The idea that the under-banked would benefit from banking smartphone apps seems odd on face. If you can’t afford access to all the glories of modern day banking, why on earth would you own a smartphone? But it is actually quite practical.
“80% of our customers who are underbanked own a smart phone, either an Android or an iPhone,” said Patrice Peyret, chief executive of pre-paid card making company Plastyc.
Plastyc is set to announce its new Android-based Kindle Fire app later this week. The app allows customers to monitor their account, in ways similar to those who have a bank account at a traditional bank, as well as find nearby stores that can reload their accounts.
Peyret said most of his customers have smartphones because they may not have a home phone, and can’t afford a computer. A smartphone combines the features of both and is significantly more affordable.
He also said many people misunderstand who is “underbanked.”
“The definition of underbanked does not necessarily mean you are an immigrant worker. It is wider than that,” he said. “It does not mean poor, it could just mean that you are young and a student and haven’t established a banking history."
Because of this, he said banking on a smart phone with a prepaid card is a perfect pathway to those that may not have access to a full bank account.
The app will also be available on tablets, which Peyret says are more attainable than laptops or personal computer. He said he believes these will be the wave of the future for his customers, who will purchase them over an expensive computer.
With both the popularity of smartphones and tablets increasing among the under-banked, Peyret said they are focusing on Android products over Apple because they are more affordable. While iPhones can run you about $200, and an iPad can run you upwards of $500, Android products for both phones and tables are significantly cheaper.
“Our customers won’t buy iPads, but they might buy a Kindle Fire,” he said. “Something that costs $199 is much more affordable than an iPad.”