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PayPal looks to help you pay off your bills

The digital payments provider said it will buy TIO Networks for $233 million, expanding PayPal's bill payment services.


PayPal agreed Tuesday to buy a company that lets people go to a convenience store to pay off their bills using cash.

No, that experience doesn't sound all that high tech. So why would the world's leading digital payments company purchase a firm so focused on walk-in customers and dollar bills?

According to PayPal Chief Operating Officer Bill Ready, the deal for TIO Networks for $233 million was all about continuing his company's focus on democratizing financial tools, especially to people underserved by traditional banking and credit-card companies, so more folks can easily move around their money and make payments.

"We're trying to give them pathways to more financial inclusion," he said in an interview Tuesday.

PayPal hopes it could eventually introduce TIO's cash-based users to more of PayPal's digital services, helping the company bring in more active users to its base of nearly 200 million customers. That could help PayPal maintain its steady growth while also keeping up its mission under CEO Dan Schulman to spread financial services to more people.

Following with that effort, PayPal in late 2015 bought the remittance company Xoom, which lets people in the US send money to friends and family overseas.

Right now PayPal doesn't offer much in the way of bill payments, except through Xoom. Ready said expanding into those services following the TIO deal is "definitely the type of thing that we think about," but he declined to say whether such a move could be in the works.

TIO (pronounced TEE-oh) currently has about 14 million customer bill pay accounts for utilities, telecommunications, cable or wireless bills and processed over $7 billion in bill payments last year. The Vancouver, Canada-based company's customer base is mostly in the US. The TIO deal is expected to close in the second half of this year.

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