that a payment has been received. It’s also easy to check your PayPal balance at any time.

The smart phone apps have even more features that are especially useful to a seller. Another advantage is that the buyer also automatically gets a receipt for that payment from PayPal.

So, how can a society put this to use? Are you planning a book sale, rummage sale, auction or other fund raiser? This could come in handy for dealing with higher-priced items.

While it’s easy for an artist or small business owner to implement PayPal mobile payments – and possibly justify moving up to a smart phone – it will be a bit more of a challenge for a society. There needs to be some way to confirm that a payment has been received. If your event is being held in a location where Internet access is available, a laptop or tablet could be used to confirm. Fortunately, PayPal business accounts can be set up with multiple user access. The account “owner” (usually your Treasurer) can add and remove these accounts and define what level of access is available to them. It’s quite easy to set up an account for the event with just enough access to see that a payment has been received and who sent it. Once the event is over, that account can be removed or the password changed to prevent unwanted access.

To get payment confirmations by phone, the phone must first be set up in the PayPal account. Unfortunately, that phone can be used to both send and receive payments. That would be okay if the Treasurer will be working the event and had his phone set up in the account, but I’m not sure I’d want to give someone else those rights – even for just the period of the event. A better option would be to use an iPad or other tablet with 3G service or use a WiFi device with a “hot spot” 3G modem. That way, you could continue to use a limited-access PayPal account for confirmations. There are pay-as-you-go plans from Virgin Mobile and Clear that let you turn them on/off when you need them.

PayPal has a lot to offer the small society. Mobile payments is just another feature that gives us the ability to do more for less.

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