E-cash at home

It sounds like an ad for a pawnshop or discount jeweller, but it won’t be long before you really can get CASH from your computer. Using the new Aastra device that plugs into the phone, consumers can now make e-cash withdrawals and deposits from home.

Operating much like an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) the device uses Royal Bank’s Mondex, payment system, in which electronic cash is stored on a smart card. The smart card is "charged" with a set amount of e-cash (like a phone card) which you "spend" at participating stores. The new service will be tested early next year by Royal Bank in Sherbrooke, Québec.

The device will also allow consumers to transfer funds from person to person, either at the same location or over the phone. This is a great idea, but the old "Sorry, I just don’t have any cash I can lend you" excuse is now rendered obsolete. Suppose a friend is at your house and wants to borrow $20. You simply fire up your own ATM and charge up his Mondex smart card. Off he goes, shopping at any store that takes the card.

Royal Bank has already tested the Mondex smart card in Guelph, Ontario. That project revealedhe consumers really want the ability to withdraw and deposit e-cash at home as a feature. This isn’t surprising, when you consider that your regular old ATM card can be used the same way in stores. Providing the ability to truly bank at home should be the key to the system’s success.