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I was at the presentation at SHA 2017.

The demo was nice, even though i did not understand any of the crypto. Although, to be fair, i didn't even try :-)

One important take away for me was that this project aims to replace paypal, not bitcoin. Its target is to establish an open source payment infrastructure that is better than paying with credit cards, paypal, etc...

I keep hearing about Taler from a friend of mine, but there hasn't been much adoption among banks or credit unions, limiting its usefulness.

The banking sector in the US is a mosaic of banks and credit unions running a wide variety of debit networks, with ACH vaguely tying them all together. I wish it was easier to move money between banks here, seems like the quickest way is to write a check!

Once upon a time, a friend of mine needed to repay me for a loan of about $1000. Since we both banked at HSBC, we figured walking into the bank together might be a simple way to do that. Nope. I had opened my hsbc account online, he had opened his account in person. Therefore we may as well have been two separate banks, apparently. After debating the sanity of this system with a bank manager (whose fault it clearly was not), I noticed a big sign on their ATM. It said "Now accepting cash deposits!". I asked the guy if there was a limit on the size of those deposits. There was. I can't remember how much, but it was in the neighborhood of five grand I think.

My friend took a withdrawal in cash. He handed me the money. I walked over to the machine and deposited it.

Makes sense if you look at it sideways.

About ten years ago I moved from New York State to Washington State. I wanted a bank account that would follow me and Chase had not yet bought WaMu so I went to BoA in NY, opened an account, moved my money into it.

I arrived in Seattle and at the BoA branch there they said they didn't recognize BoA of New York. I couldn't deposit into the WA branch. I could write myself a check and it would be processed with the reduced speed of a check from an out of state bank.

There are also checks for that kind of thing.

Cheques don't typically clear immediately (to crudely attempt to prevent overdraft/double spending attempts) and can have a cost associated with their purchase.

Cheques are uncommon in Europe now-a-days.

They take five days to clear, however.

Eh? How long ago was this? He couldn't write a cheque? He couldn't do a simple BACS/CHAPS/FPS transfer?

I'd have thought it simple without even walking into the bank...

It's not that long ago that doing a transfer even between different subsidiaries of the same UK bank still took 3 days.

Usually it'd be faster if it was within the same bank, but even then there was often no guarantee it'd be same day.

If you wanted a fast transfer, withdrawing and depositing the cash again was the fastest option for many combinations of accounts until just a few years ago.

Long ago? TODAY i can't pay my credit card balance, which is simply another account in my own bank, in less than 2 business days!

I log on their site, i see both accounts under my login, i just transfer money from one to another. Two. Business. Days.

It is probably the maximum amount of time they can get away with. Because there is an obvious benefit for the bank to delay. They can use your money as their security longer. They can charge you late fees. etc.

Well I didn't realise we were talking about speed, OP spoke of ease.

Cheques are not common in Europe now-a-days.

SEPA, guaranteed wire transfers over night and in November this year a payment under 15000€ will happen in 10s (ten seconds!). Not even Bitcoin can do that anymore with transactions taking more and more time (or fees).

If the US gov would put some weight behind it, the US could easily catch up.

SEPA guaranteed overnight iff funds are actually sent by the bank that receives the transfer request. I saw several banks (French, German, Luxemburgish) taking the order online and taking up to four business days (Sent Friday, arrived Thursday).

My SEPA transfer to a UK account always takes 2-3 days according to the service provider (can't vouch for that, maybe it's the provider who's slow but they are a small IT company so ...).

It varies by country if it's zero-day credit between banks (before a cutoff time) but i don't think it's legal within the EUR zone to have more than +1 days to credit.

(I think Finland is +0. Germany and France probably not, for various cultural differences ️)

One business day is required in the Payment Service Directive. You still occasionally see two days from German banks, only few of them actually can manage a zero day transfer. I operate a Dutch bank account solely for the purpose of making fast transfers to German accounts which works really well.

Once I tested that I was able to do a zero day transfer from a German bank to the Netherlands and then to another German bank. The same without the Dutch intermediary was a day slower.

