Digital payments reach Falkland Islands as Square and MasterCard connect – Payment

Julie Halliday at Studio 52 gets to grips with Square (Image: Square)

Julie Halliday at Studio 52 gets to grips with Square (Image: Square)

Small business and ecommerce entrepreneurs on the Falkland Islands are set to be able to take digital payments following an agreement between Square, Mastercard and the Falkland Islands Government.


The Falkland Islands lie 8,000 miles from London in a remote and beautiful location where penguins outnumber people by more than 100:1. To date, many of the Islands’ businesses have been cash-only. Banking and compliance issues made it difficult, and sometimes impossible for small businesses to sign up for merchant accounts to accept cards – and to get those funds settled into their bank account.


On top of that, card payment machines were difficult to install and maintain in such a remote location.


With only one cash machine and bank branch on the Islands, residents and the tens of thousands of annual tourists alike were feeling the burden of cash as they queued up at the bank or paid with international currencies. Or worse still, businesses missed out on sales, as dealing in cash alone had become untenable.


Mastercard connected the Falkland Islands Government to Square and the three organisations formed a partnership to solve the challenges that made taking cards so uniquely difficult for this island community. This included helping sellers access the bank accounts needed for payments settlement. Together with onboarding them to Square to provide them with mobile Square Readers to take payments and to integrate the latest Mastercard technology.


“We have been a cash-heavy society for many years,” says Tim Waggott, Financial Secretary for the Falkland Islands Government. “But with increasing visitor numbers, we knew we needed to help our local businesses to make the shift to card payments. My predecessor here, James Wilson, had been working with industry to find a solution and we are really pleased it has finally come to fruition with Square and Mastercard.”


He adds: “With the coronavirus pandemic it’s clearly an uncertain time for our business community, but they are resilient and used this time to get set up for the future. When the tourist trade returns, it’ll be more important than ever that we can give everyone safe and convenient ways to pay. This is a huge step forward which will ensure that our industry is well-positioned to meet future demand and that Falkland Islands businesses are more financially empowered to expand.”


Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Square, says: “Running a business is always hard ,and these business owners have the added challenge of being in one of the most remote places on earth. Connecting the Falklands is a big step in creating a more inclusive global economy.”


Mark Barnett, President of Mastercard Europe, concludes: “Empowering small business is at the heart of what we do. This project transforms business opportunities for Islanders and significantly improves the experience for locals and tourists alike, who can now pay simply and safely using Mastercard’s latest payment technology including our sonic acceptance mark. Having been set the challenge of bringing payments to the Islands, we are delighted to have been able form this partnership and we wish the Islands’ businesses every future success.”


Square was seen as ideal for the Islands’ small businesses as it could easily be set up by the seller and the software and hardware updated automatically. This enabled them to start transacting right away without anyone from Square ever needing to set foot on the Falklands. With no long term contracts or monthly subscriptions, Square was also a good fit for the Islands’ seasonal businesses who wanted a flexible payment option that wouldn’t charge them during the quieter winter months.


Hattie and Kevin Kilmartin run Bluff Cove, a tour company with a gift shop and museum that was the first to trial the technology. Their previously cash-only business now takes 80% of their annual revenue through Square. “The impact has been significant. Our business is around half an hour’s drive from the capital Stanley where there is the only ATM, so our takings were literally limited by the amount of cash in someone’s pocket,” says Kevin. “Now people can spend significantly more with us as thanks to Square we can take credit and debit cards”


Before taking payments with Square, Sparky Ewen, Managing Director of Falklands Helicopter Services, ran a cash-only business, which was not practical for the international tourists who would arrive by cruise liner assuming they could pay by card. He said: “It’s been a game-changer. With Square, we can now take payments online, over the phone and onsite for walk-up bookings. We can run the business on the move and spend less time worrying about cash and more time doing what we love – giving our visitors a bird’s eye view of one of the most beautiful places on earth.”

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