Facebook already announced its intention to take over e-mail and instant messaging. Now it’s moving into credit cards, and maybe even international currency.
WalMart, Best Buy, Target and Safeway all announced recently that they will begin selling prepaid Facebook credit cards in their stores. For now the cards are good for stocking up on Facebook points, which can be used only inside Facebook-based games like Farmville and Bejeweled Blitz.
“We want Facebook Credits to be the virtual currency on Facebook,” Deborah Liu, a Facebook spokeswoman, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The cards also will be sold in Tesco stores, the giant British grocery store chain. Given the website’s international reach, some people wonder whether Facebook credits could become the first international virtual currency. For example, online publishers could use Facebook credits to pay writers and producers, Atul Bagga, an analyst with the investment research company Think Equity, told the Chronicle.
“Facebook is only taking baby steps,” Bagga said. “But you can see that Facebook credits can go far.”
And if you think Visa makes good money every time you swipe your card, Facebook makes a killing. Visa’s interchange fee taps out at 2.7% of the value of each purchase, according to its fee table for merchants.
Each time a user buys something with Facebook credits, Facebook takes a 30% cut. Facebook is mum on how many of its 500 million users now use its credits, but expanding into brick-and-mortar stores is intended as a way to boost the program’s popularity. Best Buy will offer the cards in denominations of $10, $25 and $50, where WalMart will sell them for $5, $10 and $25.
In related news, The Atlantic Monthly reports that Facebook is not happy about debt collectors hunting down debtors on its site. A spokesperson for the company told the publication, regarding this tactic, “Facebook policies prohibit any kind of threatening, intimidating, or hateful contact from one user to another.” And they remind users to “report such behavior to us, only accept friend requests from people that they know, and use privacy settings and our blocking feature to prevent unwanted contact.”
Image: popofatticus, via Flickr.com