Boku, known for letting users bill their mobile-phone carriers for online purchases, plans to expand its U.S. offering to include prepaid cards and near-field communications (NFC) under the brands of their mobile-carrier partners.
Boku announced its new Boku Accounts platform, under which mobile subscribers can receive a carrier-branded MasterCard prepaid card and an NFC sticker, if their phones do not have NFC capabilities. The MasterCard prepaid card will be issued by banks that vary based on the region.
Subscribers will also receive personalized deals, access to loyalty programs and use of person-to-person payments.
A crowded mobile space
With Boku Accounts, the company is joining PayPal in the race to pioneer simpler and quicker payments in a retail setting. Last month, PayPal began piloting in-store payments with phone numbers at Home Depot locations. PayPal is also testing NFC.
Additionally, major U.S. mobile carriers have already joined forces to expand mobile commerce in a project called ISIS. The venture marks a movement toward NFC technology. Like Boku Accounts, ISIS lets users store loyalty cards and access coupons and offers.
Boku already has relationships with Verizon and AT&T in the U.S., through which Boku users can make purchases that are then charged to their mobile-phone bill. Facebook, Zynga and Electronic Arts are among the companies that accept Boku payments via mobile billing.
David Speiser, a Boku spokesperson, declined to share any details regarding the U.S. launch of Boku Accounts.
Carriers are key
It is important to note that Boku Accounts and its prepaid card are separate from the mobile billing system. But, the company isn’t interested in partnering with banks to offer Boku-branded prepaid cards that tout NFC functionality.
“Our purpose is to be a mobile payments company,” Speiser said in an email.
“Many of our carriers partners have come to us and asked for the best way to move mobile payments into the offline world at point of sale. So we actually developed BOKU Accounts specifically to be a white label product for mobile network operators,” Speiser added.
Through mobile carriers, Boku leverages the customer base already in place.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to move into the payments space, and because they have a direct relationship with millions of subscribers, its an efficient way for BOKU to reach large scale quickly.”
Check out the video of Boku Accounts below: