We’re live in the US! And other updates

Abra Send Money Instantly

Today we are announcing the availability of Abra on iPhone and Android for consumers in the US. Now, anyone with the Abra app in the US or the Philippines can send money for free to anyone else with the app by funding their Abra wallet (buying digital cash) with their bank account. This release is the next step in taking Abra global.

How does it work? Abra is a digital wallet that allows you to store digital cash on your smartphone.
Once your money is on your phone, you can send it instantly to anyone else with the app. For example, an Abra user in the US can add digital cash directly to the Abra app using any major bank account. The US user can then send digital cash to any user in the US or the Philippines simply by typing in the recipient’s phone number. Recipients in both the US and the Philippines can withdraw their digital cash to their bank account: recipients in the Philippines can also withdraw their digital cash for physical cash at an Abra Teller in their neighborhood. And it’s just as easy to send money from the Philippines to the US, even if the sender doesn’t have a bank account.

Our vision at Abra is to make it possible for the first time to send money across any two smartphones regardless of location, currency, or mobile phone operator, just like WhatsApp does for messaging. Why does the world need this?  Cross border remittances now top $500 billion per year generating over $25 billion in fees.  Most of that flows from the developed world to the developing world, but there’s still a significant amount being transferred in the “reverse” direction, as well as within “minor” corridors, which have traditionally been ignored (or exploited) by existing payments and remittance players. For example, parents send close to $100 billion per year to their children studying and traveling abroad.  The e-commerce opportunity is even bigger: Analysts expect cross-border e-commece to top $1 Trillion by 2020 even though most consumers don’t have a bank account or credit card.

We believe that Abra is uniquely qualified solve these problems.  To realize our vision of a free peer-to-peer money transfer network, we’ve been building a global ecosystem for person to person payments that works on any smartphone in any country in the world. While traditional remittance providers look at the world in terms of “corridors,” we see the world as one big connected global network. Our blockchain based platform helps us realize that vision.

Over the coming months, Abra will launch in several additional countries beyond the US and the Philippines. Our goal in this first phase of launching Abra is to get as many “largely banked” countries online as quickly as possible. These banked consumers will later have the option of becoming Abra Tellers when we enable that option in their country. We’ve already had pre-registrations for Abra Tellers in over 75 countries – and we haven’t yet spent a dime on marketing.

In addition to supporting “banked” consumers, we’ve ramped up our ability to support cash consumers via our Abra Teller model. The Abra Teller acts like a “human ATM,” helping consumers get digital cash on and off their phone in exchange for a small fee. Abra has begun the process of deploying our retail teller network, starting with the Philippines. We have thousands of locations under contract and the broad deployment of these locations is underway.

Ultimately, our goal is to enable Abra across every country in the world so that consumers can simply send money between any two phone numbers, regardless of location, telco, or currency. We’re excited to take yet another major step towards realizing this goal.

37 thoughts on “We’re live in the US! And other updates

  1. Can Abra please address concerns by potential tellers in the US that they may be considered ‘money transmitters’ and therefore be subject to the corresponding laws? In your ‘launch’ video at 5:24 you specifically say that “no ID is necessary and no paperwork needs to be filled out because it is peer to peer”. This seems to imply that such transactions are not subject to KYC and AML as is required by money transmitters. A clear statement regarding these issues would be very appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Our goal is to be very careful about how we deploy tellers in any country in which we operate. We do not currently have tellers in the US. When we do, we will do so in a way that protects both Abra and the tellers in accordance with the relevant regulatory framework. We’ll provide more detail closer to the time when we’re ready to deploy tellers in the US.

  2. This app, or a successor, is the future for sure.
    I applied to be a teller in the US a couple days ago.

    Is there an estimated launch date for the US?
    It’s not truly live if there are no tellers.

    How does one invest in Abra?
    What is the legal name? Is it publicly traded? If not, eta?

    1. Thanks for your comments, Brian. And thanks for applying as a teller!

      We launched in the US several days ago. As the post suggests, tellers are most definitely part of our plan for the US but as a first step, we’re enabling bank-based funding, as the majority of US consumers have bank accounts.

      Abra is a privately-owned venture-backed startup.

