The Philippines already has a pool of mobile wallet apps trying to solve the specific problem and hassle of remittances and money transfer. Some of these apps are tied to shopping apps, and others are e-money wallets tied to telecom operators, while the rest are banking apps.
The Valora app by cLabs is one such app but with an exciting promise— to send money as you would a text message, simple is fast and cheap. No complex account numbers, Valora uses your mobile number as your account. So you can enter a mobile number and send cash for just 48 centavos using Valora.
Valora by cLabs is a mobile payment and remittance app built on the Celo platform. Celo is a blockchain designed to support stablecoins and digital assets while using mobile phone numbers to secure the user’s public keys.
The decentralized nature of blockchain means money sent through Celo does not go through intermediaries as it would on a traditional channel, such as a bank to bank transfer. Why? Because it does not need to. The blockchain as a technology allows for value transfers without both parties to a transaction verifying one another. The blockchain will do it for them.
But the blockchain is complicated. I know you read this on BitPinas and understand the terms mentioned above. Still, not everyone understands what a blockchain is, what is peer-to-peer, etc. cLabs knows the power of blockchain will allow for cheaper money transfers, so they used it to build Valora. At the same time, cLabs also understands the users of Valora, the people who need more affordable and faster transactions, might not be able to understand all these technicalities.
Instead of emphasizing its blockchain elements, Valora settled with a more familiar one — mobile phone numbers. The mobile number acts as the way to verify a person’s identity and funds within the app. And this process is very familiar to the market already because we’re used to doing this in other mobile wallets.
Solving the Transaction Problem
There are two significant headaches when sending money outside of the usual identity verification process:
- Transaction Cost
- Transaction Speed
A traditional transaction when sending money from a remittance company in Singapore to a local remittance outlet will always take at least two days. If you send it on a Saturday, the recipient will receive that on a Monday. If Monday is a holiday, the recipient will receive it the next day.
There are fees. One is the fee for the transaction itself, usually around Php 145 and up.
The second is the “hidden fee”; the going exchange rate between SGD and Php of the remittance company could be different than the going exchange rate one sees on Google. The remittance company would make the exchange rate weaker for the sender so they can take the difference as a “fee.
Transaction fees in Valora go for 48 centavos. Nevermind that it’s from Singapore to the Philippines or from Manila to Cebu. It will be the same.
(This would now make you wonder why a BDO to BDO transfer fee sometimes costs Php 50 if Valora can send it for as low as 48 centavos. This is considering that the money you send from the Manila branch to Lipa did not ride the bus and go through the SLEX to reach its recipient.)
With Valora, the cost is not zero, but sending money over traditional channels costs higher. What more for international transfers.
Getting Started With Valora
To begin using Valora:
- Download the app on the App Store or Google Play Store.
- Sign up for an account using your phone number
- Fund your Valora app with Celo Dollars (cUSD)
- Select a recipient in your contact list
- The recipient will receive a text message to redeem their cUSD
More About Valora
The app’s Home page details all your activity within Valora, whether you send or receive CELO or Celo Dollars, the two cryptocurrencies on the Celo blockchain. Celo Dollars or cUSD is a stablecoin pegged to the dollar while CELO is a cryptocurrency native to this blockchain. It is also where you can find the QR code to speed up the transaction further.
Selecting the QR button will also allow you to scan other QR codes, say when you need to transfer to another app via the same mechanism.
The CELO page displays your Celo Balance, the going rate of CELO, as well as the option to withdraw the token.
The Account Key page is where the person’s private key is located. Think of this as a product of the fact that Celo is a blockchain network. The phrases you see on this page are important and the only way to recover your account so you should write them down and store them securely like you would a birth certificate or passport. It is recommended not to take a photo of this page as these can be easily intercepted online.
Finally, the Add and Withdraw page is where you cash in and cash out.
You can tinker on the settings page to change the language, the currency, and whether you want to enable “Data Saver,” which allows the app to save bandwidth by not running the full node of the Celo blockchain. This is done by Valora by only connecting to the closest set of nodes in a specific region so users will see faster app startup and lower latency when sending transactions.
How to Add Funds to Valora
In the Philippines, the best way to add funds to Valora in the Philippines is through BloomX, a licensed virtual currency exchange:
- Go to BloomX’s Facebook Page
- Inquire that you want to purchase CELO or cUSD
- BloomX will tell you its indicative rates.
- If you accept, BloomX will ask for your CELO mobile number on Valora app or a valid wallet address where you will receive the tokens.
- Once payment has been made, the CELO or cUSD will be on the user’s Valora app.
What You Can Do With Valora:
- Participate in the CELO Rewards program*
- Spend on Beam and Go and partner merchants*
- Transfer money to friends and loved ones
- Cash-out in the form of gift cards from partner shops like 7-Eleven, OTTO Shoes, Landmark, and Zalora
Who Accepts cUSD
Through the partnership with Beam and Go, users can purchase vouchers redeemable in the following stores:
National Capital Region:
- Super 8
- Generika Drugstore
- All Day Evia
- Prince Hypermart
- SM Seaside
You can verify the location, you can check out CELO’s merchant map here.
Celo Rewards Program
Users can also get some monthly rewards when they save Celo Dollars on their Valora app:
- $1 worth of CELO with a minimum balance of 20 cUSD
- $5 worth of CELO with a minimum balance of 100 cUSD
- $10 worth of CELO with a minimum balance of 500 cUSD
Why Use Valora?
There are hundreds of mobile e-wallet apps available, but here are some reasons why you should consider Valora.
You have control of your money. Valora gives you the ability to become your own bank account. Unlike in other “custodial” e-wallets, the company who provided those wallets can choose to close your account if they see it fit to do so. How many bank accounts were closed because the bank found out the account holder was transacting with crypto?
On using Celo Dollars to send money for remittance and using them to purchase something in real life, other stablecoins, particularly Tether (USDT), might not be able to replace it.
Using USDT, you need to pay a transaction fee, most likely in Ethereum. And that’s very expensive especially for Valora’s target market, us everyday Filipinos.
In Valora, the transaction fee is 48 centavos. It’s not zero, but it’s almost free. Also, when sending money, the transaction only takes 3 seconds. This style of remittance allows you to send home lots of small amounts for specific things. For example, instead of sending $100 to your mother for everything needed back home, you can send $15 to your grandmother for her medicines, $25 to your brother for his school supplies, $50 to your mother, and $10 your dad. You’d never do this with traditional remittance because the per transaction cost will be so high – in this way Valora gives greater flexibility and control of the money you remit home.
The Philippines is where cLabs pilot-tested the Valora app, allowing the team to determine what kind of remittance app makes sense for Filipinos. Valora doesn’t require a lot of bandwidth to operate, as opposed to some e-money apps. Making use of the blockchain allows transfers to be fast and cheap.
The cLabs team has recently made deals to ensure the app can be used to pay hundreds of merchants via its partnership with Beam and Go. Cash in and Cash out are now possible through a partnership with BloomX. cLabs is currently in the process of onboarding more merchants and more cash in and cash out options. It’s a perfect chance to tinker with blockchain and crypto using the app while saving some cUSD to earn more Celo.
This article is published on BitPinas: Send Money and Other Things You Can Do With Valora App in the Philippines