Musk Says X Could Soon Receive Payment Licenses in New York, California

Elon Musk said on Wednesday that his social media platform X could soon receive approval for a money transmitter license in New York, putting the platform a step closer to offering payment features. Musk also said X could receive its license in California in the next month or so, while getting the New York approval could be “a few months away”. Since acquiring the company formerly known as Twitter in 2022, the billionaire has sought to turn it into an “everything app” like Tencent’s dominant WeChat app in China, with features beyond social media, including the ability to send money to other X users. To offer services across the U.S., experts say X will need a money transmitter license in each state, and Musk has previously said that approval in New York and California would be the most consequential. Those populous states are also known for relatively lengthy approval processes. [Reuters]

Our Credit Card Debt Threatens to Swamp Our Savings

The nation’s mounting credit card debt threatens to swamp its savings. More than one-third of American adults, 36%, have more credit card debt than emergency savings, according to an annual survey by Bankrate. In more than a decade of polling, the figure has never been higher. Roughly half of all credit card holders now carry balances from month to month, Bankrate found in another survey, up from 39% in 2021. The average borrower holds $6,360 in card debt, TransUnion reports, an all-time high. [USA Today]

Private Equity Wants Your Credit Card Debt. And Car Loan. And Mortgage.

Private fund managers such as Apollo, Ares, Blackstone and KKR have grown to dominate corporate finance over the past decade. Now they are targeting the biggest prize in the global economy: the U.S. consumer. The firms are pushing aggressively into “asset-based finance,” a kitchen sink of debt including auto loans, credit cards, real-estate mortgages and loans backed by equipment such as fiber-optic networks. Such financings touch almost every piece of the U.S. economy, and tapping into the market could mean riches for the fund’s executives and their shareholders. [The Wall Street Journal]

Buy Now, Pay Later Goes from Niche to Normal as Young People Use It for Daily Essentials

Buying now and paying later is still a popular way to splurge on airfare to Cabo. It’s an increasingly common way to buy groceries and lawn furniture, too. Consumers ages 35 and under comprise 53% of “buy now, pay later” users but just 35% of traditional credit card holders, according to LexisNexis Risk Solutions. Many of those core “BNPL” borrowers have grown so comfortable using the installment loans for just-out-of-reach luxuries that they’re putting more everyday purchases on them as well. The shift adds to signs that fast-growing BNPL services, which let users break up transactions into several payments with little or no interest, are becoming a routine tool in young adults’ wallets as they adapt to higher prices. [NBC News]

China Is Making It Much Easier for Foreigners to Use Mobile Pay

Foreign visitors to China can now spend up to $2,000 a year using the mobile app Alipay without having to register their ID. That’s four times more than the previous limit of $500, a move that will impact international tourists the most. The number of foreign travelers to China had declined after the country temporarily imposed strict border controls during the pandemic. The increased transaction limit reflects Beijing’s push this year to make it easier for foreign travelers to pay for daily purchases in a country in which mobile payment has become ubiquitous. [CNBC]

Are Apple Pay and Google Pay More Secure Than Credit Cards?

Google Pay and Apple Pay are very secure. There are four big features that contribute to this: Apple Pay does not store your full credit card number, so even if Apple is compromised and their encryption fails to protect the data (which is unlikely), your card number can’t be stolen. Google Pay encrypts all the card data stored on their servers. If the data is ever stolen, it is unlikely that anyone will be able to break the encryption in the foreseeable future. Apple and Google Pay use tokenization for transactions. Just like with credit cards, this means that whoever you’re paying can’t steal your credit card number and use it for fraudulent transactions later. Neither service will allow you to view or modify the payment methods attached to your account unless you confirm it using your phone (or another authorized device). [How To Geek]

Visa, Mastercard Could Be Key Drivers for Crypto in the Year Ahead

Bitcoin has surged this year thanks to an influx of money from traditional institutional investors via exchange-traded funds. Likewise, integrations by traditional retail payments players, Visa and Mastercard, could push the crypto market to dramatically higher valuations in the year ahead. Payments show promise but are served by strong traditional players and remain heavily regulated. However, complementary cryptocurrencies for loyalty rewards hold untapped potential. [Coin Telegraph]

Free Point.me Tool for AmEx Cardholders Simplifies Booking Flights with Miles

American Express announced a partnership with award travel search engine Point.me. Point.me’s software allows members to search across various airlines to see how many miles or points it would require to book an award flight, so they can transfer their credit card points to the airline loyalty program with the best deal. Point.me’s standard membership subscription typically costs $12 monthly or $129 annually. Under the collaboration eligible U.S. AmEx cardholders can access a free version of Point.me’s search tool that searches for award flights across AmEx’s airline transfer partners. [Nerd Wallet]

Block’s Crypto Wallet Shuns Bitcoin for Boring Old Credit Cards

Block, a leading payment company spearheaded by Jack Dorsey, has officially launched its much-anticipated Bitcoin hardware wallet, Bitkey. In an unexpected move, the company has mandated that purchases of the wallet, priced at $150, can only be made using traditional credit or debit cards. This decision is a significant deviation from the cryptocurrency ethos. [U Today]

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