Recently I was approached by LevelUp, a mobile payments company which allows merchants to accept payments from customers by smart phone.
I had no personal prior experience with paying by phone, but I had read about the technology, mostly in the form of Google Wallet, a service only available on Android phones, which utilizes the same NFC terminal that RFID credit cards use (tap to pay).
LevelUp offered me $100 to give it a go with some of their merchants around town, many of whom set up shop at the Atlanta Food Truck Park, though the list of vendors is not limited to food trucks. A list of vendors and locations can be accessed from the iPhone app or the company website.
With a quick glance, I would estimate they have somewhere between 75 and 100 locations accept LevelUp, using a special phone which takes a picture of the bar code the application displays when ready to transmit payment. The app allows you to add tip to the payment, which adjusts the bar code accordingly before scanning.
Personally, I am most interested in using an app such as this at food trucks, and is the reason I accepted the offer to try it out. I don’t carry a lot of cash, the trucks often run into situations where they don’t have enough change, and my experience with credit cards at food trucks has been mixed. I wanted to see how a new approach would fare.
To be candid, I sat on this post for months because it was so damn hot and I had little interest in standing outside at the food truck park. I did try to go once but there weren’t any vendors who accepted LevelUp, or at least I couldn’t see any of the window stickers through my sweat blurred eyes.
When I finally did make it back, I tried it out at the Mighty Meatballs truck (eh, it’s fine) and LevelUp worked flawlessly. They scanned it, waited three seconds, and said OK. No receipt, no problems, easy enough.
My next two visits have been the same – absolutely no problems, easy to scan, no delay after they scan, and I’m on my way.
I like it. I enjoy that I have some money on there right now, providing an additional set of additional options when I’m near the food trucks but don’t have any cash. It’s simply a convenient and easy option to have, whenever I have my phone on me. Which is always.
They do provide rewards for brand loyalty (spend $X at vendor A and earn $Y in Rewards) which could be useful for those of you that are addicted to a particular merchant, or dig on coupons and rewards.
Finally, I’ll mention I also like LevelUp’s business model. They charge 0% in interchange fees (as apposed to credit card processors who charge 2-3.5%), instead making their money on marketing campaigns with the merchant. I think this approach is more favorable, and an easier sale to merchants, as LevelUp can only exist and grow if the vendor is happy with their service, and hopefully grows as well.
You can try LevelUp this weekend at the Atlanta Taste of the Trucks, where LU is a sponsor. If you sign up with them you will receive free admission and $10 to use inside. If you already have the app you can scan the QR code on the event page to add $10 to your account.