7-Eleven bets on the unbanked with mobile payment app

7-Eleven has partnered with PayNearMe to create an app that lets U.S. shoppers not only pay for goods at convenience stores, but does double duty as a financial tool for the unbanked and underbanked population.

The PayNearMe Bill Pay app serves as a full-service bill payment center. It lets cash users keep track of payment history, set reminders, and securely pay bills. But while the program is run through an app, it's not entirely mobile.

Users sign up for the service and download either the PayNearMe app or the cobranded 7-Eleven Bill Pay operated by PayNearMe, and create an account. The program then generates a bar code for each biller or account. Users then go to a participating store—and 7-Eleven has nearly 8,000 participating U.S. stores—show the cashier the barcode, and provide the cash to pay the bill. There is a service fee of approximately $1.99 per payment.

Nearly 28 percent of U.S. households have limited or no access to bank accounts. Serving this group of consumers is an opportunity that some retailers, including Walmart, are doing.

"This PayNearMe Bill Pay app is just the beginning," said Danny Shader, PayNearMe's founder and CEO. "Cash users are largely neglected in today's bank-based digital economy. By building a suite of easy-to-use financial services that are also easy for retailers to provide to their customers, we will make it possible for everyone to benefit from the convenience of digital transactions."  

"Because of 7-Eleven's global footprint, we saw the opportunity to leverage mobile early on, in countries outside of the U.S.," wrote Raja Doddala, VP of omnichannel and ventures at 7-Eleven, in a LinkedIn Pulse blog post. "Japan's 'konbini' system, for example, allows consumers to pay for bills and purchases using cash in local convenience stores, eliminating the need to use a credit or debit card.

"By contrast, in the U.S., the needs of cash-based consumers in an increasingly online world have been largely ignored. We began to look for ways to serve this 28 percent of U.S. households who are unbanked and underbanked, since many of them are also 7-Eleven customers. It was clear that we should build a product to serve this audience, but 7-Eleven is a retailer, not a software company."

The partnership and domestic bill payment service is the first in a line of affordable financial services that the company plans to offer cash-preferring U.S. shoppers. The retailer recently partnered with DoorDash for home delivery. The goal, said Doddala, is to transform 7-Eleven's convenience stores into "convenient stores."

For more:
-See this 7-Eleven press release
-See this LinkedIn Pulse post
-See this Forbes story

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