I think your 10s transaction is about equivalent to an unconfirmed bitcoin transaction or credit card authorization. How often is the actual bank-to-bank transfer?

The fact that there is an arbitrary money amount shows it's more of a fraud cutoff than a real limit.

It depends. The banks nets the transactions a number of times during the day, normally using a central bank.

In the mean time the credit on your account is debited a 'float' account that accumulates any debt to other banks or third party payment system. Each fast payment system also typically have a reserved amount deposited as a guarantee in the event that a bank runs out of money.

It's a real cost to reserve money so there is a restriction on the sums.

Can the central banks speed up the settlement? Yes probably, but it's a lot of work to do.

It's not the same. SEPA doesn't allow double-spends, unlike unconfirmed bitcoin transactions.

I can get similar results with my current (UK) residential banking for anything up to 25kGBP.

>transactions taking more and more time

Bitcoin blocks will always be ~10 minutes, if you pay the fee to get into the next block, it'll be 10 minutes until your payment is confirmed, before that, all the nodes will announce it anyway so 0 conf is much faster.

Although bitcoin aims to generate a block every 10 minutes, in practice it usually takes longer than that. As I'm writing this, the last block[0] took 30 minutes to mine (sometimes it spikes to hours though[1]). Most importantly, a transaction needs[2] to be confirmed 4-6 times[3] meaning it should be 4-6 blocks in the past, so you're looking at a 1-2 hour transaction time.

On top of that, if you want to pay less than a certain transaction fee[4] (right now it's $1.62[5]) you probably won't get into the next block, see https://bitcoinfees.github.io. Recall that 1 block = 20 minutes and add that on top of the confirmation time.

[0] https://blockchain.info/block/0000000000000000005f0e639f66af... look at the Timestamps of this block and the Previous Block

[1] https://blockchain.info/charts/avg-confirmation-time?timespa...

[2] https://youtu.be/bBC-nXj3Ng4?t=18m41s

[3] https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf page 8

[4] https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Transaction_fees

[5] https://bitcoinfees.21.co/ (a satoshi is 0.00000001 BTC, 10,000 satoshi is 40 cents right now)


It's impossible to know how much to pay to get into the next block. If there's 10 payments waiting to get into the next block and there's only space for 9, there's no way they are all going into the block, regardless of their fees.

Users don't want to play a complicated expensive, impossible to win game in order to get their payments processed in a known timeframe.

ACH is quicker but much less secure, because the initiator has to have the recipient's account number and bank routing number, which also suffice to initiate wire withdrawals that do not require confirmation to complete and can't easily (if at all) be clawed back.

The average person doesn't have access to an ACH console though, and most banks & credit unions offer local transfers only, with "Bill Pay" that is just them mailing checks out for you. ACH is essentially for businesses only currently.

Most (if not all) of the major banks and some credit unions have joined Zele (formerly clearXchange) [1] to handle person-to-person transfers. Only since the rebrand has it been obvious that each banks person-to-person service is part of a multi-bank network, but I've been using it to pay my landlady since I moved into my house last May (money is transferred instantly, so there's no worry about timing a check with bill pay's slowness - and she never gets a piece of paper with my account information on it either).

It's taken forever, but I'm hopeful with the big banks getting onboard Zele for person-to-person payments we may see something similar to the push-based systems other countries have for making everyday transactions online someday.

[1] https://www.zellepay.com/

How does Zelle compare to Venmo on things like fraud protection and customer service? (I imagine simply not being owned by PayPal is a real good start.)

A "proper" setup integrates Zelle directly with your bank, aside from clicking the "Send money with Zelle" button being the only hint a third-party is involved the transaction is initiated and settled directly within your banks online account management system. When done this way your bank of choice takes responsibility for fraud and customer service, with the Zelle network silently working behind the scenes to match email/mobile numbers up with destination accounts.

If you don't have a participating bank, things get a little more annoying since you can still use the service on its own by registering an account and tying your checking account to it - then the classic 3rd-party intermediary problem comes in. On that note though, Zelle is owned by big banks, Bank of America, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, etc., so even as sleazy as the banks are I have a lot more faith in them not screwing it up (they don't like fraud, and they want you to keep your money with them - even as greedy as they are).

