February 2, 2011

Nationwide Mobile Phone Payments Will Lead to a Cashless Society (Updated 5/27/2011)

Google launched its bid to dominate a world where the smartphone has replaced the wallet. Google wants the smartphone to be the wallet of the future, a container for credit cards, coupons, receipts and loyalty cards that can be "tapped" to terminals in stores. Google calls it a "single-tap" solution, meaning shoppers should be able to pay with a single tap of their phone on a payment terminal, or a swipe past it. Google is partnering with MasterCard and Sprint, the country's third-largest cellphone company. The other three of the four national cell phone carriers have formed their own consortium, called Isis, to create a wallet that will compete with Google's. Visa Inc. has also announced plans for its own mobile wallet. - Google Launches Trial of Tap-to-Pay Phone System, The Associated Press, May 26, 2011

Google Unveils Mobile Wallet for Smartphones

Deutsche Presse-Agentur
May 26, 2011

Google introduced its mobile wallet platform Thursday that allows users to pay for goods in retail stores by waving their phone near a terminal. 

The system will officially launch in August through the company's best-selling Android smartphones, but users in San Francisco and New York will be able to start using the platform sooner in widespread public trials.

The programme utilizes a near field communications (NFC) chip that is currently available only in Google's Nexus S phone, but which is expected to quickly become standard issue in all Android smartphones later this year. NFC chips allow the transmission of small amounts of data such as credit card and coupon information between two devices over small distances. 

Google is hoping that Thursday's launch will give it a head start in the race to dominate mobile payments, a sector that is expected to grow to 245 billion dollars by 2014.

Apple is expected to announce a similar system this summer that will run on the company's iPhones, while the major credit companies, Paypal, mobile carriers and independent start-up Square are all working on competing platforms.
'We're about to embark on a new era of commerce where we bring online and offline together,' Stephanie Tilenius, Google's vice president of commerce, said at the press event unveiling the project.
'We believe the shopping experience has not yet been transformed by technology or by magical experiences. Now, your phone can be your wallet -- you just tap, pay, and save.'

Google Tries to Replace Wallets with Smartphones

The Associated Press
May 26, 2011

Google Inc. is trying to nudge consumers and merchants into a world where the smartphone has replaced the wallet as the container for credit cards, coupons and receipts.
In Google's vision detailed Thursday, shoppers will touch their phone screen to select a card, then tap the phone to a credit-card reader in a store or restaurant. Google would make money by selling coupons and advertising that come along with the experience.

It's a goal shared by others. The Internet search and advertising company faces tough competition from cellphone companies, payment card issuer Visa Inc., eBay Inc.'s PayPal payment service, and others. All of them want to play the central role of tying together phones, retailers and banks into a new payment system.

This isn't Google's first attempt at electronic payments. The company, based in Mountain View, Calif., introduced an online payment service called "Checkout" five years ago. It hasn't posed a serious threat to PayPal.

Google views its digital wallet as a way to sell advertising at a pivotal moment: when shoppers are in stores, ready to spend money and even more receptive to coupons and other discount offers.

Nick Holland, an analyst at Yankee Group, said that although all parties stand to benefit from Google's system, Google itself has the most to gain. That's because the Google Wallet would allow the company to "own" the market for advertising that's tied to the user's location.

Google said it's launching a Google Wallet trial in San Francisco and New York in cooperation with Visa rival MasterCard and Citibank. It will open up the system to consumers later in the summer. It then plans to expand across the country.

There has been talk of smart payment systems for years, and Google faces the same hurdles that have stifled previous trials.

One is that Google Wallet will initially work on only one smartphone, the Google Nexus S 4G carried by Sprint Nextel Corp. Several smartphone makers, including Research In Motion Ltd., maker of the BlackBerry, are ready to bring out more phones with chips for so-called Near-Field Communications, or NFC, but it's uncertain if they'll work with Google's system.

Another hurdle is getting retailers to invest in terminals that can talk to the phones. Google Wallet will connect only to MasterCard PayPass terminals. There are more than 135,000 of those in U.S. stores and restaurants, but that's only a small fraction of the total number.

Google's carrot is that retailers will be able to put loyalty cards and coupons in the Wallet, helping them track and engage with their customers. Partners in the trial include Macy's, RadioShack, Subway, Toys R Us, Duane Reade and Walgreens.

