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In The Philippines It's Not Just A Cell Phone, It Is Also A Wallet
September 30, 2007 8:49 a.m. EST

Harriette Cecilio - AHN News Writer

Manila, Philippines (AHN) - In the Philippines, there's a more innovative use of mobile phones - as electronic wallets.

The Associated Press reports that more than 5.5 million Filipinos now use their cell phones as virtual wallets, making the Philippines a leader among developing nations in providing financial transactions over mobile networks.

There are 41 million cellphone users in the Philippines.

The system is particularly useful for the eight million Filipinos, roughly 10 percent of the country's citizens, who work overseas and often send money to their loved ones back home.

Mobile banking services enable people without bank accounts to transfer money easily, quickly and safely.

The service has been successful not just in the Philippines but also in countries like Kenya and South Africa.

The trend is spreading because mobile phones are much more common than bank accounts.

And much cheaper too.

While bank wire transfer costs $2.50 and take two days to clear, in the Philippines, the cellular phone method costs only 13 cents, and is nearly instantaneous.

The system was specifically built for remote payments and for markets without banks.

Convenience has also lured consumers towards the use of electronic wallets. They can store limited amounts of money on their cellphones to buy things at stores that participate in the network - although this practice isn't yet widespread.

Many more Filipinos use their phones to send airtime values called "loads" to prepaid subscribers. Postpaid cellular registration is not as popular as prepaid subscription in the Philippines.

With the electronic wallet, a parent can conveniently replenish credits to a child's mobile phone, charged to the parent's account.

The Philippine system, unlike that adopted in Japan and Korea, relies on simple text messages, which cost just 2 cents to send. Japanese and South Korean consumers have been using cellphones as virtual wallets for several years but those systems use a computer chip implanted in handset that allows people to buy things by waving the phone in front of a sensor.

If a cellphone loaded with cash values is lost or stolen, the money is kept intact as long as the personal identification number is not revealed. Control over the funds can be restored with a replacement SIM card from the mobile provider.

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