Jacob Baytelman

Building software since 1998

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My Online Payment Evolution

15 years ago I used to say that I was not ready to pay online, though already then felt quite comfortable to provide my credit card details in a phone conversation and thus pay remotely. A real person on the other side of the phone line made me feel safe, which was obviously a kind of illusion and somewhere deep inside I realized it was just an illusion. So it took time for the idea of online payments to transform my attitude to the process of how I control my money. I still believe this feeling of being in control is crucial when people decide to pay online. It's absolutely about psychology and technology has to serve it in all possible ways.

I analyze what exactly changed my attitude and see a number of steps, here is the first one: online banking. Since the moment I could instantly check my balance and outstanding payments my confidence has started growing. My bank allows me to monitor my account at any moment of time from anywhere, a huge contribution to the process of control.

Interestingly, sometimes merchants do not seem to care much about it. My bank shows me that my money has been paid to someone, but if I do not receive my purchase at the same very moment (e.g. flight tickets or Skype topup) the delivery can take a while and I do not know the state of things, which hurts. The same regarding error messages in a case of payment failure. Just a couple of days ago I tried to topup my son's mobile via the operator's web site. I provided all the details and clicked ‚Pay now‚. The next screen showed an error message with an error code (having some experience in programming I realize that it means a lot to the developers of the system) but with no definite explanations of what has happened and most important whether my card has been charged or not. I would expect a bit more user friendly attitude. Today I take it easy, but a couple of years ago it might have cost me half a day of headache. If you are in my position, here is my advice: keep calm and check your bank account. Do not use your credit card online unless you can check your account online. If you are in the position of payment processing developer, please be so kind and provide human friendly messages in your system.

The next step in the evolution of my attitude to the online payments was the introduction of prepaid or debit cards. I got another important tool and some more balm on my heart: with a prepaid card my risks were limited to the amount on the card and I could easily control it. So I requested a prepaid card from my bank for my online purchases. I still use such cards for micro payments, e.g. for purchasing applications from AppStore and Google Play. Another great thing about such prepaid cards is that you can give them to your kids for their purchases in application stores. It's a nice gift, ask any teenager.

Paypal as an intermediary between my credit card and merchants was not so influential for me, but it got all my high regards when I had to accept a small amount of money for a brief online consultancy. I remember that day, previously I had already paid much online, then I received my first online payment. Never mind the small amount, I already played for the other team and this fact contributed much to my confidence.

Another step was my career change. About seven years ago I quit a nice position and a nice office and started my freelance route. I set up my home office and most of the work since then I have been doing in it. This state of remoteness strengthened my feeling of reality for things I do not see and cannot touch. My partners are real as well as my customers, though I do not see them in my office each day. The fruits of out work are real, the value of our services is real and finally our virtual money are pretty much real even if we desperately miss that exciting sensation of notes on our fingers. We are just changing habits and stick to what's more convenient. Perhaps our great-grandparents felt the same nostalgia for heavy purses filled with cool (I mean the temperature) silver coins.

I see my parents in their late sixties struggling with online payments. I understand their hesitations and respect their choice to opt for more traditional ways. But my children already seem to treat ‚plastic‚ as real money rather than coins and notes and I guess they are eager to pay online as soon as they get their cards from us, parents. And again, my confidence tends to part away from me, again I am losing control of my money. Or is it only an illusion of control?

J.Baytelman 2013