Yet another problem: Google needs to get cellphone companies on board. Its partner Sprint is the country's third-largest. AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, the rest of the four biggest national carriers, have formed their own consortium to create a wallet that will compete with Google's.

The final obstacle is persuading consumers to take the leap. Phones might one day offer slightly faster checkouts, but the benefit would be small. Google calls Wallet a "single-tap solution," but in a demonstration at Thursday at Google's New York office, a Google executive had to tap his phone twice to a terminal provided by retail partner American Eagle Outfitters Inc., then sign on the screen to get a purchase of a pair of denim shorts through.

Osama Bedier, Google's vice president of payments, said it was up to the retailer to decide if the shopper has to sign on the screen.

"Consumers and businesses don't have a compelling need for changes in payment methods," a recent study by the Federal Reserve said. It nevertheless concluded that there are substantial benefits to reap for everyone involved if mobile payments become a reality.

One of the potential benefits is increased security compared to cards with magnetic stripes, which can be copied surreptitiously.

The Wallet will initially work with a MasterCard from Citigroup Inc. and with a prepaid debit card issued by Google, but the intent is to let the wallet accept any card.
"This is about creating a compelling model and asking folks to join," Bedier said.
Banks and payment processors such as MasterCard and Visa like the idea of mobile payments, but have their own designs on the space. Visa already has announced plans for its own wallet. MasterCard is collaborating with Google but is working on its own projects.
"Today's announcement is another early salvo in what will be a long and hard-fought battle to change consumers' payment behavior and, as a potential result, the makeup of the payments landscape," said Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin.

Google Jumps Into Mobile Payments With 'Google Wallet' and 'Google Offers'

Dow Jones Newswires
May 26, 2011

Google Inc. (GOOG) showed off its plans to create a digital wallet, allowing consumers with Android smartphones to pay for goods and services or receive coupons and offers by waving the device in front of a special reader at the checkout counter.

The Web search giant took the wraps off of Google Wallet and Google Offers, which will launch in the summer. The platform is powered by a technology called near-field communication, now found on some wallets and select phones, which is compatible with newer point-of-sale terminals. Google is the latest company to attempt to make its mark in mobile payments, a potentially lucrative area that has drawn not only traditional banks and credit card companies, but new entrants such as the wireless carriers and handset manufacturers. Mobile payment is attractive because it is seen increasing the rate of purchases by consumers. But the bigger opportunity lies in delivering targeted coupons and advertisements through the technology.
"Google's interest here isn't in the payments, it's in the data that underlies the complete chain of commerce including consideration, promotion, transaction details, coupons, and receipts," said Charles Golvin, an analyst for Forrester Research.
The lure of mobile payments has for years caused a shift in alliances and disputes over how to roll out a broadly implemented system. Google, for instance, has partnered with MasterCard Inc. (MA), First Data and Citigroup (C) to roll out its system. Google is also teaming with Sprint Nextel Corp. (S) as its carrier partner and is using the Nexus S, made by Samsung Electronic Co. Ltd. (SSNHY, 005930.SE), which is equipped with an NFC chip. Sprint sells the Nexus S 4G, which it calls one of its best-selling phones. Verifone Systems Inc. (PAY) is making the checkout terminals, while VIVOtech Inc. is supplying the NFC readers.

Google also listed 15 retail partners, including American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), Macy's (M) and Walgreens (WAG). Google Wallet will begin in New York and San Francisco, and will expand nationally in the coming months. Google Offers, which is a daily discount sent to the phone, will begin in Portland, Ore., New York and San Francisco. The discounts are designed to be redeemed using the phone to pay. MasterCard said there are 100,000 merchants ready to accept NFC payments.
"We have enormous opportunity in front of us to redefine commerce and payments," said Stephanie Tilenius, vice president of commerce for Google.
Tilenius emphasized that the announcement represents the start of a larger roll-out of mobile payments.
"It's important to realize we're just getting started," she said during a press conference on Thursday. "This will take a while to come to fruition."
Users can place multiple credit cards on the phone, and eventually add gift cards. They can also turn the card off to avoid accidentally making a payment. Tilenius touted the system as more secure.
"It's a wallet you can lock," she said.
The platform also allows consumers to create a card on the fly, and will eventually offer the ability to send digital copies of receipts back to the phone. Google is also considering game dynamics, and will allow consumers to tap posters with NFC chips to get coupons. It's all part of what Google calls a "mobile, local" strategy. The vision is to have the phone ultimately store all the info.

