Citi's 1.2 million credit card customers in the Philippines can now use SMS to authorise payments for deliveries and services on their credit cards.
Citi Mobile - which has been piloted by staff for the last few months - lets users authorise transactions by texting or calling merchants instead of swiping their cards.
The bank has inked deals with McDonald's and other high street retailers to let cardholders pay for goods remotely and have them delivered. Users can also top up pre-paid mobile phones, buy Internet access time and pay utility bills using their credit cards via their handsets.
Cardholders register by phoning the bank before being sent a Citi Mobile PIN number via SMS which is used to authorise payments.
Citi - which is trying to push the service by giving away 100 phones in a raffle for people who sign up - says it chose the Philippines as the first place to launch the service because the country is known as the unofficial 'text capital' of the world.
According to a 2007 report by Pyramid Research, Filipinos' heavy use of SMS is due to its pricing compared to voice calls. Because text messaging, at under US$0.02 per message, is so much cheaper than prepaid voice minutes, 90 per cent of the country’s 35 million subscribers use SMS services regularly, and the average user sends about seven text messages every day. According to Citi, that average figure is now 12-15 SMS per day.
Because of the heavy use of SMS, and predominance of pre-paid mobile phones, other innovative SMS based services have been launched in the Philippines. These include the ability for mobile phone users to transfer their pre-paid airtime credits to other people via SMS.
Cecille Fonacier, eConsumer business director, Citi Philippines, says of the new Citi Mobile service: "With the enhanced convenience of this feature we expect many customers will begin to charge simple day-to-day transactions to their Citi card using their mobile phones."
Citi has invested heavily in mobile banking and has embarked on a number of initiatives including the establishment of a joint venture with South Korea's SK Telecom which is developing a mobile banking platform that will be compatible with Google's new Android system.
In the US, the bank teamed with m-banking outfit Firethorn earlier this year to provide its credit card customers with access to real-time account information via their handsets.
Citi has also teamed with California-based start-up Obopay to launch a pilot person-to-person mobile payment service for its credit and debit card customers.