Forget credit — shop online with a phone number

Direct-phone-billing has been popular in Asia, Europe and the Middle East for years among online consumers. (AP)

Megan Cloherty, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – Consumers who don’t want to pull out their credit cards to make minor purchases online have another option: They can use a phone number.

It’s a popular trend among buyers who are wary of entering credit card information online and with those who just want to save some time checking out.

Direct-phone-billing companies like BilltoMobile, BOKU and Zong, which is owned by PayPal, all work with wireless companies to add small charges onto a customer’s phone bill, reports USA Today.

Websites set up with this new pay option let users pay with their phone numbers and confirm their purchases with a code texted to their phones.

Facebook, Zynga and dating website Lavalife are among the sites accepting direct-phone-billing payments. The payment method is picking up in popularity despite the 10- to 20-percent commission rates the billing companies charge merchants.

There are limits to what consumers can buy with their phone numbers. U.S. wireless carriers only allow purchases of songs, game credits, videos and other data online. Buying a couch and tickets to the game are not an option. The purchases are also limited to $100 a month to limit overspending.

There is also a security concern from users who lose their phones. If a phone is reported lost to the carrier, the payment function is cut off, Jim Greenwell, CEO of BilltoMobile, tells USA Today.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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