Google isn't the only one to dabble in mobile payments. On Wednesday, Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) launched a service the lets people use their checking accounts to send each other money with an email address or cellphone number. Bank of America is also undergoing a trial with Research in Motion Ltd.'s (RIMM) BlackBerrys and MasterCard. 
"This is truly transforming the shopping experience," said Ed McLaughlin, who runs emerging payments for MasterCard.
The other three national wireless carriers, meanwhile, have banded together in an initiative called Isis, with plans to test its first mobile-payment system in Salt Lake City early next year.

Google Announces Mobile Payment Service

FOX Business
May 26, 2011

Will the days of bulky wallets with countless cards and coupons soon be a thing of the past? Google thinks so.The Web giant unveiled today its new mobile payment platform, "Google Wallet" and coupon service "Google Offers." The wallet service will allow consumers to pay for goods and access offers using cell phones that operate on Google's Android system. Discounts and sales will be applied at the time of purchase at NFC-equipped (near field communication) cash registers.

At a press conference today, Google Vice President of Commerce and Payments Stephanie Tilenius said that more than 70% of consumers transact online, however ecommerce accounts for only 8% of total commerce. It is expected mobile payments will grow to four-times their rate between now and 2014.
“Today, we’ve joined with leaders in the industry to build the next generation of mobile commerce,” said Stephanie Tilenius, vice president, commerce and payments, Google. “With Citi, MasterCard, First Data and Sprint we’re building an open commerce ecosystem that for the first time will make it possible for you to pay with an NFC wallet and redeem consumer promotions all in one tap, while shopping offline.”
Google is extending an open invitation to banks and retailers to partner with them on this venture. MasterCard will be partnering with Google from the start, as will Citi and Sprint. Trials for the program will begin today in field tests, but the product itself will launch this summer.

Google Wallet will support payments with a PayPass eligible Citi MasterCard and a virtual Google Prepaid Card, according to its press release. The service enables secure payments, Google said, because it requires an app-specific PIN, and all payment and card information will be encrypted and stored on a chip or "secure element" separate from the Android device memory.

As for retail partners, Macy's, Subway, and Walgreens are also on board. The offers program will deliver deals to consumers based on location and preferences, and in its trial runs has been allowing consumers to buy and save offers and have them synched with Google Wallet. At stores you can use your Google Wallet to show the offer at the register and cashiers can scan it or type it or, the release said, or at Google SingleTap participating merchants, you can pay for and redeem an offer right on your phone.

Visa to Launch New 'Digital Wallet' in the Fall

Dow Jones Newswires
May 11, 2011

Visa Inc. (V) said Wednesday it plans to launch a new "digital wallet" in the fall that would allow consumers to pay for goods and services through their mobile phones.

Mobile payments are a hotly contested space, with lenders, payment networks and wireless carriers viewing it as an opportunity for revenue growth.

The digital wallet will link to Visa and non-Visa branded cards and accounts, and support payments using so-called near-field communications technology, or NFC, through Visa's payWave application. NFC allows people to wave their card or phone in front of a scanner to pay for goods and services. NFC is already found in cards, and can be accepted at drugstore chains and gas stations.
"We view the news as a positive as it outlines Visa's strategy to capitalize on an evolving payments landscape, particularly in an area that is expected to see rapid growth," Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, said in a note Wednesday.
Features of Visa's new digital wallet include simplifying purchases with customers using an email address or an online ID and password in place of a billing address, account number and expiration date. Customers may also choose to receive discount coupons and promotions from selected merchants.
Visa's digital wallet is a "recognition of the convergence of payments in physical ecommerce and mobile," James F. McCarthy, Visa's global head of product, said in an interview.
Shares of Visa closed Wednesday at $79.34, down 1.3%, amid broad declines in financial stocks.

Visa will pocket a fee from merchants for running transactions on its payments network. Its plans put Visa in competition with eBay Inc.'s (EBAY) online payments unit PayPal.