In all honesty, it's probably the best setup we have for Person-to-Person transfers in the US - as more banks and credit unions adopt it you'll hopefully just open the app for your bank of choice on your phone and initiate a payment, no third party trying to take a cut, you call the bank you (hopefully) already trust for support, and as a result you remove one more account tied to your banking information that can be compromised to steal your money.

Venmo has basically no protections, its much sketchier than PayPal. If the person who sent you money wants to reverse the transaction, there is nothing stopping them if its a person to person transaction.

Unsure on how Venmo works, but I can explain Zelle / clearXchange some. (I've done this a lot on HN; it's nice to see someone else taking up the mantle on this thread!)

With Zelle, everything is done through your participating bank. So customer service is managed through your bank, and fraud is probably the same way.

You register with Zelle through your bank, which means your bank associates your email and / or phone number with your account within the Zelle system. After being associated, other people with a participating bank can send you money using that email or phone number. The money is instantly deducted from the sender's account, and is typically in the receiver's account within minutes or hours. Since you can only initiate payments through Zelle and not withdraws, fraud is likely managed the same as wires or bill pay.

There is also Popmoney, which seems to have a few dozen more Credit Unions (though no BECU :c), they also have the big banks.

A few years back I was able to configure payments for my Citizens' Bank credit card from a non-Citizens' checking account without any verification. Needless to say I was livid and contacted their customer service, who were basically like "yup that's how it works".

(I closed my account with them soon thereafter. Citizens' is awful for other reasons.)

Checks also include the payer's account number and bank routing number.

Uau, checks are still in use?!

Incredibly so, in USA. Even salaries are often paid with checks. In Europe (and elsewhere?) we've used online transfers for everything since 90s and USA is a really weird in this regard. That was almost the first thing that Internet was used for.

But also to point out usage is in massive decline - most people pay bills online, and purchase either with debit/credit or cash in person.

But yes, we never really got on the 'pay via bank' train like was done in much of europe in the postwar period, this has impact of how things transitioned to digital payments..

Conversely, we have much more established credit issuing infrastructure, it is not uncommon for even teenagers to have a credit card (not just debit)..

That sounds backward to me. Here (UK) my teenagers had their own debit cards -- not credit.

Perhaps Canada, as well. I paid my rent with a check deposited into the landlord's mailbox back in 2010.

Yep, checks are very common, its how most people pay rent, larger bills, etc in the USA. Credit Unions and Banks here offer "Bill Pay", which is just them mailing out a check on your behalf.

Cash is popular here too, many of the grocers I work with see 40% to 60% of their revenue in cash, though that market segment has discouraged check use (with the exception of Costco).

In most European countries checks are not trusted anymore by common business, given the usual fraud schemes, and in some banks you need to jump through a few hoops to get them (only crossed or pre-validated).

Digital payments have replaced the majority of checks.

I've heard about the popularity of SWIFT. ACH is nowhere near as accessible, and it has fees depending on your bank or 3rd party ACH provider.

EMV was also much more rapidly and properly deployed as compared to the US, where some javacard applets just give a static code instead of a rolling code. We have literally hundreds of banks and credit unions, plus a few thousand payment processing resellers all fighting to hold back progress in the payments industry here.

If I'm not wrong SWIFT is already on the downward. Most services that had my SWIFT code requested me to update it to my IBAN code instead because SWIFT was being replaced.

Plus, inside the Eurozone+Friends, you can use SEPA payments across borders, and it is very cheap or even free.

It depends on the trust relationship -- stores will not accept checks from customers most of the time anymore, however as the parent said, rent and utilities are still often paid via check as there is an established relationship between the payer and payee.

National retailers mostly accept checks; they just treat them as debit card transactions though, scanning the numbers and printing the check for the customer, even handing it back to the customer after it is accepted.

I guess it isn't even limited to national retailers, the independent grocer here does it too, I guess because it is worthwhile for them to pay for it.

> I guess it isn't even limited to national retailers, the independent grocer here does it too, I guess because it is worthwhile for them to pay for it.

