Branch adds mobile wallet support for early wage access

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To get an edge in the rapidly expanding earned wage access (EWA) market, Branch is extending mobile contactless capabilities to its Mastercard debit account by adding Apple Pay and Google Pay to its app.

The move gives Branch users a way to pay in stores without making contact with payment terminals (which, like anything else, can be perceived as a means to transmit germs) in what Branch CEO Atif Siddiqi said is a first for the increasingly competitive EWA arena.

While contactless payments card use is rising, demand for mobile contactless payments among EWA users — who typically can receive up to 50% of their pay on demand — remains to be seen. Before the coronavirus outbreak, mobile contactless payment volume was stuck in the single digits, lagging far behind use of NFC-enabled contactless cards.

But coronavirus has boosted contactless awareness to the points that adding Apple Pay and Google Pay now makes sense, Siddiqi said.

“In the atmosphere of the pandemic, we’ve seen evidence all around that consumers are interested in using contactless payments in all forms, including digital wallets,” he said.

To be sure, the physical debit cards Minneapolis-based Branch distributes aren’t NFC-enabled, and the company has no immediate plans to add that technology to its physical cards, Siddiqi said.

When employers sign up with Branch, all employees are eligible to use the Branch debit card account to receive wages and tips in advance. Branch charges no fees to consumers, instead earning revenue on card interchange.

Branch users may request to have a physical debit card mailed to them, while some employers provide employees an instantly issued Branch debit card.

“The quicker a Branch user gets access to the debit card, the more they use it for paying bills or shopping online, and enabling them to pay in stores through the app speeds things up that much more at a time when contactless payments are growing in popularity,” Siddiqi said.

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Mobile wallets Payroll payments Apple Pay Google Pay
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