Facebook to make mobile payments service available in U.K.

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Facebook Inc. is enabling people outside the U.S. to send money to each other via its Messenger texting app for the first time.

The social network said Monday that Messenger users in the U.K. will be able to send money to each other when the feature rolls out in the next few weeks. People will need to sign up with their debit cards to send or receive money.

“In the U.S. most people use payments in Messenger to send less than $50 at a time,” David Marcus, head of Messenger, said in a statement, adding that the feature is most commonly used during social occasions.

Facebook began letting its users in the U.S. send cash to each other in 2015 but doesn’t charge for its use. The move is part of an increasing trend by tech giants to muscle in on the global payments industry.

Apple Inc.’s forthcoming Apple Pay Cash will let the company’s device owners send money to each other through its iMessage service. Square Inc. has a similar product called Square Cash, and PayPal Holdings Inc.’s Venmo has been a popular choice for younger users in particular.

In the U.K. however, the market is less saturated. Neither Square Cash, Venmo nor Apple Pay Cash are available to British users yet, where consumers are well used to mobile payments in general. London buses, for example, don’t even accept cash; Apple Pay, Android Pay and other contactless services are widely used across retail and travel services.

"Convenience levels and near real-time payment transfers remove historical pain points with alternative P2P payment methods, including checks," said Phil Sealy, principal analyst at ABI Research. "Although predominately used in social settings, to split bills or pay friends and family, there is significant opportunity for P2P to move beyond the social realms, possibly used as a future alternative platform to pay household bills."

Messenger has also been built upon by other firms to provide similar services. In February, international money transfer service TransferWise Ltd. built a "bot" for Messenger, letting its users send money to each other through the platform. PayPal released a similar tool for the U.S. in October.

Bloomberg News
P-to-P payments Facebook U.K.