While numerous mobile money services have fallen at the first hurdle, O2 has decided to try again with the launch next month of its O2 Money service. Partnering with the UK bank NatWest, O2 is offering two prepaid debit cards that will be aimed at the student and under 16s youth markets.
The partnership between O2 and NatWest, and it's this partnering of the mobile and banking communities where the majority of other attempts have stumbled, will provide a Cash Manager for those wanting to better control their spending, while the Load & Go service aimed at a younger audience will be marketed as ‘the replacement for pocket money'. An interesting aspect to this latter service is that, while parents can load money onto the card online, it cannot be used on over 18s products. Both cards provide real time text updates every time they are used.
O2 UK's CEO, Ronan Dunne, hinted that the service would be the forerunner of a number of financial products that would see the convergence of phone and wallet. O2 has recently undertaken NFC trials that could see mobiles used as Oyster or credit cards (however, no date has been set for the use of NFC-enabled handsets). "We believe that we are at the start of a journey towards the coming together of the phone and the wallet and we intend, through O2 money, to be at the forefront of this trend", added Dunne.
Commenting on the launch, Helen Page, NatWest's head of marketing and innovation, said: "Giving customers tools to manage their finances is crucial. It's critical to our commercial success that customers stay with us."
Separately, Dunne said O2 Telefonica was watching developments at T-Mobile UK with interest. "We haven't explicitly said whether we're participating in anything. To my knowledge, there isn't a formal process going on."
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