  3. Unlike bitcoin wallets, your Android app requires access to almost all personal information in my mobile. Why should I or anyone trust such an app or the company behind it with this data? Even if your management were trustworthy, as some have seen (e.g., with the sale of RadioShack) should a company be sold the new buyer may not abide by the privacy provisions of the former owner.

    1. Hi Steve, our app only asks for what it needs when it needs it. You don’t have to supply anything but your phone number to use Abra and receive funds from another user. All other information is optional. However, if you use the app’s feature to add or withdraw funds via your US bank account you must supply the requisite detail that our banking partner requires in order for them to be compliant with applicable laws.

      For location services, we only use that feature when you’re searching for a nearby Abra Teller. If you don’t search for a Teller we don’t use your location. If there is any other information you believe we’re accessing, let me know and we will be able to explain the circumstances for accessing that information, or not accessing it, depending upon how you’re using our app.

      Please keep in mind that while your Abra App utilizes Bitcoin as a means for storing and sending cash our goal is to make the app much easier to use and understand than a typical bitcoin wallet which means that we must do things in a slightly different way, e.g. we require your phone number instead of exposing a public/private key pair… a concept which most people simply don’t yet understand. Please keep your questions and suggestions coming. -Bill

      1. When I try to install the app it requests access to:
        Device and app history
        Identity
        Contacts
        Location
        Photos and Media/Files
        WiFi Connection info

        This seems to me quite excessive for its purposes.

        1. hi! can you please clarify which access you are concerned about? In general we need access to your contacts to help you find other users you know also using Abra, your Location to aid you in finding the closest teller to your location, and Identity to allow you to receive alerts about your transactions. If you have other questions or need more details please contact support@goabra.com and we will be happy to answer any concerns you may have.

  4. Can someone in the PH with bitcoin in a standard wallet app use your app to convert it to local currency without being sent from another Abra user?

    1. Chimi, thanks. This is a feature we plan to add in the near future. If you check your app updates via App Store or Play Store you’ll see when the feature is live.

  5. Hi,
    I have watched the video presentation on youtube about the Abra app launched presented by Bill (the ceo?).
    I’m interested in using it but it seems confusing to me the way he explains it! Is the company going to make another video presentation soon I hope? a different way of explaining.
    It’s the going back and forth between the tellers in the U.S. and in Mexico is what confuses me.
    And by the way, the good looking gentleman who’s explaining it on video, I hope he will avoid the “am” and the “ah’s” the next time he explains it, it’s annoying, sorry.. I’m probably the only one got annoyed with it. If he can’t help avoid saying just forget what I said.

    Thank you

    1. At the moment, users in the US can send and receive US Dollars and users in the Philippines can send or receive Philippine Pesos. If a user wants to send money between the two countries, that amount is automatically converted from the sender’s currency to the receiver’s currency.

      We’re looking at ways to incorporate Bitcoin as a “currency” as well – see our latest blog post on that – but that’s not quite available yet.

  6. There are lots of holes and gaps in your business model. Pricing and the amount of time to send money. Leading people to people with money is a safety risk. Regulatory gaps in both countries. Putting legal risks on the users.

    Your office in the US looks like a front yard based on your website. Your office in the Philippines is a “shared” office. NO ONE will trust a money transfer business if you operate like you can run away with people’s money.

    I advised my family in the US to be careful and I told my family in the Philippines to never use this unless you provide better confidence and security for all of us!

    1. Hi Nadine,

      Thank you for your interest. You can find information about our fee structure on our website here: https://www.goabra.com/fees/

      The time to process deposits and withdrawals varies based on the method you use. Deposits and withdrawals via bank account could take several days due to the limitations of the banking system, and some banks charge transfer fees on top of the normal ACH fees, which we cannot anticipate and tell customers about in advance. Teller transactions vary depending on the availability of Tellers and the fees that they advertise in their profiles.

      Regarding trust, because of how the app works, Abra simply *cannot* run away with people’s money – we never have custody of it to begin with.

      Regarding legal, all Abra Tellers are advised that they must follow their local regulations for Teller transactions. We encourage any Tellers who have questions about this to seek legal council that is familiar with local regulations.

