Mainers can try a new cellphone service that its creators want to become the handiest way to exchange money with your friends.

Here and there we give out IOUs all over town, if we’re trying to split a bill and nobody has cash. It’s a bother to remember to pay, and even more of a pain to try to collect. But PayText, now being trialed in Portland, lets you send or receive money between your bank account and someone else’s with just a couple of text messages.

Ben Alexander and Justin Davis, who founded the startup company that’s is running PayText, think it could become a good way to buy things from smaller businesses or independent merchants — like artists — that don’t accept credit cards.

Users can register online and link up their bank account information to their phone number, and can then send and receive money anywhere they have cell service. (While PayText doesn’t charge anything to exchange money, standard text-messaging charges apply. It’s still cheaper than hitting the ATM.)

If you want to give it a shot, visit www.PayText.com/pilot and the site will send you an invitation, complete with a free $5 credit. Once you log in, you can send that money to someone else, put it in your bank account, or hang onto it to send out later.

It works with any cell-service carrier, and takes just a few minutes to sign up. Transaction confirmation messages go both to your cell phone and your e-mail, so you can know if an unauthorized user is meddling with your account.

The way you send cash is by sending a text message with the recipient’s cell number and a dollar amount to a text-messaging shortcode address; the system replies, asking for your account’s PIN number, and you’re all set. (You can also set per-transaction and per-day limits, so your extended night out won’t completely break your bank.)

And there’s a bonus for early birds: you not only get the $5 to try it out, but when you send money to your friends and they sign up, you get $5 for each of them. If they send you money first, though, no bonus. Be done with worrying about whether your newfound “best friend” will remember it’s his turn next time you’re out. Now you’ll be fighting over who’s going to pay with the card and who’s paying through thin air.

On the Web
PayText: www.PayText.com/pilot

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