Sunday, 27 May 2018 21:38

Beem It: Instant, fee-free payments app launches in Australia

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A new phone app, Beem It, allows people to "effortlessly" send payments to each other via their mobile phones.

The Australian start-up is backed by an unholy trinity of Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Westpac and there are no transaction fees applied for either sending or receiving money. It was announced in October last year when ANZ was frozen out.

The app is available for both Apple and Android devices and works by having users sign up, create a Twitter-like @username (it’s so new that you can get your own first name at the time of writing) and verify their details (verification details are not stored). Sending money then requires the swipe of an on-screen button. Recipients are ideally other app users, but you can also send to existing contacts who are then invited to install the app and receive funds. The send limit is currently $200 but the founders expect this to increase. If they don’t accept the money within seven days, the sender is notified. If it is not picked up, it returns to the sender’s account.

That the payment is instant will attract many people. It was designed to help make paying restaurant bills among groups easier (while removing all kinds of friction) but we found that simply having the ability to send money to kids to make lunch payments proved useful. At the launch we were told that kids under 13 weren’t being targeted for the payment system, although it’s arguably safer than them carrying cash.

The app’s chief executive “and chief moment maker”, Mark Wood is American and had been in Australia for just three years before securing funding from three of Australia’s largest banks – an impressive feat that will make those with experience of Australia’s dismal start-up scene baulk.

The app has been in a pre-launch phase for several months but, as of 1 May, had 10,000 downloads. Wood says there were, “No plans for charging at the moment” which raised several concerns about building an audience, getting them hooked and then charging excessive fees (as seen elsewhere). However, he was at pains to explain that while he couldn’t provide details of Beem It’s “long-term commercialisation plans” this was, “not a solution for shareholders but for all Australians.” He was adamant that his motivation for creating Beem It was to, “remove complication and interruption of money from magical moments” (such as arguing over a bill after dinner).

Using the app is intuitive, straightforward and designed to be fun with all payment pain-points removed. Each payment has the sender's details, a reason for the payment being sent (fun and creative reasons are encouraged) plus the sender’s @address. Other features are limited but this is by design to keep things simple. A QR code scanner is built in to the app if a username is too tricky to type out.

In practice it worked very well and addresses a major pain point for many people who struggle to get cash from one place to another without visiting an ATM, supermarket or waiting for bank transfers. While Australia’s rapid, almost-ubiquitous adoption of contactless payments has held back other payment innovations, Beem It seems to have legs and doesn’t require mass adoption to be incredibly useful for at least some users right from the get go.

beem it split
Paying people with Beem It is, dare we say it, fun!

beem it pay
Splitting payments is equally simple.

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Nick Ross

Nick Ross is a veteran technology journalist who has contributed to many of Australia's top technology titles and edited several of them. He was the launch editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation online Technology section.

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