“What’s that thing on your phone?”
That’s a question becoming more common on campus since Bling, a new payment method that uses a proximity chip stuck onto users’ cell phones, expanded into Palo Alto and began its push among Stanford students at the beginning of the school year.
Bling tags are meant to function as more efficient and safe debit cards. To complete a transaction, a user touches a Bling tag, which he or she sticks on the back of a cell phone, to a pad provided by a retailer. The tag eliminates PIN numbers and signatures, and is about one-eighth the size of a credit or debit card. The tap withdraws funds from a user’s PayPal account, which can be connected online.
“It’s about adding a small amount of convenience,” said Bling user Drew Padley ’10.
The convenience also extends to retailers. Fraiche employee Annalisa Likens said she has seen Bling drive consumers to the Stanford campus Fraiche location because they want to pay with the tag. She uses the payment method herself.
Setting up a tag involves entering a mobile phone number upon completing the first transaction, and after setup, every purchase instantly sends a text message alert to the linked phone, an added feature for bookkeeping and security.
Several Bling users said a big selling point of the tag was the incorporation with a cell phone. “Someday I’ll really want something and only have my phone,” said Evan McDonald ’11.
Other users said that a cell phone is much more difficult to lose than a credit card or wallet.
Some retailers offer a program Bling Nation spokesman Matthew Murphy described as a “digital punch card,” wherein the text alerts offer incentive programs for frequent shoppers at a given venue. For example, Stanford CoHo offers 10 percent off every seventh purchase made with a Bling tag.
One concern students voiced about the Bling tags is the seemingly easy theft of such small objects, especially because Bling tags are identical aside from a nearly invisible number indented near the bottom. However, Murphy believes that Bling Nation’s security features offset this problem.
“There is no information stored on a Bling tag whatsoever,” Murphy said, comparing Bling tags with debit cards. “You also realize you lose your cell phone before you realize you lose your wallet.”
Murphy said the company is expanding from Palo Alto to San Jose, with a particular focus on expanding at Stanford.
Although some students admitted they only accepted the Bling tag because of the $10 incentive, those who adopted it as their primary method of payment have largely been pleased.
“I use [the Bling tag] every place that has it,” Likens said. “It’s a lot easier, because I’m pretty forgetful and forget money.”
“It’s definitely a trendy way to pay,” said Bryan Yoo ’10.