Bling Nation Ltd. has a simple yet elegant way for community banks and credit unions to process retail merchant transactions. Instead of pushing retail debit or credit processing out to Visa or MasterCard networks to process purchases made at a restaurant or a clothing store, Bling Nation offers a wireless payment system where consumers can use their cell phones as secured mobile wallets. The service is cost effective for banks since they can process the payments within their own footprint without generating interchange processing fees through a credit card network, says Bling Nation Co-Founder and Co-CEO Wences Casares.
A consumer's bank account information is contained in a radio-frequency-identification chip on a postage stamp-sized sticker that's attached to a user's mobile phone or Blackberry device. The sticker, or 'BlingTag,' is scanned by a wireless reader at the merchant location. The embedded RFID chip sends account and transaction information over an encrypted cell phone network to the bank to approve the transaction. Once the transaction has been approved, the system sends a text message to a customer's mobile device with the merchant's name, the size of the purchase, their account balance and the rewards earned/rewards balance.
The wireless payment service allows Bling Nation "to offer big bank services out in the hinterlands," says Ellen Carney, an analyst at Forrester Research.
Bling Nation is targeting communities with 10,000 to 100,000 residents, says Casares, who co-founded the company with Meyer Malka. After launching Banco Lemon, a Brazilian retail bank which grew to 7,000 branches and 15 million customers in just over six years, Casares and Malka set their sights on the U.S. bank payments market. As of mid-November, Bling Nation had signed up two Colorado banks as customers - The State Bank of La Junta and Park State Bank and Trust. Since it began utilizing the service in May, The State Bank of La Junta has enrolled 50 percent of its debit card customers, says Brad Rose, vp of information technology and security.