I mean, it really just saves the headache of taking the checks to the bank to be deposited. These machines scan the account information on the check, initiate an ACH debit and print the details on the check for the customer's reference.

We do something similar when patients remit payment to us by mailing a check, we have a third-party service that provides us with check scanners that do a similar job - but instead they scan the payment amount off the check and then initiate the ACH debit, they keep an image of the check and we destroy the original copies. Makes life a lot easier, especially since we have dozens of bank accounts these checks get posted to based on what legal entity the money needs to be allocated to.

Ah, gotta love Telecheck! Their blacklist is nigh impossible to get off of though for those that are on it, but it is optional to use the blacklist.

Usually one has to have some sort of 'check writing account' setup for this with the store or present a valid state-issued identification at the very least; When the store doesn't trust the purchaser they will often manually verify the purchase by calling the bank issuing the check, etc.

Eh? Bodegas won't, but Chexsystems is a thing, and a ton of places use it. I know people who do the bulk of their shopping with checks.

From what I hear from my stateside friends, e.g. american utility companies often charge extra to pay by credit or debit card.

From a UK POV, this is completely alien to me as a concept.

> Yep, checks are very common, its how most people pay rent, larger bills, etc in the USA. Credit Unions and Banks here offer "Bill Pay", which is just them mailing out a check on your behalf.

Bill Pay services will try to convert the transaction to an ACH push if the service you are paying is set up for it, saves the bank money and lets them keep it in your account (earning them money) for longer. They will always fail back to cutting a check though.

Sadly some vendors/stores don't even accept Debit/Credit here in the USA.

In NYC it is pretty common for a mom & pop bodega to either not accept debit and credit, or have a ridiculous limit on it. The pizza place I used to eat lunch almost everyday was $25 minimum for cards. The bodega next to my office was $15 minimum. The bodega under my apartment had $5 minimum, but they usually waved it for me if I was over $3 and didn't have cash.

Also, almost every Chinese restaurant or Ramen place had Cash Only signs.

A rewards credit card costs the business your shopping at 2%, or all the way up to 3.5% for certain cards. Then you get network fees (from Visa, Mastercard, etc) and another few cents and tenths of a percent tacked on by the businesses Payment Processor, and poof, there goes 3% of their income!

Its no wonder so many businesses don't take credit cards or debit.

Personally I find it rare - usually it's because of infrastructure (e.g., the farmer's stand doesn't have a credit terminal to process payments), or tax evasion (e.g., a restaurant gives you a discount for paying cash and it doesn't report that income).

I suppose it depends what you're buying. I've also had places who use Square tack on another 3% to cover their Credit Card fees each order as well :/

Half of my clients still pay me via Check, even though QuickBooks invoices offer a Pay Now button (with options for Credit Card or ACH).

I read "vaguely tying them together" as "usually it works, sometimes not". This latter is my experience.

Electronic transfers enjoy a certain priority also, direct deposit, wire transfer, cash or check deposit at atm or branch are all different for different banks. In other words, it is a vague description when things clear. Some banks are better to their customers some are not so much. I live in the US.

An improvement is most certainly welcome and appreciated.

Bringing agpl into a banks systems would cause lots of fears. Adoption there is unlikely.

> One important take away for me was that this project aims to replace paypal, not bitcoin. Its target is to establish an open source payment infrastructure that is better than paying with credit cards, paypal, etc...

Well actually if you read the initial paper from Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoin was invented as a replacement for paypal, not money :

> Commerce on the Internet has come to rely almost exclusively on financial institutions serving as trusted third parties to process electronic payment [1]

But bitcoin became really popular among the libertarian movement which hated the Fed and other central banks because they saw them as threats to freedom, and now people mostly think about bitcoin as a replacement for money.

[1] : https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf

This sounds awesome if it works and takes off

Yes, I would like to have some working open source micropayment system.

However, as far as i can see there is no bank offering a backend yet. Hopefully that will change soon.

It would have been great if the taler system had been usable at SHA 2017. We had to use weird, cheap and easily falsifiable plastic coins at the food court. Using taler instead would have been a really great tech demo...

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