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This Christmas season, the search for perfect gifts takes shoppers to convenience stores, groceries, electronic and other retail locations across America where they can pay their families and friends' bills and reload their prepaid debit cards through self-serve automated kiosks.

The 'gift of payment' is an innovative idea to bring smiles through acts of generosity and financial relief to those in need. Self-serve kiosks enable Christmas shoppers to make secure, convenient payments on their families and friends' wireless, utility, cable and other bills 24 hours a day, seven days a week by entering phone numbers, inserting cash into terminals' bill acceptors, and e-mailing or printing receipts. Once the cash is accepted, the customers' accounts are, in most cases, credited in real time, and payments are posted on the same day.

Hispanic immigrants benefit from access to kiosks' bilingual (English and Spanish) graphic user interface and the availability of cross border bill payment for sending the 'gift of payment' across Latin America and the Caribbean. Bill payment makes an excellent Christmas gift for financially savvy consumers whose contribution is bound to meet their loved ones' immediate needs. Some Christmas shoppers reload and use prepaid debit cards as Christmas stocking stuffers for friends and family members of all ages. Shoppers pay a small convenience fee per transaction knowing that their gift will positively improve the quality of life of someone dear to them.

To me, Christmas is a season of giving, sharing and empowerment. I draw tremendous strength from being a part of TIO Networks whose power of innovation creates new gift ideas, such as the 'gift of payment.' Being socially responsible is at the heart of our corporate culture whose foundation is built on the very principle of serving unbanked and underbanked consumers. By fostering the idea of giving the 'gift of payment', one can make a difference and bring alive the true meaning of Christmas.

Every now and then, I read thank-you notes from kiosk users with heartbreaking tales of financial hardships. While each story is unique, the most common theme revolves around finding new solutions to personal financial management. For millions of U.S. households who have no or limited banking relationships, secure and convenient access to bill payment and financial transactions is now a fulfilled dream with tangible results.

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