Okay, so I'm looking at my payment options for FFXIV:
1. Buy Crysta directly from SE. Buy in $5, $10, $20, etc. increments which means you will have to overpay each month and then either (a) buy some extra stuff from FFXIV (what they hope) or (B) let them coast on some free cash flow until the surplus equals a free month (which they'll take because 500,000 users x $2 or so extra each month turns into reasonable liquidity).
2. Use ClickandBuy as an external payment source. Setup account with ClickandBuy and then use "one click" billing in my SE account.
3. Use Playspan cards which essentially is a non-credit card means of doing the Crysta route.
No direct billing of monthly fees which has been kind of a standard in this industry for only a decade or so.
So, I'm okay with the idea of outsourcing your billing. SE is a software publisher/developer, not a clearinghouse. Why ClickandBuy, why not someone established like PayPal?
Who IS CnB anyhow? Well, lets go look.
Google shows a number of entries, going back a good couple of years, that might lend some credibility until you look at WHAT the search brings up:
a. A number of boards/blogs regarding problems with billing (frankly not atypical of card transactions and nothing in high enough volume to really worry me)
b. A lot of CnB press releases
That's about it. Checking for all media sources using LexisNexus... finds... a ton of press releases and nothing else. One of the company's own press releases may explain why:
In 2009, CnB cleared 1Bn Euro in transactions.
That SOUNDS big, but in terms of cash clearinghouses, that's a pittance. Assuming FFXIV does 500,000 subs who all pay $15.99 monthly (two characters), SE effectively DOUBLES this companies transaction volume. Yeah I know, 500k is an estimate, $15.99 is an estimate and I didn't work in EU/USD exchange rates. Even so, anyway you cut it, SE represents a massive increase in this companies business volume. Where is the evidence that they can handle it? That's what bothers me - it's a bush league outsourcing decision when major established players are already in the market. And its bush league with (ostensibly) my financial security, I'm not too fond of that.
In short, SE outsourced their payments to a company that has little institutional legitimacy (few merchants, next to no mainstream coverage in banking/commerce journals, and only one big client in their Facebook app which launched earlier this year).
No biggee, I just won't use CnB... and I recommend the same to others.
That leaves Crysta or paycards and, as noted, this means you HAVE to overpay each month.
So do just that. Buy buy in $5 increments, even if it means clicking through four times each month. Under no circumstances should you use the extra crysta to buy anything, even if it looks really purty.
Why? Consider it a silent protest.
SE gets to ride on some extra liquidity, but MasterCard and Visa will eat them alive in those $5 transaction fees. At some point, SE hopefully gets the message and either (a) adds a direct pay option from a reputable vendor or (b) gives you the ability to buy the exact amount of Crysta you need to settle your account.
I'm all for the micro-payment model this industry is moving to. I'm all for buying that neat blue blazer for 200 points or whatever. It's all opt-in and frankly doesn't ever impact me. What I'm not cool with is changing a well established billing protocol that has served this industry well for a decade in the slim hope of it being a push Marketing move to induce you to spend a few dollars on that blue-foozle that I have no interest in.
As someone who does a non-trivial amount of business research, I'm genuinely ****** at this SE decision. I like the product and I like the game, so I'll remain a customer. But, I'm going to do it in a manner that (a) is designed into their billing model and (b) make certain SE pays all sorts of extra merchant card fees each month. Hopefully they get the business message (if enough others follow suit) and come around to the 21st century of electronic commerce.