barclay’s saves you from yourself…

Just a few weeks ago, Barclay’s became the first big bank to give its customers unexpected control over their spending. Via Barclay’s app, you can now “switch off” your debit card so that it can’t be used for five specific types of purchases – gambling, “premium-rate websites and phone lines”, restaurants/pubs/bars, gas, and groceries. Once a type of purchase is switched off, any transaction you try with your card at the relevant type of retailer or business will be automatically declined. The idea is to try and help people manage their spending impulses, and is aimed particularly at those with mental health issues or addictions. But, it can also be used to protect yourself from others trying to make fraudulent charges, if you’re worried about that. Barclay’s says it will do the same for credit cards in the near future.

Why It’s Hot: 

It’s a bold move for a bank to offer its customers a way to not spend their own money, but it’s clearly aimed at helping people. Unexpected, and a great example of putting people over profits and thinking about the customer experience beyond just transacting with the bank itself. It’s only a halfway house, given that the feature is completely within each person’s control. But even the cue of having your card declined and having to go into the app to turn whatever type of purchase back on would likely make someone who can’t help themselves think twice.


bye bye brick & mortar banks

When’s the last time you opened up a bank account? Whether it was applying online or in-person at a bank retail, the process involved ton of paperwork and ID authentications via your driver license, passport, social security card, etc. Most often, we had to visit our nearest bank to get faster services – instead of waiting on the phone with a customer service representative, speaking to my bank rep always expedited my checks and debit cards. But now that most service features are automated by our apps, will we still need brick and mortar banks?

Banking startups don’t think so. The new era of banking is mobile-first/mobile-only – Starling Bank UK launched without a single brick and mortar location. You still have to apply online but upon approval of your account, which involves things like photographing your passport or driving license via the app, you are issued a Starling Bank MasterCard debit card that can be used in the U.K. and abroad.

Why it’s hot:

The banks allows you to :

  • view your current account activity in real time, something most legacy banks fail or fall over trying to do. This takes the form of push notifications and the “Starling Pulse,” a real-time feed that displays all your account activity.
  • secure the app using biometric identification.  In addition to being asked to provide a 6-10 digit passcode, you are asked to record a short video message of you reading out a specific phrase. If you find your fat thumb making passcode mistakes and locking you out, you can voice open the bank app.

Blue-Tooth Connected Credit Card

Are you irresponsible and keep losing your credit cards or gift cards? Maybe your back aches from the massive wallet you carry in your back pocket? Or maybe you’ve always wished for the day that your credit card could connect to your phone? Well, you’re in luck. Stratos, Inc.  announced the launch of the Stratos Bluetooth Card, an all-in-one “smart” credit card. The card features Bluetooth connectivity and can be used everywhere you’d expect, like at ATMs, restaurants and gas stations. The card, which will start shipping to consumers in April – will be able to load everything from debit to credit to gift cards onto on single, small card. All one needs is a smartphone, a Stratos card, and a Stratos Reader. Members will swipe their various cards through the reader attached to their phones. Once the cards are loaded, swipe the Stratos Card through the reader and then designate three “favorite” cards that can be easily and quickly accessed.

Why It’s Hot:

As the increase in land grab for mobile payments continues to rise, this turns that on its head and nods to a consumer behavior that already exists and is familiar with the majority of the world. There is no need for retailers or payment systems to re-haul their current technology since it is already in place. Meaning this is much easier and quicker to implement without having to educate users on a new behavior or even train staff on new technology protocols.

Everyday It’s Getting Easier And Cheaper To Move Money. Middleman Beware.


Stellar is a decentralized protocol for sending and receiving money in any pair of currencies. This means users can, for example, send a transaction from their Yen balance and have it arrive in Euros, Yen, or even Bitcoin. The service is expecting to support the usual categories of transactions: payments to a merchant, remittances back home, or rent splits with a roommate.

You can hold a balance with a gateway, which is any network participant you trust to accept a deposit in exchange for credit on the network. Stellar also comes with a built-in digital currency, referred to as the stellar, which is given away for free. The currency will have value (as determined by the market); however, its primary function is providing a conversion path between other currencies.

(source: Stellar)

Why It’s Hot

 Stellar is the latest currency scheme from the tech world to help move the financial system into the present. It is being financed by Stripe, the online payment system amongst some other key players such as MIT Media Lab, Mozilla, and previous senior executives from PayPal and Square. This currency scene is starting to get quite crowded but there are three two key areas as to why Stellar sticks out among the trees in the forest. The service is the almost free, charging $0.0000000027 per transaction. This quickly eliminates any pricey middlemen that would normally take a nice percentage for this service. And secondly, the service is incredibly fast. Stellar can complete and verify transfers almost instantly. Giving the two parties little doubt as to whether payment was sent and received.

The most intriguing bit of the service is that it is open-source. So, developers can build payment and transaction apps around the service. A developer could build an app similar to PayPal that could send money to friends in other countries and not have to worry about converting the currency. If a country does not have an easy way to convert one currency to another, then the service will substitute in the use of virtual currency.

A system like Stellar could catch on very quickly for those that often have to wire money back to family living in another country or for small business e-commerce  where it is currently too much of a hassle to engage third party services(banks, Western Union) to convert foreign currency.

Taking Control of Your Credit Cards Through Your Phone highlighted Ondot Systems’ launch of its CardControl offering. CardControl gives users “instant, anytime control over their payment cards from a smartphone app.” CardControl lets you turn a card on and off, set geographical limits, set preferences for payment types including certain merchant types, and also set spending limits. In addition, users can set up push notifications and review transaction and account details through the app.

CardControl’s tech rests at the level of card processors who handle thousands of banks and millions of cards. Ondot has created tech that integrates seamlessly into authorization streams just as fraud engines do. Ondot is currently partnered with four of the top 10 processors and is now providing Ondot access to 10,000 banks and their customers.

Why It’s Hot

Fraud protection: Lone Star National Bank (LSNB) began piloting the tech a year ago and has experienced 60% less fraud, 54% more card usage, 48% more card spending, and 15% more customers signing up for cards.

Control spending: Imagine being able to limit your child’s debit card to a certain spending amount – or for use only at certain merchants.