      Regarding safety, Abra Tellers are at no more risk than any other money exchangers or cash-based businesses. We do make Tellers aware of these risks and provide guidance on how to safely mitigate these risks. Customers who do business with Tellers should likewise know the risk of carrying cash to and from money transfer facilities and take the appropriate precautions to ensure their safety.

      I hope this helps clarify things!

  7. Liz and Bill,
    Absolutely wonderful.
    Been circling this space for awhile now…..

    My head is swimming with wholesale ideas on using this type of infrastructure…. cash>cryptocurrency>DLT>Cryptocurrency>back to cash in the mortgage marketplace.

    Is there an internal person I should contact (US) who would be a good contact? Or is this just not where you are going?

    Just downloaded Abra. Going to find a way to use this in US.
    Jay in Chicago

    1. Thanks Jay! We think it’s pretty exciting!

      We’re currently pretty focused on our consumer & merchant applications, but watch this space! There are certainly plenty of unexplored opportunities.

  8. Hi Bill. Just wondering if ABRA already started beta testing here in Australia? I would like to apply to become a beta tester. I’m sending money to the Philippines every month and I think, I’m in a good position to compare ABRA with other applications available. Cheers

  9. Is there a list of U.S. banks that will accept a withdrawal by ABRA? I’m a U.S. citizen that resides in the Philippines and want to use ABRA to withdraw funds from my U.S. accounts to send to my accounts in the Philippines. Also just how secure are these transactions from hackers and such?

    1. Hi William. Good question. I’ll explain how to do this right now, and then how we’ll be changing the process in a couple of weeks to make that easier.

      Currently, here’s what you need to do to transfer funds from your US bank account to your Philippines bank account:
      1) Make sure your Abra account is a US account (funds are in US Dollars).
      2) If you need to change from a Philippine account to a US account, then go to your Profile, select Change Country, and select US.
      3) Once you change yourself to be a US user, select “Add Funds”, then the Bank option. You’ll be able to add funds from any major bank. The full list is here:
      https://abra.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/217217437-Which-banks-does-Abra-work-with-
      4) Once the funds are uploaded (which may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, depending on a variety of factors), then switch your country back to the Philippines. This will convert your funds from US Dollars to Pesos.
      5) Then go to Withdraw, and follow the instructions to withdraw the funds to your Philippine bank account.

      That’s a bit of a hacky process, though, because Abra was designed for sending money from one person to another. But we’ve heard from a number of people such as yourself that sending money to themselves is something they want to do. So in the next few weeks we’ll make that process simpler and I’ll update this at that time.

      In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us at contact[at]goabra.com

      Thanks!

      1. Liz, I just read your response to William. I was interested in how the “Change Country” operation works. Your description to William made it sound like the change in currency units was near instantaneous. Given that the underlying asset is Bitcoin, and that an Abra hedge partner guarantees the asset’s value in a fixed fiat currency amount (or so I have been led to believe), if the user chooses to change the denomination of their Abra currency to a different fiat currency, does that change in currency involve closing one hedge (denominated in the original fiat currency) and creating another hedge (denominated in the new fiat currency)? I apologize in advance for not using the approved financial lingo.

        1. Hi David. I confess I don’t know all the details of how it works on the back end. From a consumer point of view, however, the currency exchange is instant, or nearly so.

          1. Liz, as an enthusiastic Abra “watcher”, I’ll take any information you can provide. Thank you.

    2. Hi William.

      Our most recent app update makes it easier for people like you who have bank accounts in both countries to transfer money to yourself:
      https://www.goabra.com/blog/free-bank-to-bank-transfers-usa-and-philippines/

      As for security, our partner in the US who facilitates the bank transfer is wholly dedicated to ACH transactions, and they use bank-grade security to keep your details and your money safe. We do not access or store any of that information ourselves. Once the money is in your Abra wallet, it’s yours — only you have access to it. That’s one big difference between Abra and an account-based system such as PayPal. With PayPal, that company is storing and transferring funds on your behalf. With Abra, you keep and transfer your own funds, in digital form. Your wallet is actually on your phone.

