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What Happens To E-Commerce When Credit Cards Don’t Work?

During the past several years in China, I have spent a good deal of my time explaining to Americans that e-commerce solutions do not have to depend on credit cards. In many parts of the world, such as Germany and Japan, and in China, e-commerce is about building payment gateways to different banks using debit cards or other devices which connect directly to bank accounts.

This was how Paypal started in the US. It is also how Alipay, Yeepay and other solutions work in China. Tencent, a company with a market cap of US$80B, based in Shenzhen uses a subscription payment system which also deducts payments directly from users’ accounts.

As the global Ponzi scheme which started as the subprime credit crisis continues to unwind, defaults on credit cards in the US will shoot up.

In the near future, credit will be given out much more sparingly. American society will very quickly change from a credit-based society to a cash-based society for most transactions. But there will be plenty of honest people who will need to buy, and sometimes they will want to buy online. If they don’t have access to credit and credit cards, how will they buy?

When you think about it in these terms, many of the payment solutions developed in China look more interesting, not just for China, but adapted to suit the needs of Americans who no longer have credit. Most likely these won’t be Chinese companies, but American e-commerce firms who want to develop something suited for Americans and the American market.

So which American company would come out with a non-credit card based payment solution? My guess is that it would be the leading e-commerce company, Amazon. I’d bet they are working on it right now.