PayPal, which has about 98 million active accounts around the world, said in an emailed statement Wednesday,
"We've offered mobile payments since 2006 and expect to do more than $2 billion in mobile this year."
Unlike traditional credit-card issuers, Visa and rival MasterCard Inc. (MA) don't lend to consumers. Visa and MasterCard make money from the fees they charge banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and Citigroup Inc. (C), to process card payments on the plastic these banks issue. These financial institutions are among the top issuers of Visa- and MasterCard-branded cards.

In March, American Express Co. (AXP), which issues plastic in addition to processing payments, introduced a platform dubbed 'Serve' that would allow consumers to make purchases online and through their mobile phones.

Last year, 57.2% of purchases made with a debit or credit card were done through Visa, nearly a quarter were done through MasterCard, and American Express held a 14.6% share, according to the Nilson Report, a Carpinteria, Calif., newsletter that tracks the payments industry.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the biggest U.S. wireless carriers, AT&T Inc. (T), Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA, are scaling back a joint venture for mobile payments that they originally hoped would compete with Visa and MasterCard. The venture, known as Isis, initially aspired to set up its own payments network and collect fees on every transaction. Customers would maintain accounts directly with their wireless carrier, rather than with a credit-card company.

Now the group has adopted the less ambitious goal of setting up a "mobile wallet" that can store and exchange the account information on a user's existing Visa, MasterCard or other card. To get as many users as possible, the carriers are now in talks with Visa and MasterCard to have them participate in the system they will embed in phones.

Meanwhile, mobile software vendors and device makers are steaming ahead to build their own mobile payments systems. Google Inc. (GOOG) is working with MasterCard and Citigroup to embed NFC technology in smartphones. Google's Nexus S smartphone already has an NFC chip, and the company's latest Android software for mobile phones supports NFC.

Research in Motion Ltd. (RIMM, RIM.T) is working on a trial with MasterCard to allow Bank of America Corp. (BAC) customers to make payments with their phones. The trial, already begun in New York, is set to expand to San Francisco and Atlanta. The company has said most new BlackBerrys will have NFC chips later this year.

The Three Largest U.S. Cell Phone Carriers Announce Joint Venture for Nationwide Mobile Phone Payments By 2013

In an effort to turn phones into wireless credit cards, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless intend to release software for handsets and payment terminals in select U.S. regions over the next 18 months, with a nationwide rollout planned by 2013.

RFID Journal
November 17, 2010

After two years of discussions, the three largest U.S. mobile phone carriers have launched a joint venture intended to develop a single platform on which technology based on the Near Field Communication (NFC) specifications can be used by their customers to make mobile payments.

The new venture, known as Isis, is designed to usher in the broad deployment of NFC technology, allowing NFC-enabled cell phones to function similarly to credit cards for the 200 million customers using cell phone service provided by any of the three carriers throughout the United States.

NFC is an RFID technology that can be used to enable the exchange of information between a passive 13.56 MHz RFID chip built into a cell phone or attached to a credit card, and a reader located at a store's point of sale.

Participating merchants can allow consumers to use NFC-enabled cards and devices to pay for products, or to receive discounts or coupons via the transfer of data between the interrogator and their mobile phone or card.

To date, the deployment of NFC technology in mobile phones has most commonly been in the form of pilots only, though NFC-enabled credit cards—such as MasterCard's PayPass, Visa's PayWave and Discover's Zip—have been issued to consumers in larger, full-scale deployments.

The Isis platform is designed for mobile phones only, and does not involve NFC-enabled cards, which will continue to be operated as they currently are.

Isis has begun developing a software platform that can be utilized by customers of AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, as well as by merchants. The platform includes software to be used in cell phones with NFC technology, as well as a software upgrade for NFC readers at merchants' POS terminals.

The first NFC-enabled cell phones sold by the three carriers and based on the platform are expected to be made available to consumers in some geographic areas of the United States within the next 18 months, Isis has announced, with a full rollout to all regions nationwide slated to be accomplished by 2013.

The Isis venture is significant, says John Devlin, ABI Research's principal analyst for smart cards and embedded security, not only because it will provide a single platform for merchants, consumers, financial institutions and mobile carriers to use with NFC payments, but also because "it sets a timeline for [mobile service provider] partners, suppliers... and competitors to work toward."

