Ahead Of PayPal And Square, Intuit Rolls Out Mobile Payments In Europe, Starting First In The UK

The mobile payment market in Europe continues to get more crowded, with the latest wave of entrants coming from across the pond to join a number of homegrown startups targeting the millions of businesses in the region that still do not accept credit card payments. Today, Intuit opened up its mobile device-based card payment service, Intuit Pay, for general availability in the UK — just a few weeks after PayPal announced that it would be bringing its own mobile payment service, Here, to the UK later this year. Square, Intuit’s biggest U.S. rival, has yet to announce any plans for Europe.

Despite the fact that there are a number of mobile payment providers hitting the market, there is also still a very big lack of adoption. A survey of small, fewer-than-10-employee businesses in the UK by Intuit found that only 19 percent of respondents took card payments.

Intuit Pay, which was first announced back in November 2012, is launching in the UK first, but this is just the beginning. Terry Hicks, VP of products for Intuit’s global business division, told TechCrunch in an interview that the intention is to use the UK as the first market ahead of a wider European and worldwide rollout. Hicks points to QuickBooks as an example of how Intuit takes products international: when it rolled out globally, it debuted first in the UK and then shot over to Singapore. Intuit Pay is rolling out initially with an iOS app, although other platforms like Android are on their way soon.

Like many of the other mobile payment companies in Europe — they include iZettle, SumUp, Payleven, mPowa, and more — Intuit has come up with a payment solution that meets the requirements of card processors, specifically Visa Europe, which has blocked certain services when they haven’t met their security standards.

This has meant, at least in part, doing away with the snappy little dongles that plug into mobile handsets and have become the unofficial trademark of these kinds of services — so much so that Square issued a legal C&D to mPowa when it decided that its marketing, featuring one of these dongles, looked too much like its own.

So, Intuit (like the others) has created a card reader with a keypad for users to enter PINs that correspond with the chips embedded in the cards to authenticate users. This subsequently links to an app on your iOS device to process the payment, send receipts and more. Transactions are charged at a 2.75 percent flat rate.

While companies like iZettle and Payleven are charging around $65 for their card readers, Intuit is hoping to sweeten the deal as the newest entrant by offering these devices for free for a limited time, along with a free app and free access to Inuit’s online payments service. Intuit, whose wider business is geared towards business software for small and medium businesses, says that Intuit Pay can also integrate with QuickBooks, Intuit’s accounting software.

Indeed, the fact that Intuit has a strong suite of other business products to sell alongside and integrate into Intuit Pay may be one reason why it would be willing for forego upfront margin. It is also part of the reason why the company is so bullish about entering new markets not as the first entrant.

“We think of Intuit Pay as part of an operating system, one that includes QuickBooks but other products, too,” Hicks told TechCrunch. “Intuit Pay embraces the fact that it provides a one-stop shop. Once you sign up, you get all the invoice, payment, offline, mobile invoicing included.”

Intuit’s U.S. business is also setting a decent precedent for confidence. In Q2 of this year, Intuit’s payments solutions business grew 18 percent, with card transactions within that growing 10 percent, largely because of GoPayment (Intuit Pay’s equivalent in the U.S.).

The company says that over the last two years, its payments business grew by 15 percent to $417 million in 2012, up from $313 million. The company says that overall transaction amounts that pass through that payments business were $37.8 billion in 2012, $30 billion of that with cards.