  10. Go Abra Team. Since hearing about the app from a TED Talk video, I have been enthusiastically been telling my friends and family about it. I even went as far as testing the app by transferring a small sum of money (from a Philippines based bank) and sending test transactions to friends and family in the Philippines and in the US who I have convinced to install and check the App out. So far so good! The transfer from a Banco de Oro Unibank account was straightforward, just add Abra as a Payee for Bills payment and you are good to go (maybe wait a day or two for it to go in). Sending funds was seamless.

    My friend in the US had a concern however. Apparently the method of transferring funds from a bank account to your Abra wallet differ depending on the country(?) or bank(?). Presumably reflective of the rules and regulations in effect. The specific concern is with the US bank Wells Fargo. My friend asked me why is the application asking for my bank’s username and password? And sent a screenshot of the page. I do believe that it is a legitimate concern. I too would caution people from entering those sensitive information if it is not using the bank’s own official mobile app or their official online banking website.

    The last transaction I have tried out is withdrawing to my Philippines based Banco De Oro Unibank account. The transaction itself was similarly straightforward, requiring only the account number and account name, similar to what you would give a person that would like to send you money via bank transfers. I have not seen the transaction go in yet and it has been 5 days since I have completed the transaction. Hoping it will come in soon. Is this already too long as what is typical?

    Unfortunately for now I could not convince my friend to try out the withdrawal to a bank account in the US due to the mentioned concern.

    Hoping that the Abra Pay becomes available soon. Can’t wait to try that out too.

    1. Thanks Joel,

      great comments. Thrilled you love our service. I promise you it will only get better.

      Regarding US based deposits/withdrawals into/out of the app… Currently we use a third part service provider who provides bank integration into the top banks to facilitate withdrawing and depositing funds to and from bank accounts. This process requires the consumer to authenticate to their bank account using their login and password. Abra never sees this information as the app encrypts the details and passes them on to the bank (wells fargo in your friend’s case) in order to validate that he truly owns the account. Note that this is the same process used by other online payment providers in the US such as Venmo and several others. In other words, the process is not unique to Abra and is quite common. However we’ll look at better and more comprehensive ways to explain this. If your friend would like to talk to us about it they can send me a note any time and I’ll give them a call myself. My email is bill at goabra dot com and our support email is support at goabra dot com.

      Regarding timing on your BDO withdrawal, 5 days is abnormal, so I would suggest that you please send support details including your phone number and the amount withdrawn so they can make sure there isn’t a problem with any of the bank details provided or anything else specific to your transaction. support@goabra.com

      If you want to try out Abra Pay go to codashop.com and try buying some airtime or amazon gift cards using your Abra App at checkout! (it’s really cool.)

      -B

      1. Thanks Bill. I have contacted support and the issue was resolved right away by cancelling the transaction and reimbursing the amount back to my wallet. The problem was that the amount being withdrawn was too small. Being a test withdrawal, it was for a really small amount just to check whether everything works as intended. Perhaps some guidance on the minimum and maximum withdrawal amounts per bank will be helpful to prevent these types of issues in the future? Or an automated monitoring of failed transactions that would notify the sender of a possible issue and to prompt the user to contact support? Or even better, notify support and proactively engage with the user to troubleshoot the issue.

        I will show my friend in the US your reply above and see if it addresses her concerns on security.

        Codashop looks interesting by the way. I like the way they publish the comparative prices depending on the payment method and Abra is consistently shown to be the best value. Too bad they are out of stock on Blizzard vouchers at the moment 😉

        Joel

        1. Thanks Joel. I love your enthusiasm. I passed on your notification ideas to our product team.

          Please stay in touch and follow us on twitter so we can interact directly and collect feedback in real time. —> @AbraGlobal

  11. Hello Abra team!

    You guys are doing fantastic work! Are you guys considering offering this as a service? Something developers can build on top of?

    -Tim

    1. Hi Tim!

      We’re not a platform, if that’s what you’re asking. But we do have a couple of APIs. The merchant API, for example, which allows online and mobile merchants the ability to accept Abra as a form of payment (see https://www.codashop.com/ph/ for an example).

      What sort of development would you be interested in?

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