Cellphones double as electronic wallets

It's Thursday, so 18-year-old Dennis Tiangco is off to a bank to collect his weekly allowance, zapped by his mother - who's working in Hong Kong - to his electronic wallet: his cell phone.

Sauntering into a branch of GM Bank in the town of San Miguel, Tiangco fills out a form, sends a text message via his phone to a bank line dedicated to the service.

In a matter of seconds, the transaction is approved and the teller gives him $54, minus one per cent fee. He doesn't need a bank account to retrieve the money.

More than 5.5 million Filipinos now use cellphones as virtual wallets, making Philippines a leader in providing financial transactions over mobile networks.

Mobile banking services, which are also catching on in Kenya and South Africa, enable people who don't have bank accounts to transfer money easily, quickly and safely. It's spreading in the developing world because mobile phones are much more common than bank accounts.


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