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JERSEY CITY. N.J. -- In the world of credit cards, debit cards and now mobile wallets, paying in cash may seem a bit archaic. However, among some groups of people -- either based on culture or age -- cash is still king. And it is precisely those people who prefer paper over plastic, so to speak, that have driven Progreso Financiero and PayNearMe to team up.
Progreso Financiero is a mission-driven company that gives economic opportunities to lower-income Latinos by helping them establish credit, explained Todd Rice, vice president, channels, products and business development. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company set up shop six years and currently has 65 retail locations throughout California and Texas where customers can get responsibly structured, fairly priced loans. Of those locations, 15 are standalone and the remaining 50 can be found in Latino supermarkets such as Mi Pueblo, Fiesta Mart, H-E-B and Vallarta to name a few.
When it comes to repaying their loans, Progreso Financiero's customers prefer to pay in cash. "They have bank accounts, but use them differently," Rice said. "They transact in cash and want receipts."
It is this mindset that formed the basis for the pairing of the loan company and the cash payment network. "The cash market in the United States is $1.2 trillion per year," explained Danny Shader, CEO of PayNearMe. "A quarter of U.S. households, which represents approximately 60 million adults, do not have a credit or debit card. In addition, 95 percent of teens prefer to pay in cash. Then, you have adults who do not use credit or debit cards because of security, privacy or budgeting concerns."
In response to these statistics, Mountain View, Calif.-based PayNearMe built a system that allows people to pay bills with cash better, faster and cheaper, he added. "We are in 6,300 7-Eleven stores across the country -- and that number grows by about 50 stores per month as 7-Eleven Inc. continues its expansion plans," Shader said.
The two companies realized their businesses were a perfect fit after meeting at a conference about a year ago. The partnership, in essence, turns every 7-Eleven into mini branch offices of Progreso, Shader added. Now, Progreso Financiero customers can make loan payments at any 7-Eleven location in the country.
One key factor adding to the success of the partnership is the convenience factor. "Our locations are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week, but we found that our operating hours are not always convenient for our customers," Rice explained. "Sunday is family day and they do not want to leave to travel to make a loan payment, and they are working the other six days."
With PayNearMe, the company took the number of payment locations from 65 to thousands. "It is more convenient for our customers. Now, they can make payments 24 hours a day and at locations that are oftentimes more conveniently located to where they live," he said.
Shader echoed this sentiment, adding that a quarter of the payments occur outside normal business hours.
The pairing is paying off. "We have seen a very impressive adoption rate," Shader said. "We found that once a customer makes a loan payment at a 7-Eleven, they continue to go back there to make future payments. There is great persistency in their continued use of PayNearMe."
PayNearMe began about two and half years ago and went live in 7-Eleven stores in August 2010. With the cash payment network, customers can bring payment slips into any 7-Eleven, where they are scanned at the register by a sales clerk. The customer then pays the amount in cash and receives a receipt detailing the transaction. In the case of Progreso Financiero transactions, those receipts are printed in Spanish.
The network does not require any additional equipment for retailers, Shader explained, and operates through the store's existing point-of-sale network. "We've made these transactions all look like something they already do," he said. "We have taken the difficulty out."
On Progreso Financiero's side, adoption was "very easy," Rice said, noting the company was up and running with PayNearMe within a month. "The investment was negligible, and it was easy and required very little manpower on our end."
As for cost to the customer, loan payments can be made for a few dollars. "We know there is a price point that a customer is accustomed to paying for walk-up bill pay," Rice said. "Other retailers usually charge between $6 and $10. Our customers can use PayNearMe to make a loan payment for $3."
And the PayNearMe network can be used for a variety of services -- from utility bills to bus tickets -- not just loan repayment. In June, Greyhound and 7-Eleven began using the network to allow customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to purchase bus tickets online or over the phone and pay for them in 7-Eleven stores. The ticket is then printed on the receipt.
"Greyhound is doing better than any of us had expected," Shader said.
One of the impressive things about this new way to pay bills, Shader explained, is the use of technology to serve the community. "It's pretty cool that a classic retailer like 7-Eleven is working with Progreso using all the most modern technology," he said. "You've got some of the best minds in Silicon Valley working on a market that most people never think to address around here. You are taking online activity and driving it into the stores. We are converting online window shoppers into shoppers who buy online then pay in cash in the store."
Both Progreso Financiero and PayNearMe agree there is room for this relatively new friendship to grow.
"PayNearMe has been a great company to work with. It is a great service for us to provide, to let our customers choose where they want to make a payment based on hours of operation and proximity to their home," Rice said. "If PayNearMe integrates with any other retailer beside 7-Eleven, we would definitely consider getting on board. We will be the first to raise our hand."