Merchants have been seeking a standard platform on which NFC systems can be based, says Jaime Johnson, T-Mobile's director of strategic development and a spokesperson for Isis, rather than each purchasing NFC-enabled point-of-sale (POS) readers and software that may be incompatible with systems employed by other retailers, or by major financial institutions and mobile carriers.
"Merchants have been telling us [the carriers] we need commonality, a standard platform that merchants can invest in," Johnson states.
To accomplish this, he says, the three carriers have been meeting for the past two years to discuss how to proceed.
"Bringing together three competitors takes vigorous discussion to accomplish that collective head nod."
Within the next 18 months, he adds, some mobile phone stores for each of the three carriers will offer NFC-enabled phones for mobile payments based on the Isis platform, with all stores anticipated to provide the phones by 2013.

In the meantime, Isis is working with merchants to recruit them to invest in NFC technology (readers at the point of sale, in addition to any necessary software), as the platform becomes available, in order to set up a system to accept mobile payments at their stores.

Although Isis is currently in discussions with some national retailers, Johnson emphasizes that the solution is intended for both small independent merchants as well as chain retailers. Consumers, he notes, would want to use the technology not only at a supermarket or electronics store, but also at a corner dry cleaner, or at other locally owned businesses.
"The thing that has been inhibiting growth for NFC is the lack of a business model, the lack of open architecture," Johnson says.
Isis hopes the platform it develops will be something that merchants, carriers, banks and credit-card companies can all use to build payment solutions. The system will enable a consumer to purchase an NFC-enabled phone from the mobile carrier through which they already have a contract, and to take the phone to a merchant and use NFC technology to load data, such as information related to that individual's customer loyalty account.

The consumer can then utilize the phone as a payment device if the user loads bank account or credit-card account information from a participating bank, and the phone can also receive coupons wirelessly from participating merchants, via an NFC-enabled RFID interrogator communicating over a short distance with the handset's NFC chip.

Initially, Isis is working with Barclaycard US and Discover Financial Services, so that the bank and credit-card firm will be able to offer Isis-based mobile payment services to early-adopting consumers of mobile services using NFC technology. However, Isis intends to work with any bank or credit-card company that would like to use the platform.
"We are welcoming any bank that wants to set up mobile payments using this platform," he says. "There's an open door."
When it comes to the phasing in of NFC-enabled phones, Johnson says, consumers can expect the mobile-payment technology to become available on phones very rapidly. Inside Contactless, a manufacturer of NFC RFID chips, has told RFID Journal that it estimates that only about 50 million NFC-enabled phones will be manufactured for sale worldwide in 2011.

The three mobile carriers sell 100 million new phones annually, Johnson notes, which means their purchasing power will prompt handset manufacturers, over the next 18 months, to produce NFC-enabled phones in large numbers.
"We've been working with multiple OEMs [original equipment manufacturers]," Johnson says, adding that Isis fully expects the number of NFC-enabled phones necessary for the deployment of NFC payment solutions in stores across the country to be reached in the next 18 months, and by 2013.
"Today," Johnson states, "a trip to the grocer can include presenting a loyalty card, payment card and coupons." By the time a transaction is completed, a consumer will have had to submit cards, key fobs or paper coupons at least three times in order to pay for a product and receive the desired discounts. By 2013, Isis envisions, shoppers at many stores will have all of those functions on their mobile phone, and will use a built-in NFC chip to complete a transaction with a single tap of the phone against a store's NFC reader.
"From a merchant perspective," Devlin says, "[the Isis platform] places a requirement on them to install suitable contactless readers at the POS," that would work on that platform, and to compete with other merchants launching NFC systems to meet Isis' deadlines. "Mobile coupons and loyalty programs can all be incorporated [all on one phone] to offer targeted programs to their customers."
Isis' mobile solution platform, he predicts, will bring an element of competition into the market, "between Isis, the mobile service and the current card-based offerings"—such as those from Visa, MasterCard, and other credit-card service providers that charge a transaction fee—which will require the credit-card companies to determine such fees, as well as the level of service for any Isis-based payment transactions processed. Each credit-card firm, including the first to participate—Discover—will determine the transaction fee to be charged, though Isis is not yet providing details regarding what those fees might be.

Because Isis membership carriers represent two different mobile-phone technologies—Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM)—Isis will also need its platform to accommodate both standards.

