I have been using GCash ever since Globe Telecom introduced the service to the public, but never found it too useful at that time. Well, aside from being one of the first services to offer money transfer via mobile (I’m tempted to call it mobile banking but it’s not a bank account), which is cool at that time BTW, there were tons of fees for every transaction, including the transaction fee deducted from your load. But the real strength of GCash was the ability to send money anytime, anywhere, that’s why it was a hit on most Philippine online stores, even local buy and sell websites. It can even be used to pay bills and shop at partner establishments. Other than the points stated above, the service doesn’t scale enough to become a full mobile banking experience. Though you can use it to shop at stores, I rarely see someone paying GCash for their purchases. It’s been years since I have been looking for a much more universal purpose for my GCash account.
But it seems that Globe is making a lot of changes and improvements to their GCash service, it’s probably because their rival, Smart, is gaining loyal customers from their own service, Smart Money. I have to admit, I was tempted to switch to Smart Money because of their added convenience over GCash. First and foremost, Smart offers a physical card that you can use at an ATM and swipe at stores as a debit card. Then Globe introduced the GCash Card. It also gives you a physical card powered by Megalink, but the only advantage over Smart, is that the design of the card is fully customizable, great for people who want to express their self through their card. But the draw back is that the transaction fee is ₱20.00, compared to the standard ₱10.00 for ATM cards and Smart Money (now at ₱15.00 effective October 2012). But even if both of them have physical cards now, Smart still has the upper hand. Their card is powered by MasterCard, which means it can be used on establishments where MasterCard is accepted, even online! So, here is where the new GCash American Express Virtual Card enters. A couple of months ago, Globe introduced a new innovation, where their subscribers can get their very own American Express virtual card that can be used to purchase online, in which actually, is the only purpose of this virtual card. This works like a debit account where the funds are automatically deducted from the user’s GCash Wallet. But now some of you will think, “What advantage does this offer compared to Smart Money?” Well, it has one advantage over it’s rival service, it comes with a free personalized US address courtesy of My Shopping Box. The major benefit from this is that you can shop on US online stores and lets you avail of some online stores’ free shipping to a US address, in this case, your personalized US address. You may shop until you drop, send them to your US address, then choose to ship all of your purchases all in one package to the Philippines, which in turn saves you shipping costs.
To summarize some of the key points of GCash AMEX Virtual Card, here is my list on what I think their pros and cons are:
- Gives you a personalized US Shipping Address
- Since it is powered by American Express, you can use it on online stores where AMEX is accepted. We have to take note that some locally-issued credit cards aren’t accepted by some US merchants, but I think this one is issued from the US as hinted on the billing address, which is your personalized US address.
- Although you won’t get any physical card for your AMEX Virtual Card, you can opt for the GCash Card, powered by Megalink, that you can use on ATMs and as a debit card nationwide. I think it’s a pro, since you can customize the design of your card.
- Secured security code. Your virtual card security code can be sent to your phone via SMS, also you can change it anytime you want to. If you think your security code has been compromised, feel free to request another one.
- You get a free subscription to My Shopping Box that originally costs $25 annually.
- Gives you a free one month trial for the virtual card.
- Unlike Smart Money which doesn’t require you an annual fee, you can get GCash AMEX Virtual Card for a subscription fee of as low as ₱250.00 annually. Or you can opt to pay monthly or semi-annually (₱25 and ₱140 respectively). But considering it’s an American Express Card debit card ₱250 is quite low compared to credit cards (around ₱1,500) or prepaid cards (BPI My ePrepaid Mastercard for instance, costs around ₱500 to ₱600 for 2 years depending on your location).
- It cannot be used in PayPal. Yes that’s the hard truth. If you already have a PayPal account which is already verified using your Philippine billing address, you’ll notice that when you try to add your virtual card, you can’t change the country for your billing address to US due to different “banking regulations”. Also don’t try to push your luck by entering your US address, even though the country selected is Philippines, your card won’t be verified. But when you create a new account using US as your address, chances are, you can’t verify it using your virtual card, since registering in PayPal in the US requires you to have a US bank account. Well, if you have a US bank account, that’s a different story.
- It charges double currency conversion rates from international sites. American express charges 1.5% above the tagged market rate. Aside from that, GCash charges 0.5% to 1.5% on top of the AMEX rate.
If you think that you can handle the cons presented above, and excited about the pros of the virtual card, here’s how to apply:
- First and foremost, you have to be a Globe subscriber. Also, you have to be registered to GCash. If you aren’t registered yet, you may do so by dialing *143# on your Globe handset. Select GCash and follow the instructions.
- Now this is the crucial part, especially for prepaid subscribers. Get KYC’ed. KYC means “Know Your Customer”, a process required by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which requires a one-time validation of your identity. This is to ensure that the person transacting with Globe is the real person he claims to be, which in turn adds a little more security for your mobile money transactions. The process could be as simple as personally transacting with Globe and showing a valid ID as proof of identity. For postpaid subscribers, simply call 2882, follow the voice prompts to get you to talk to a customer service representative and ask them to get KYC’ed. Since postpaid subscribers have already transacted with Globe upon applying for their postpaid plans, your personal information submitted upon your postpaid application will be used to get KYC’ed. For prepaid subscribers, you need to visit a Globe Store (yes, you’re required to personally visit a Globe Store; I think there are other places where you can get KYC’ed, these are Villarica Pawnshops, Prime Asia Pawnshops and SM Department Stores, not sure so a Globe Store would be better), ask them that you want to apply for a GCash AMEX Virtual Card, so they would know what you need to accomplish. Present a valid ID so they can verify your identity. If you want, you can take this chance to cash-in to your GCash Wallet.
