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By Ike Seneres

Legally speaking, there are no more usurers in the Philippines because anti-usury laws have been abolished. That is like saying that there are no more subversives in the Philippines too, because anti-subversion laws have also been abolished. The fact is, there are still many financiers who are lending money at usurious (merely a figure of speech now) rates, and there are still many people who are trying to undermine the government in subversive (also merely a figure of speech now) ways. As it is now, the laws might have removed the legal basis of the problems, but the problems still exist.

Under normal circumstances, no businessman in his right mind would borrow money at too high (read as usurious) interest rates, if only he could get much lower (read as reasonable) interest rates elsewhere. As it is supposed to be, businessmen are supposed to be able to get reasonable interest rates from legal (read as transparent) sources such as the banks, but that is easier said than done. As it actually happens, many businessmen are unable to borrow money from the banks because they are not “bankable” from the perspective of these banks.

As it is now, many businessmen could not get credit cards because of the same reason that they are not bankable. To put it another way, they could not get credit cards because they do not have a credit history, meaning that they do not have credit records. The good news is, anyone could now get prepaid credit cards, an oxymoron because these are actually just debit cards. The bad news however is that debit cards are not enough for businessmen to apply for merchant accounts, and these would actually exclude them from the world of electronic commerce.

By comparison, prepaid credit cards are better than the so-called money cards or cash cards because the former would enable anyone to establish credit records. It is also better to use prepaid credit cards instead of ATM cards for the purpose of paying for purchases, for the same goal of establishing credit records. Aside from relying on what bank records could do, it is also advisable for businessmen to establish good relationships with bank officers, so that there would be familiarity on the side of both parties when the time is right to apply for a loan or a credit card.

Not too long ago, businessmen had to apply for a merchant account in order to be able to accept credit card payments. Very recently however, Globe Telecom has launched a service that will enable anyone to accept credit card payments. This new service will surely revolutionize the way we do business on credit terms. Of course, this new service is no big deal for the big retailers because they have always had merchant accounts. Let us see how this new service could improve the revenues of our local businessmen.

Long before the mobile phone became a credit card machine, it has already become a Point of Sale (POS) machine. Until now however, handheld POS machines could only handle cash transactions. Now that the POS machine in the cell phone could already accept credit card and debit card payments, let us see what good it could do for our local businessmen. Down the line, I think that it will not be too long now before the mobile phone will also become an ATM machine. When that happens, it will actually be the ambulant businessman who will become your walking ATM machine.

It may just be a play of words, but the probable ambulant businessman of the future could actually be the lowly vendor of the present. Give the lowly vendor of today a phablet (a cross between a phone and a tablet), and he will have thousands of electronic brochures in his hand, and that would be more than enough for him or her to sell you anything under the sun. As if that is not enough, he or she will also be able to broker for you if you want to sell anything under the sun.

There was a time when lines were clearly drawn between internet commerce and mobile commerce. Now, the lines are practically gone, because anyone could do electronic commerce (e-commerce) using either a computer or a mobile phone. That is really nothing new, but what was missing before was ownership of a credit card to be able to buy anything online. That is not a problem now, because of open access to debit cards. What was also missing was the means to be able to sell anything online, and be able to accept credit card or debit card payments. That is also not a problem now. Beyond the credit cards, what our local businessmen needs now is more access to bank credit lines.

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