Facebook Credits to be available at Asian retail stores

Starting August, Asia-Pacific users of the social networking site will be able to buy its online currency via various new payment modes including at payment kiosks and cybercafes.

Starting next month, Facebook users in the Asia-Pacific region will be able to purchase the social networking site's virtual currency via new payment modes such as online banking, cybercafes and authorized retailers.

In an announcement Thursday, MOL Global said it signed an agreement with Facebook to enable users to purchase the site's virtual money, Facebook Credits, which can be used to acquire virtual goods in online games and apps on the site.

The service is provided through MOL's subsidiary MOL AccessPortal and marks the first time Facebook Credits will be available for sale at retail outlets and other payment modes, according to the companies. Currently, users in the Asia-Pacific region can only buy the virtual currency using credit cards or PayPal.

Alpha tested in May 2009, Facebook Credits is the social networking site's efforts to provide a single, cross-application currency by "making transactions simpler for users, leading to a higher conversion rate for developers", Deborah Liu, product marketer on the Facebook Developer Network team, said in a February blog post.

At a store near you
In an e-mail interview, an MOL Group spokesperson told ZDNet Asia that from August, Facebook users in the Asia-Pacific region will be able to purchase Credits using MOL AccessPortal's online micro-payment system, MOLPoints, on Facebook as well as MOL's Web site MOL.com.

Users can also top up their MOLPoints online through online banking as well as physical payment channels supported by MOL's network of more than 500,000 outlets including AXS kiosks in Singapore, authorized retailers and cybercafes. These outlets are located in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, India, Australia and New Zealand.

There will also be a new MOL Facebook app and there are plans to launch co-branded prepaid cards in Singapore and Malaysia, according to MOL.

It added that the new partnership will benefit both companies, particularly in Asia where credit card penetration is low, and will increase the ability of Facebook and its partners to monetize the growing Asian audience.

Facebook users pay US$0.10 for 1 Credit but the site deducts US$0.03 for every US$0.10 worth of Credits redeemed by developers as "service fee", according to the Facebook Credits Beta Terms.

The MOL Group spokesperson did not specify how much MOLPoints will be needed to purchase 1 Facebook Credit. According to the company's Web site, MOLPoints are not pegged according to real-world currency exchange rates.

In Singapore, users can buy 100 MOLPoints for S$1.00 (US$0.72), excluding the 7 percent GST (goods and services tax) imposed in the country. A Malaysian user can buy 100 MOLPoints at 1 ringgit (US$0.31), while Indian users are charged 100 rupees (US$2.20), excluding 12.36 percent VAT (value added tax) implemented by the government.

MOL Global is the parent company of another social networking site, Friendster, recently revamped itself to target the youth audience.


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