There are already millions of NFC-based RFID-enabled credit cards in circulation—including PayPass and PayWave—and hundreds of thousands of merchants that support them. As of the second quarter of 2010, MasterCard Worldwide reports, there are approximately 78 million PayPass cards and devices in use at more than 245,000 merchant locations around the globe.
When it comes to payment networks and card issuers, Devlin says, "with partnerships between both Visa and MasterCard and various banks [in previous NFC trials]," these financial institutions have already displayed an interest in working with NFC technology to provide payment solutions.
The use of existing NFC-enabled cards would not be affected by the Isis platform.

Mobile-phone manufacturers are increasing their production of NFC-enabled phones for 2011 as well, including Nokia (see RFID News Roundup: Nokia Pledges All New Smart-Phone Models Will Come With NFC). During the Web 2.0 Summit, held this week in San Francisco, Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, indicated that the next version of its Android phone operating system will support NFC technology.
When Jim Balsillie, Research in Motion's co-CEO, was asked at the event if his company intends to incorporate NFC chips into future BlackBerry models, he responded, "We'd be fools not to have it in the near future... and we're not fools."
Michael Abbott, the former chief marketing officer for credit cards at GE Capital, has been named as Isis' CEO. Abbott is a veteran financial services executive, with experience in the payment and technology industries.

Visa Responds to Launch of Isis

"I remain highly confident in Visa's long-term growth and innovation strategy, including our plans to continue work with our partners to accelerate the adoption and usage of mobile payments," writes Bill Gajda, the company's head of global mobile product, in a post on the official Visa blog.
Near Field Communications World
November 19, 2010

In a post on the official Visa blog, Bill Gajda, the company's head of global mobile product, has responded to the official announcement this week that AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA have partnered with Discover Financial Services and the US arm of UK bank Barclays to introduce commercial NFC mobile payments services in the US through a joint venture named Isis.

In the post, entitled 'Real innovation in mobile payments', Gajda refers to a blog post at Forbes.com by veteran mobile industry analyst Bob Egan as well as to a profile in Forbes last month, which NFC World reported on here, in which Gajda explained that Visa is seeking to partner with a wide range of mobile payments innovators.

Here's what Gajda has to say:
After Isis was announced on Tuesday, Forbes.com ran a blog post by Bob Egan in which he claimed that current mobile banking offers are "somewhat lackluster," and that there is an absence of "real innovation in payments." Respectfully, I must disagree. Mobile payments are — without question — highly innovative, rapidly evolving and, perhaps most importantly, on the threshold of being rolled out broadly across the United States over the next 12 months. But don't just take our word for it: a recent magazine edition of Forbes also published a feature by Lee Gomes, highlighting Visa’s mobile payments innovation. In the article, Gomes writes:
"It's… possible for the phone itself to replace a card, with the number that's ordinarily embedded in a card's magnetic stripe transferred to a radio-signal-emitting microchip inside the phone. A new breed of "contactless" systems is slowly being introduced, usually in high-volume operations like McDonald's or part of the New York City subway. You authorize a payment by holding your phone next to the unit; Visa is pushing the new system hard."
In addition to mobile technology like contactless payments, Visa's open network has enabled 15,700 financial institutions and tens of millions of merchants around the globe to deliver payment services to consumers. We believe the open network is well-positioned to support secure and globally interoperable mobile payments. As he covers in the feature, during our conversation, Gomes and I discussed the strength of Visa's network:
"Visa is also selling its bona fides as a partner to insurgents rather than try to compete directly. As Gajda makes the Silicon Valley startup circuit, he emphasizes the size of the Visa network and its decades of experience fighting fraud, the scourge of electronic-payment systems everywhere. 'This is a train you want to be on board,' he says.
"His best argument: the sheer complexity involved in moving money from a buyer to a seller electronically. It might be easy to build an iPhone app that lets you enter in the phone number of a co-worker you want to pay back for lunch, a common promise in the new mobile-payments world. But then someone has to do the intricate behind-the-scenes data processing that makes sure the card isn't stolen, the people involved aren't scammers, the payer's account has the necessary funds and the actual money transfer happens quickly and without a glitch."
Our collaboration with leading financial institutions like US Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo & Co, and JP Morgan Chase, and partners DeviceFidelity and Monitise highlight true innovation in mobile payments. Rest assured, the US is about to make a big leap forward in making mobile payments a reality. I remain highly confident in Visa’s long-term growth and innovation strategy, including our plans to continue work with our partners to accelerate the adoption and usage of mobile payments.

