Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Companies Use Debit Cards to Pay Workers

A New York company is promoting a new option: plastic.

Payoneer Inc. is issuing prepaid cards through MasterCard. After obtaining the card, the recipient gets subsequent payments instantly and electronically. As any debit card can, Payoneer cards can be used to buy things or withdraw cash from ATMs in a local currency. And ATM fees, the company says, are often lower than wire transfer fees, and some employers will subsidize new costs their workers incur.

Getty Images Inc.'s iStockphoto is among the early customers and plans to make the Payoneer cards an option for paying photographers commissions on images sold through its site.

"They are in every country in the world just about now, and it has been difficult to get money to those people effectively and inexpensively," said Kelly Thompson, executive vice president for iStockphoto.

Market research firm Mercator Advisory Group estimates that about $11.3 billion in U.S. wages were paid through prepaid cards last year. But until now, they were largely aimed at lower-income individuals who don't have bank accounts.

Payoneer Chief Executive Yuval Tal said he decided to extend the concept to foreign workers and contractors because of the growth in Internet businesses that must pay people worldwide.

Companies remain responsible for any tax withholdings for employees, while contractors and freelancers still make their tax payments. Recipients need a PIN number or a signature to use the cards, and lost and stolen cards can be replaced, along with the funds.

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