Dwolla Tries to One-Up Visa, Mastercard in Faster Payments

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Visa and Mastercard are making a lot of noise for initiatives that adapt their existing technology for faster payments in the U.S., but the alternative payment provider Dwolla is moving just as aggressively.

Since speed is a given in any faster payments project, Dwolla is talking up features such as a merchant dashboard that displays transaction data in charts and graphs as a way to make its own offering more palatable.

In that regard, Dwolla may ultimately prove to be a step ahead of some of the larger networks as the faster payments landscape in the U.S. develops over the next year or two, said Tim Sloane, director of emerging technologies advisory services for Boston-based Mercator Advisory Group.

"Visa and Mastercard are trying to ride on top of the faster payments bandwagon, but if you look back at the evolution of Nacha and the ACH system, there are many different category codes and transaction types," Sloane said.

Many business use cases call for more details through different fields incorporated into a transaction so the "two ends of a payment not only do a faster payment, but they can coordinate the business process on both sides of that transaction," Sloane said.

Dwolla is emphasizing communication over the transaction, Sloane explained.

"Information that breaks out sub-accounts on orders or payments solves the problem of connecting a payment with a purchase order," Sloane said. "A business has to know what a payment is for, otherwise a customer would have to send a payment for each individual purchase order, which can be ridiculous."

The new interface is part of Dwolla's White Label API, which was designed to complement its FiSync protocol as a faster payment alternative to same-day Automated Clearing House transfers.

Earlier this week, Visa and Mastercard revealed they would power debit payments for Early Warning's clearXchange faster payments system. In Visa's case, the company is adapting technology it has used for the past 15 years in other regions.

Dwolla, which has had a seat at the Federal Reserve faster payments discussions for nearly three years, is looking at market needs in scenarios where merchants would want faster payments.

"With this, it is an interface for customer service, and a different way to interact with customers in a timely and efficient manner," said Dwolla spokesman Jordan Lampe.

This particular interface also eliminates the need for white label clients to build, maintain and scale their own dashboard, Lampe said.

By providing the new dashboard and charts, a business can logically expect to reduce inquiries to customers by 80% because they keep better track of key customer and transaction information and details, Lampe added.

Dwolla developed new sections of the API from feedback it received from 14 of its White Label partners, said James Eliason, Dwolla's project manager and lead on the new dashboard.

The dashboard is built to expand in the future with other functions that customers deem important for their businesses, Eliason added.

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