PayPal at POS again?

3 May 2013

This week the WSJ reports that Discover “has deals with 50 merchant acquirers, which handle card transactions for retailers, to offer eBay’s PayPal service as a payment option at checkout counters”, with First Data holding out.

I like DFS, I own DFS stock… it is likely to be the dance partner of choice for many new payment start ups..  as they are a bank operating a 3 party network.  Their network revenue is paltry ($218M rev out of $3,753 EBIT). DFS looks like a bank, with profitability driven by credit quality of their cash back cards. Logically DFS is the ummm “hand maiden” of choice for entities looking to extend to extend products to the physical world. DFS has nothing to loose, as they don’t serve many of the demographics that are part of “mobile wallets”. discover flow

Discover has a very poor ability to “push” products into market, as they perform less than 40% of their own acquiring (“direct merchant” in Discover terminology is account in top 100, with indirect merchants handled by other processors). PayPal’s current POS economics just don’t work for merchants, particularly large merchants that have already negotiated steep discounts with issuers. A top 5 retailer’s quote on the topic

“why on earth would I want to take a PayPal card that wraps a bank account at 200bps when I JUST WON DURBIN and have my own new product coming out. The last thing I want to do is change consumer behavior to my detriment.”

The average merchant fee for Discover today is about 197bps. If Paypal kept this rate I estimate their margin at 10-20bps max (PayPal’s transaction cost is around 107bps (2012), Loss rate is 26 bps, a network fee to Discover is rumored to be 50bps which leave 14 bps as total fee available to split WITH ACQUIRERS).    Let’s just assume that 197bps is the fee that acquirers run with, as they certainly can’t make the case to INCREASE the cost of accepting a PayPal card. So merchants are left with the value of accepting a Paypal card at 197bps instead of taking my BAC debit card which cost them $0.21 + 5bps.

My point is that NO major merchant will go this route… only the poor little independents that don’t know enough to assume ISOs are working on their behalf and don’t even accept PIN debit. The press release on acquires “supporting” paypal means nothing. Each and every merchant has the ability to turn this off.  As a side note, it is estimated that 60% of processor revenue comes from small shops that don’t know what to ask for.. hence the Square value proposition.paypal take rate 2

Lets assume that every merchant looks past the cost, and runs to PayPal. As I outlined in Paypal at POS, there is NO CONSUMER VALUE to the PayPal card.. why on earth would I use a PayPal card that wraps my BAC debit, Citi credit or Amex card.. why not just use the card in my wallet… ? Consumers obviously feel the same way, hence HomeDepot’s experience of less than 5 transactions PER WEEK per store. For anyone in payments, I encourage you to experience a return using PayPal at the POS. My experience is something for another blog. For more on this topic, I encourage you to read the slightly dated Philly Fed Acquiring Overview (2007)

6 thoughts on “PayPal at POS again?

  1. The “wrapping” concept is not necessarily bad, if implemented right. Think of it as “shielding” and apply to the travel market to see the potential benefits (including the convenience of carrying just a single “intermediary” card). It’s not for everyone, but has its compelling use cases (again, if done right).

    Also, if the “intermediary” card is a conventional V/MA, the merchant doesn’t have a choice but to accept it like any other card.

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