If you don't have a credit card but you want to shop on the Internet, then you might be the perfect customer for a new product called PayNearMe.
This new service, opening for business today, is chasing after people who have money but don't have a credit card, which, according to PayNearMe, is about 29% of American households out there. (I assume they're quoting a recent survey by CreditCards.com, which showed that an estimated 29% of Americans don't carry plastic.)
PayNearMe actually reminds me a little of BillMeLater.com, a service where, at checkout, you provide your birthday and the last four digits of your Social Security number and later, you get a bill for whatever you purchase online. But some critics feel BillMeLater.com is also a little uncomfortably too similar to a credit card because the company checks your credit before they allow you to sign up for the service -- which could affect your credit score -- and if you don't promptly pay up in full, there can be fees.
But PayNearMe works a little differently, and it sounds like a better deal: You visit one of some 6,000 7-Eleven stores around the country to complete any online purchases you've started. You hand the clerk your "PayNearMe" slip that you printed at home, along with cash to cover the purchase, and as soon as you do, Amazon.com or whatever online store you've made your purchase with, has the go-ahead to ship your order.
The best part is, this service is free for consumers; merchants foot the bill. The fee merchants pay is similar to the interchange fee they would have paid had you used a credit card to make your online purchase.
PayNearMe has partnered with at least 10 online merchants, including giants like Amazon.com and Facebook and lesser-known sites like Money to Go, which is a service to help people take out loans to repair their cars.
Not every service PayNearMe has will be free. People will be able to use PayNearMe for financial transactions like loan repayments to friends and family and money transfers, and there will be a fee with those services, but I'm told they're competitive with other banking alternatives out there.
If you're struggling to find a way to shop online and have paid extra fees or felt like pulling your hair out because it's not easy to do without a credit card, this could be the solution you've been looking for.
Geoff Williams is a regular contributor at WalletPop and the co-author of the book Living Well with Bad Credit.
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