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Will Online Sellers Use Facebook’s New Payments Service?

Facebook’s brand new payment service has several things going for it that might sound appealing to online sellers – first of all, it’s free. Secondly, there’s no risk of chargebacks since senders cannot use credit cards to fund payments.

But hold your horses – this is not a solution for ecommerce payment processing.

Facebook launched a payments service on Tuesday designed not to pay for purchases, but rather, to pay your friends. The person-to-person service works with Facebook Messenger, which is Facebook’s answer to texting.

Messenger Payments is rolling out across the U.S. over the coming months for Android and iOS (Apple) mobile devices – as well as for desktop.

Facebook told EcommerceBytes the payments feature in Messenger is restricted to friends. We asked specifically whether Messenger Payments could be used for ecommerce payments and what rules and restrictions applied on what people could send money for. The company spokesperson explained that people using payments in Messenger agree to Facebook’s Community Standards.

There’s only one funding method on this P2P payments service for now: debit cards. Facebook’s spokesperson said it was using debit cards in place of ACH info (bank account & routing number).

Does Facebook have any plans to add other methods to Messenger Payments, such as credit cards or PayPal?

“We use the system to push money into the accounts associated with debit cards; we can’t do that with credit cards because people could end up with a positive balance, which the credit card companies don’t want.”

However, she said, “As (we) move beyond initial roll-out, we will consider additional funding options.”

In its announcement, Facebook reminded users it wasn’t new to payment processing – it has processed payments for game players and advertisers since 2007. “Facebook processes more than one million transactions daily on the site and also handles all the payments processed on Messenger.”

Here’s how Messenger Payments works:

To send money:
Start a message with a friend.
Tap the $ icon and enter the amount you want to send.
Tap Pay in the top right and add your debit card to send money.

To receive money:
Open the conversation from your friend.
Tap Add Card in the message and add your debit card to accept money for the first time.
The money you send is transferred right away. It may take one to three business days to make the money available to you depending on your bank, just as it does with other deposits.

Facebook’s spokesperson told us that Facebook monitors all money transactions for suspicious activity. “We look at variables such as length and closeness of friendship to help verify the legitimacy of the transaction and investigate suspicious transactions. As with all other content on Facebook, people can report any illegal content via our normal channels.”

Facebook has a dedicated team of payment support and fraud specialists available to address customer needs. For help, users go to: Facebook.com/help/pay. “Our customer care team will respond via email to address any issues.”

We were also curious if former PayPal President David Marcus had anything to do with Messenger Payments, given the social networking site had wooed him away from eBay last year.

“David was hired to lead the Messenger team which covers everything that is a part of Messaging on Facebook or Messenger,” Facebook told us. “The team was working on the payments feature in Messenger before he joined.”

In terms of what else we could expect to see with Facebook in terms of payments, the company spokesperson said, “We see payments as another way that people connect with each other everyday and we wanted to make it easy to do that in Messenger. This is a really cool new feature and we look forward to seeing how people use it – nothing more to share at this time.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.