LevelUp and First Trade Union Bank partner on custom mobile payment app

Dec. 5, 2012 | by James Wester

LevelUp just keeps doing its own thing. Today the mobile payment startup announced it's partnering with Boston-based community bank First Trade Union Bank to develop a new custom-branded mobile payment and loyalty app. The app is scheduled to launch early next year for iOS and Android devices.

This is LevelUp's first partnership with a financial institution. It gives LevelUp a new level of credibility as well as access to FTUB customers. What's more, the new app (which LevelUp said is still under development) will automatically link to FTUB debit card and mobile app accounts.

That's a huge plus for any alternative payment method, since connecting a funding source like a bank account or credit card puts in place an additional step for consumers. And with every step added to the process consumers are more likely to rethink their decision to sign on.

Another benefit to LevelUp is that by linking to a debit card account, the company lowers the fees it pays to support its "interchange zero network." Merchants pay no processing fees to accept LevelUp at the point of sale but the transactions themselves are still connected to credit and debit cards. That means LevelUp has to pay those costs. (LevelUp only charges merchants a percentage of the business brought in through campaigns the merchants run through LevelUp.)

Customers normally link a funding source to their LevelUp account, for instance a credit or debit account. By automatically routing LevelUp purchases from FTUB customers through debit card accounts, the costs LevelUp must absorb are lower than if a customer were to link an account to a credit card.

In an email, Seth Priebatsch, LevelUp's chief ninja, said his company is exploring a deeper partnership with FTUB to go directly to customer bank accounts. That would effectively eliminate the costs that LevelUp has to absorb on trnasactions coming from FTUB customers.

"Definitely in the road map and something we think can add a lot of value to First Trade, to their customers and aid in our ongoing mission to bring payment processing costs to zero for all local businesses," Priebatsch said.

For FTUB, the partnership gives its customers quick access to a growing network of merchants. (LevelUp said more than 4,000 merchants have signed up to its service.) Those customers also have access to exclusive offers and discounts delivered through LevelUP.

"Smart banks like First Trade Union Bank are realizing that mobile payments will become just as big of a part of their business model as mobile banking apps themselves," said Priebatsch in the announcement of the partnership. "By developing a custom app with LevelUp, First Trade is, in one fell swoop, tying the bank even more closely to local businesses and creating additional savings and convenience for customers that meshes perfectly with their mobile lifestyles."

LevelUp said the app will be a win-win for businesses and the bank. Merchants will see their processing fees reduced and gain access to new customers while FTUB will introduce its customers to a new payment method and add a new set of value propositions to the existing mobile app user experience.

For its part, FTUB said working with LevelUp is a partnership of two like-minded, forward-thinking companies.

"LevelUp's expansive merchant community and loyalty rewards features will provide instant value and convenience for First Trade customers," said FTUB President and CEO Michael Butler."They will be able to leave their wallets at home and still have quick access to their funds."

First Traade Union Bank boasts assets in excess of $629 million. The FI is headquarterd in Boston and also has offices in New York City.

LevelUp, also based in Boston, is a part of SCVNGR, a startup backed by investors such as Google Ventures, Highland Capital and T-Venture. The company has raised more than $21 million to date.

Topics: Contactless / NFC , Loyalty Programs , Mobile Apps , Mobile Banking , Transaction Processing

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