Sprint-owed prepaid operator Boost Mobile unveiled a mobile financial services app called Mobile Wallet at CTIA Wireless in Las Vegas on Tuesday. This isn’t your typical near field communications (NFC) or QR code contactless payment setup though. Instead, Boost is combining its prepaid mobile services model with a prepaid cash account, providing a physical prepaid card that customers can use at the register.
Mobile Wallet was developed by Wipit, a mobile payments provider for people without bank accounts and credit cards. Its platform therefore makes an ideal fit for many Boost customers who rely on cash to make pay for their wireless service. The approach seems to emulate the mobile payments revolution going on Africa and South Asia, where mobile operators are become bigger financial services providers than the traditional banks.
Mobile Wallet allows you to pay bills and send money to family or friends in 135 countries through Ria’s cash transfer network. Soon Boost will also offer a digital check cashing service, which lets you scan in a physical check and deposit the funds in your wallet account. You can also transfer money between different accounts, and top off your Boost Mobile plan within the app.
What you can’t do is use the Wallet App to make a payment at store. But Boost and WiPit have gotten around that problem by issuing a Visa prepaid card to any customer that signs up for a premium account. The card draws directly from the Wallet account and is accepted anywhere where Visa is. Google reportedly considered adopting the same approach for its digital wallet but dropped the idea.
Of course, all of these services come with fees, many of which are rather steep. Paying bills costs anywhere from $2 to $5 per transaction, while Ria money transfer fees vary depending on amount and destination. Even loading money into the account costs $3, though once the money is there, you can spend it freely using the Visa card. Until the check cashing service goes live, customers can only load money into the account at authorized Boost dealer locations.
The app is available to Boost’s Android customers and is downloadable in Google Play, but initially Boost is only enabling accounts for customers in Los Angles, San Diego and parts of New Jersey. The company is planning a nationwide rollout by the end of the year.