Two Thumbs Up to Level Up

One of the perks of living/working in a major metropolitan area is that new technologies become viable in the marketplace sooner. For me, that means paying with my phone rather than cash/credit card.

You might have heard of Square. It won best new technology a year or two ago. Rather than the standard credit card reader that plugs into a phone line, Square card reader attaches to a smart phone. The company charges a lower processing fee than credit card companies and doesn't have any of the extra service or equipment fees. AND if they enable the GPS component, customers that have the Square Cardcase app can simply give their name and the smart phones communicate with each other. Nifty!

The problem is, not a lot of people in Boston are adopting Square. Starbucks just invested in the company and is converting all their locations to Square. I find Starbucks coffee disgusting so that doesn't do me a lot of good.

BUT, Square is not the only such company. Another is Level Up. Level up gives the vendor a smart phone to take pictures of QR codes that display on the customer's smart phone. The QR code is linked to a token and that token is linked to your credit card (thus, if your phone is ever stolen, you can just deactivate the token to protect your credit card). Unlike Square where the motivation is lower processing fees, Level Up creates more of a club mentality. Each vendor offers a discount for first-time users and then additional discounts when repeat customers pass certain benchmarks (so I get $3 off on my first-time purchase and then $5 after I've spent $50 at that restaurant, or what have you). Level Up doesn't charge processing fees on every purchase, but instead charges a fee based on the discount earned. That means that the merchant is getting free charges up until benchmarks are met. It can be great for vendors who might not get a large amount of repeat business (or get repeat business semi-frequently to hit that sweet spot in between) but the cost against the discount is higher than the individual charge fees, so it's not a revolutionary "how can they afford that" kind of deal.

I use Level Up a lot because merchants all around me use it. There are a dozen different places in immediate walking distance of my office and more along the subway path I take to work. I love love love paying with my phone rather than a credit card (except at MJ O'Connor's which is the only place I've ever had experience a "problem"; I think they just don't know how to use the phone).

The reason I'm talking about this today is because Level Up just introduced a new feature that I'm over the moon about. You can donate a percentage of your savings to charity. So instead of me getting $5 off at Four Burgers after I spent $50, I get a percentage of that $5 and the charity gets the rest. In this case, I buy the hamburger I was going to buy anyway, I save $2.50, and Jumpstart gets $2.50 as well. Not earth shattering, but it's more than they were getting before.

If I hadn't been a fan (which I was), I would be now. This is an awesome opportunity for people to give. If you have Level Up merchants in your area, give it a try.