Telefonica O2 UK Ltd. has launched O2 Money, a business venture of O2 devoted to advancing payments and banking options tied to mobile phones, the company announced today. O2 Money's first offerings, debuting by late August, will be two prepaid Visa-branded cash cards issued in partnership with NatWest, a United Kingdom-based member of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. The O2 Money Cash Manager card will be fee-free when used for ATM, point-of-sale and online transactions in the UK. Cardholders will be able to configure their accounts to receive SMS text-message alerts to show activity on the cards. "Every time you load the card with cash, use it in an ATM or use it in the store to buy something with it, you'll receive a text message to your phone," an O2 Money spokesperson tells CardLine Global. Users also can send the word "balance" via text message to NatWest then enter a PIN any time to check account balances, he says. Cardholders, who must be O2 mobile-phone customers, can load funds to the cards online through one-time or recurring funds transfers from other accounts. The O2 Money Load & Go card is similar to the Cash Manager card but is designed for users ages 13 and older and requires parent permission for use by children younger than 16. Load & Go cards cannot be used on certain online sites, such as online gambling. O2 Money has no immediate plans to launch payments partnerships involving Near Field Communication chips to enable contactless payments with its phones, the spokesperson says. But O2 has tested such payments in the past year, including completed pilots with Transport for London, Barclaycard, TranSys and Nokia.

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