The Flexipay Story

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THE FLEXIPAY STORY

Article from the Sunday Star Times 28/4/2013

Product Flexipay Offerer: Te Huruhi Finance

Offer dates: Available now to Waihekeans.

Now it works: Could this be the world's smallest credit card company? There are only about 2000 Flexipay card-carrying Waihekeans out of a Waiheke island population of about 8000. Still, that is one quarter of the population. The Flexipay credit card operates out of septuagenarian Gillian Poppelwell's garage on the island on an IT system developed by her son. it developed from a small credit sideline of a furniture and appliance business the Yorkshire-born Poppelwell sold many years back in the days before ubiquitous Visa and Mastercards, she started offering small credit limits to customers, a business she continued after the retailing arm of the business was sold.

The cards, which are embossed in Christchurch, are accepted only at Waiheke businesses (including ferry operators Fullers and Countdown), but not all of them. There are a couple of vineyard operations so entirely focused on the tourist trade, Poppelwell said, they don't see the point in accepting it. The card is swiped on the Eftpos system, so is easy to use. There are no annual account fees, compared to about $30 on a standard, no-frills bank credit card, which makes Flexipay simple to understand. Interest charged, though, is higher than charged by the banks: 24 per cent compared to around 19.95 per cent on a standard bank card. That combination means it is actually slightly cheaper to carry smaller debts, up to around $1000, on Flexipay.

What we like: Flexipay is innovative and is sticking it to the big boys. There is no reason why financial services need to be the exclusive province of giant companies. Scale, as we have learnt in recent years, is not always good when it comes to financial services. Sure, it does mean pockets deep enough to build worldwide acceptance platforms, but it also means lots of fees and big bills. Flexipay, Poppelwell said, is carried by some to show their loyalty to the island.

What we don't like: You wouldn't have this as your on'y credit card. The functionality is more limited than on bank-issued cards and it is accepted only on one small, althougn very lovely, island. Also, buying online is a big part of many people's lives, so a Visa, Mastercard or Amex card is a bit of a must. The debt people are able to access through Flexipay card is funded personaily by Poppelwell family money. As there are 2000 or so cards out there, that equates to a large potential liability. If all the cards were drawn down to the max, it'd be a big call on capital. Poppelwell acknowledges that, but says her bankers, as well as Countdown and Fullers (both of which expressed similar concerns) are comfortable with the way the business is run.

 Conclusion: Long may Gillian Poppelwell provide Waihekeans with an alternative version of your flexible friend.