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Barclays Pingit payments app tallies up more than 400,000 downloads

Barclays person-to-person mobile payments application Pingit was download more than 400,000 times in the first eight weeks following its February launch.

Pingit is free to use and lets users send and receive money by using a mobile phone number without the need to share bank details. Financial institutions are increasingly looking at providing mobile services beyond enabling customers to check their balances as mobile devices play a larger role in consumers’ lives.

“The Pingit app works because it is not trying to foist a new wallet on the market,” said Gary Schwartz, CEO of Impact Mobile, Toronto, Canada, and author of “The Impulse Economy.”

“Pingit is simply tying your banking to your phone number to allow you to use this number to transfer cash is the same way you communicate to friends or vendors,” he said.

“Unlike email transfers, Pingit is instant like an instant message. It is also viral: the peer to peer instant transfer makes the wallet self-propagating and is the reason for the run-away success of the service.”

Mr. Schwartz is not affiliated with Barclays and spoke based on his experience in mobile commerce.

Alternative payments
Barclays reports that Pingit was the number one financial app in the British Apple App Store in February. Additionally, small businesses and eBay users are gravitating to the app as an alternative way to accept payments.

Following the successful launch of Pingit, Barclays is expanding availability of the app beyond the bank’s customers and making it available to anyone in Britain over the age of 16 years who has a current British bank account and a British mobile phone number.

Going forward, Barclays plans to add new features to the app such as joint account registrations and further business functionality.

“The reason why we see some financial institutions offering [P2P payments] is that this a logical next step in terms of digital banking,” said Neil Platt, senior vice president and general manager of payments for the CashEdge Division at Fiserv, Brookfield, WI.

“They are also responding to consumer demand,” he said. Consumers are used to shopping online, accessing banking services online and the expectation is that banks will be able to offer them electronic payment services.”

Mr. Platt is not affiliated with Barclays. He spoke based on his experience with mobile banking.

Now that Pingit is available to all British bank account holders, Barclays has launched a new marketing campaign to support the app.

A new video on the Facebook page for Barclay’s Pingit shows a young boy urging a man to repay money he owes a friend for pizza by using the app. Facebook users can send a customizable online version of the video to friends who them money.

Users can also send a private message on Facebook asking someone to pay back money owed via Pingit.

Paying the rent
The Barclays Pingit app is free to download from the Apple App Store, BlackBerry App World and Android Market.

Tactically, some banks are using P2P payments as a way to generate fees while others are using them as a retention tool, per Mr. Platt.

Contrary to the typical use case that gets talked about around P2P payments – which is of the person who goes to dinner with friends and forgets to bring a wallet – Fiserv is finding that consumers are more likely to use P2P payments to replace checks. The biggest user of P2P payments is consumers in their 20s.

“We are seeing people use P2P payments as a way to replace a lot of the formal payments that go to other people in their lives,” Mr. Platt said. “The typical transaction size is more than $300 and in most cases, users are paying the rent and contributing to shared household expenses.”