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Five Web sites for businesses to create Passbook passes

Small businesses and consumers alike need a way to create custom Passbook passes. Here are five sites that make it possible.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Whether you're a small business or an individual who wants to create a pass for Passbook, unless you have a lot of technical knowledge, it's not going to be an easy journey. There are a lot of moving parts that come together to create a pass for Passbook. Certificates, the actual coding of the pass, signing it, distributing and tracking it are just a few of those parts.

Instead of investing countless hours and money into developing a pass, it may be easier to use a service to streamline the process and prevent any headaches you would likely face. If you go down this road, it's a good idea to sign up for an iOS Apple developer account. The cost is $99 per year, and some of the services require that you import your own Passbook certificates.

Here are five sites that will help you test out Passbook and see if it's a fit for your business, or your personal use.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

PassKit provides users with easy-to-navigate templates that allow its users to customize each pass and truly make it their own. During the creation process, the pass template will update in real time, showing you what you can expect to see when the pass is added to Passbook.

After you've created the pass, you can limit how many people can install it, when it expires, and if a password is required before allowing access. Once you have issued a pass, you can go back and edit it (update it with a new promotion) and then send push alerts to everyone who has the pass installed. You're even able to view how many passes are currently installed.

PassKit Account Plans will begin on October 22. Any passes created before then are free, but after that date, pricing starts at free and goes up from there using a monthly subscription model.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

PassHound allows you to create passes using the common templates, or by using templates created and shared by fellow PassHound members.

You can create and share your own templates, or keep them private to be used for your own business. Push alerts and tracking passes are all included in the service.

Right now, anyone who signs up can use the service for free until December. After that, you'll need to sign up for a paid plan ranging from $5.99 to $35.99 per month.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

PassSource offers two different services. The first, under the Get heading, is a list of apps with Passbook integration, or links to business Web sites explaining planned Passbook integration. It's a convenient resource if you're looking for Passbook apps and services.

The second, under Create, allows you to create passes using blank templates, or predefined templates for companies -- regardless if they've rolled out Passbook support (Starbucks is still listed on PassSource, even though the official app now supports it). Ranging from a YMCA member card to your IKEA Family card, you can fill out the required information for each pass type, and download it to your iOS device in just a few minutes.

If you're looking to create a custom pass, including custom artwork, you can sign up for a personal or professional account. Each account type offers its own benefits. A personal account will set you back $9 a month or $99 per year. A professional account runs $99 a month or $999 per year. There is a promotion running right now set to end when when the site "officially launches."

For small businesses, PassSource also offers a Pass Scanning app in the App Store that will help you track loyalty cards and coupon redemption.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

PassTools template builder is one of the best I have seen yet. It's easy to navigate and use, not to mention it just looks nice.

When you first sign up there will be five sample passes populated in your account for you edit and test with. You can easily create your own passes, complete with custom artwork by clicking on the New Pass button.

When you sign up you'll receive a 30-day free trial, after which you'll need to pick a price plan. Plans start at $99 per month for basic users (1,000 passes per month) and goes up to $999 per month for premium users (10,000 passes a month).

The template editor is nice, but the service is lacking one key feature -- push alerts. As far as I can tell from testing the service, any pass updates you make will only be reflected in the pass once the user redownloads the pass.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Similar to PassSource, PassDock has a list of popular companies it has created Passbook templates for. You can personalize any template and add it to your Passbook in just a few minutes. The template editor is well thought-out, offering both a Simple mode and an Advanced mode. Simple is easier for the less tech-savvy people, while advanced offers more control over the pass.

If you'd rather create a pass from scratch, you can do that as well.

Currently the service is free to use, with no limits being placed on number of passes, updates, or alerts. The site is in beta, with a pricing model expected to be released as it leaves beta.

Sign up and take advantage of free trial offers and free plans. Experiment with passes and how they can be used before you commit to what could be a costly subscription fee. In the end, a Passbook coupon for your business may not be ideal, but there's only one way to find out.

I've created a few passes using each of the services listed above for random things. One pass I have lists a reward and phone number to call should I lose my phone. Crooks are getting smarter and deactivating Find My iPhone, but they can't turn off push alerts I send through Passbook without deleting the pass or wiping my phone. It's a random use of Passbook, and one I hope I never have to use. What are some creative uses you can think of for Passbook that may not stick to the obvious path?