Several years ago, up-and-coming entrepreneur and self-starter Ben Milne grew more and more wearied by the amount his speaker manufacturing company was dishing out in credit card fees.
His $55,000 yearly average will be no surprise to anyone who knows the ins and outs of business: credit card fees are an expensive and unavoidable cost to any company. But Mr Milne didn’t let himself crumple in acceptance under this crippling sum, he decided to change it, and since then has launched an innovative new payments system: Dwolla.
His 12-man team in Iowa are already shifting around $1 million a day and their endeavour is expected to become an international operation over the next few years.
So what is Dwolla? Well, it’s an innovative online payment system that could be compared to PayPal. Money is transferred directly from your bank account, completely side-stepping credit and debit cards and therefore avoiding any card fees.
There is only a $0.25 fee for receiving a transaction, no matter how large the amount. This is considerably more economical than PayPal, who charge $0.30 and take a 2.9% cut. All you need is an account and you can send money to anyone and through many methods – whether that’s through phone or through Facebook.
But is it safe? You may well ask. Well, security is actually one of the main reasons for the system.
“If Visa could blow up their current payment model and start over, would they build a network that forces consumers to expose critical data in order to buy a bagel?” Ben Milne asks.
As payments are made through a third party, critical information doesn’t need to be exposed or left vulnerable to fraud. But the success of the system, like so many innovative ideas, hinges on whether or not it bites.
For this to work on a large scale, merchants everywhere need to get interested and get involved so that the payments system can work. But with the promise of no credit card fees and a number of very high profile investors already under his belt, Ben Milne could well fulfil his dream.
For the first time in 30 years and the launch of credit cards, a new, functional and affordable payment network could be available to all of us.