- After 24 hours, visit the GCash AMEX Virtual Card webpage.
- Click Sign-Up for your ONE-MONTH FREE trial on the upper right corner of the main menu. Fill up the popup form with the correct details.
- If the system detects that you’re already KYC’ed, an email will be sent to you later on, informing you of your successful registration with the link to a PDF of your account details. If the system returns an error that you are not yet KYC’ed, you may opt to wait a little longer, system delays are not uncommon. But if you think that it was a mistake, you may contact the GCash Hotline at 2882.
- Included in the PDF is your new American Express Virtual Card number and your personalized US address courtesy of My Shopping Box. Take note, that it may take a while before you may be able to register to your My Shopping Box account, around an hour to a day.
Upon registering, you are given a free month trial of the service. After about a month, you will be notified to subscribe via their subscription plans mentioned above. The subscription fee may be automatically deducted from your GCash Wallet or you may choose to include it on your postpaid bill.
Using it online is just like using any other credit/debit card. Upon checking out your order, when you are prompted to enter you credit card details, simply use your virtual card number and your US billing address. The security code can be requested via *143#. Take note that your billing address and your shipping address may not always be the same. The billing address is the address used by your virtual card, while the shipping address is where you want your purchases delivered. If you’re shopping locally, you may use your home address as the shipping address. But if you’re shopping from a US online store, you may choose to ship your items at your personalized US address. You have the privilege of availing some store’s Free Shipping promotions to your US address. By logging in to your My Shopping Box account, you can check if your items has arrived and also opt to ship them to the Philippines. Visit their website to know how they compute their shipping rates. The general idea is that if you ship all of your items in one package, chances are the shipping rates are much lower than shipping them one at a time.
You may also use your virtual card to purchase digital goods from iTunes, Google Play and the like. You heard it right, you may use it to purchase in iTunes. I tried using it in Google Play by registering it in my Google Wallet. Registration was pretty straight-forward. Simply enter your account details with your US address as the billing address. Submit it and you’re ready to go. Take note that Google will charge your GCash wallet $1 to verify that your credit/debit card is valid. Unlike PayPal, which can hold funds to your account, PayPal can charge you $1 from your card and refund the amount to your PayPal balance. Google on the other hand simply relies on credit and debit card functionality in which it cannot return the $1 back to you. I think it’s not that bad, especially if you frequent Google Play.
GCash has evolved from an SMS-based micropayment service to a full-pledged payment system. I’m so glad that I can use my GCash Wallet for ATM/Debit transactions (via GCash Card) and for online shopping (via GCash AMEX Virtual Card). But like any other services, it’s not yet perfect. I have some suggestions that I think would further strengthen it’s stand. Brainstorm!!
- I hope that the virtual card and the GCash Card be combined into one physical card. It would be nice if my physical card displays my AMEX card number. Of course it would be best if the card will still be fully customizable.
- How about a second virtual card that has a Philippine billing address? I’m sure it would come in handy for people who uses PayPal, especially when transacting online where credit/debit cards are not feasible or where American Express is not accepted.
- How about a credit system for postpaid subscribers? I hope that someday I can use GCash as a credit card, where my purchases aren’t debited, but credited to my GCash Wallet and payable via my postpaid bill. It would save time when you want to buy an item immediately but doesn’t have enough funds from your GCash Wallet. Also, it can pull people into applying for a postpaid plan. I think in other countries, some telecom companies enables you to purchase stuff and charges them to your bill.
- Convert load to GCash. If GCash can be used to buy prepaid load, well, why not do the opposite. It always happens to me when my prepaid load balance is bigger than my GCash Wallet balance. It’s good for easily cashing-in GCash funds when you’re away from a GCash outlet, since an AutoloadMax is always closer to the subscriber than a GCash outlet. This will further integrate GCash to Globe services.
- A more comprehensive online banking solution. I know that there exists an online service where you can transfer GCash on a click of the mouse. But it would be nice to login to a website and view your GCash balance, transaction history and transfer GCash to another person. This would be nice for people who want to control their budget and monitor their expenses effectively. This website could be a mobile site so GCash wouldn’t deviate much from it’s original aim, mobility.
- Encourage banks to be a GCash outlet. It would be beneficial if transactions regarding money would be centralized to a certain location, which is the bank. In turn, this could lead to more banks supporting fund transfer to GCash. I know how it feels as a guy who needs to withdraw from my LandBank ATM (that’s where my payroll goes), go to a GCash outlet and cash-in to my GCash wallet. The less steps needed to funding GCash, the more subscribers will be attracted.
- A flexible API, where website developer and application developers can embed into their websites/applications that enables them to perform purchases that are included in their transaction flow. This will allow in-app payments to buy digital goods (i.e. game items, game credits, unlock full version, etc.) and pay them via GCash within the app. Or if a webmaster has an e-commerce site, users can checkout with their purchases and opt to pay via GCash and automatically processes the purchase, similar to how PayPal and Google Wallet does. Or if the PayPal-like service is to big of a task, find a local online service that do just that, partner with them and enable them to automatically deduct funds from GCash.
- Probably use an NFC chip for tapping and shopping. We know that Smart has been testing the NFC technology for these purposes, so why not develop an app using this technology and GCash?
I just hope that Globe promotes this service heavily to achieve a widespread acceptance of the average Filipino consumer. I can’t wait what Globe would bring us next time. Surprise us!