Paying With What You’re Saying

Using voice-activated payments for transfers, paying bills and more

The State of Voice Pay

We've all experienced the frustration of epic fails with voice assistants, often leading to garbled words, misfires and misinterpretations of your original intent.

Amazon Alexa now allows customers to make re-ordering simple via voice commands. Apple has enabled Siri to support a vocabulary for starting person-to-person (P2P) payments by using voice functionality, now used by apps such as Square Cash and Venmo.

Large banks are taking small steps, adding voice capabilities here and there. Capital One Financial in March added voice-powered commands for Alexa users for checking balances and making credit card payments. RBC in Canada added Siri capability in early August for bill pay and P2P. And Barclays in the United Kingdom added the capability for customers in late August.

For RBC, Siri made sense as an initial platform: about half of its users have iPhones.

"There is a good, strong band of loyal Siri users within the Apple community," says Peter Tilton, senior vice president, digital at RBC. "So it was a logical thing for us to extend this capability to that group."

Advancements Change the Tenor

The nascent stage of voice payments comes after some big advancements in speech recognition technology. During the last five years, cloud computing has offered the processing power needed for reading the complexity of speech and voice. Software has become much better at understanding voice commands and converting them to more conversational-sounding speech.

Meanwhile, the shift toward smaller computing devices over the years has actually made it harder to click and tap while on the go. From desktops and laptops to smartphones and tablets, our devices are becoming smaller and less convenient for typing. While consumers might not make a payment via a touchscreen on an Apple Watch, they sure might want to use Siri to do it.

Equifax's Data Breach Sends Wake-Up Call to Small Business Owners

Data security should be one of your business's priorities.

The Equifax breach is reminding small business owners that they may be vulnerable to cybercriminals

Small businesses often lag behind big companies in data security, not believing they might be targets. But 61 percent of the victims of breaches in 2016 were businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees, according to a Verizon survey. And experts say small companies are being targeted more because they don't have the sophisticated defenses that big corporations do.

Still, Equifax says its systems were breached after it failed to correctly install a software patch designed to eliminate a vulnerability. Applying patches as soon as they're available and watching for new ones are critical for a company to protect itself, experts say.

But many small business owners, sidetracked by other issues, don't pay enough attention, says Diana Burley, a George Washington University professor whose expertise is internet security. Many don't have staffers or vendors to monitor technology, and no plan to improve their security. Small businesses should not forget they can be harmed by cybercriminals in a variety of ways.

The 6 Biggest Mistakes You're Making With Your Business Credit Card

Using a business credit card to manage daily expenses can be a great but it can become a liability for your business.

1. Choosing the Wrong Type of Credit Card

It's important to note that not all credit cards are created equal. Business credit cards and personal credit cards are different products that carry different legal protections and have a different impact on your credit score.

2. Mixing Business and Personal Expenses

You have to keep your business and personal spending separate. Failing to do so is a recipe for a headache come tax time, not to mention the potential for increased scrutiny from the IRS. One or two mix-ups turns into 10, and next thing you know--you're on a three-hour call with your bookkeeper, going line by line through every credit card statement. You definitely don't want to go there.

3. Spending Without a Plan

When you're first getting started with a small business--particularly with a shiny new high limit business credit card in hand--it's easy for every potential expense to feel like an absolute need.

There's nothing wrong with investing in your business in a smart, systematic way. But if you're busting out that business credit card day after day without a budget, a repayment plan, or any forethought about the return on your investment, you're setting yourself up for trouble ahead.

Even if you've found an introductory business credit card offer that gives you 0% APR, make sure you're paying attention to when that interest will kick in so that you can plan for full repayment before it starts catching up with you.

4. Ignoring Interest Rate Changes

When the introductory period ends, your interest rate will typically skyrocket up to at least 18 to 20 percent (and very often higher). When that happens, if you're sitting on a massive credit card balance, you'll be looking at a mountain of interest expenses.

And don't think you can just game the system, either. These introductory offers almost never apply to balance transfers from one card to another--so hopping from card to card keep your rates low isn't an option.

5. Getting Behind on Payments

It's a mistake that sounds so obvious in the abstract, but when you get down to the day to day of running your business, it happens way too easily.

You missed the email saying that your payment is due, or have an unexpected expense that takes priority. But even one late payment on your business credit card can have a devastating impact on your business and personal credit scores--and ultimately your long-term financing options.

Take the time to create a budget and a cash flow forecast, add payment reminders to your calendar, and if you're working with a team, make it clear who is responsible for making payments on time, every time.

6. Taking the Wrong Approach to Business Credit Card Rewards

Different business credit cards offer a wide array of awards opportunities for their customers that can save you money, make that entrepreneurial lifestyle a little more enjoyable, or both. But if you're not using them correctly, business credit card rewards can hurt you a lot more than they help.

To get the most mileage--literally or figuratively--out of your business credit card, approach rewards the same way you would any business transaction. Run the numbers, measure the returns, and look for the business credit card with the best combination of favorable interest rates, terms, and rewards that actually make sense for your business.