Telcos Partner for Mobile Payments in U.S.

Near Field Communications World
November 16, 2010

AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless announced a partnership that aims to bring a national mobile payments networks to U.S. consumers in the next 18 months. Dubbed Isis, the initial focus will be on building a mobile payment network that utilizes mobile phones and near field communications technology to make point-of-sale purchases.

Michael Abbott has been named as Chief Executive Officer of Isis. Formerly with GE Capital, Abbott is a veteran financial services executive with experience in the payment and technology industries. In a release from the venture, Abbott says Isis will create a mobile wallet that could be used for payments, reward cards, coupons, tickets and transit passes.

Isis is working with Discover Financial Services’ payment network to develop an mobile payment infrastructure for the joint venture. Barclaycard US, part of Barclays PLC, is expected to be the first issuer on the network, offering different mobile payment products.

The venture will enable mobile payment and commerce services using near field communication technology. NFC uses the same technology standards as contactless payment cards. It wasn’t immediately known what form factor Isis would enable payments with. There are a variety of options, including stickers and microSD cards as well as handsets, but there are limited handsets in circulation.

The Isis site can be found here.

Report: China to Become Leader in Mobile Payments by 2013

Near Field Communications World
November 18, 2010

Celent has released a new report stating that China will soon lead the worldwide mobile payments market with 410 million users by 2013, according to finextra.com.

China already boasts more than 740 million mobile phone users as of 2009, making it easily the world’s largest mobile market. However, mobile payment has so far penetrated this community at a rate of only 10%. According to the report, this rate will jump 48% year-after-year until 2013.

Additionally, Celent says the number of contactless m-payment users will skyrocket to 400 million by 2015.

Celent’s report examines China’s three major m-payments players - mobile operators, banks, and third party companies - and cites their newfound cooperation as a major catalyst in the predicted m-payments boom.

Celent analyst Hua Zhang says,
“Partnerships with banks are very important for vendors who want to enter the market. Currently, the best business model in the Chinese market focuses on cooperation between operators and banks. Mobile operators and third party payment companies are also strengthening their cooperation with the banking industry for increased success.”
Read more here.

To Help the Poor, Get Rid of Their Cash

By Jamie Zimmerman and Ignacio Mas, The Christian Science Monitor
December 31, 2011

The recent ad spot for M-Kesho, the groundbreaking mobile phone-linked bank account launched earlier this year in Kenya, is endearingly playful. To gently teasing music, a man with a jar of coins digs a gigantic hole in an empty grass field. He sticks his jar deep in the mud, but finds that the hole he’s dug is now too deep to get out of.
“There are easier ways to look after your money,” a voiceover tells us.
No kidding.

In the fight against poverty, achieving global access to financial services holds enormous potential. Even the poorest need tools to help maintain their daily needs, prepare for sudden adverse events like illness, and build assets to pull themselves out of poverty. Saving is the best tool both to reduce the risk of destitution and to increase wealth. Yet more than 2.5 billion people today lack access to formal financial services, which could help them achieve these feats.

Not long ago, conventional wisdom held that the poor cannot and do not save. Now, the imperative of formal savings services for the bottom of the pyramid is finally getting its well-deserved spotlight. On November 12 at the G20, world leaders put financial inclusion among the nine core pillars of economic growth in their Action Plan for Development. Four days later, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation made a further $500 million commitment to financial inclusion, and in particular, access to savings accounts.

Cash is an obstacle

What stands in the way of global access to financial services? It may come as a surprise, but the single biggest obstacle is cash. In short, cash is expensive.

The poor tend to live in an entirely cash-based economy. But banks find it too costly to sustain branches in disadvantaged areas to collect the small amounts of hard cash that poor people can save. So poor customers have to travel miles just to make a deposit — wasting time and running up transport costs.

We can’t make cash go away. But we can make it easier to transform cash into electronic information, which is all a bank account is, really. Once money is “de-materialized,” it can be sent around electronically at very low cost. The fastest, most convenient way to achieve this transformation globally is to use the stores that exist in every neighborhood and every village as banking surrogates.

Fortunately, the spread of mobile phones across the developing world is already making this transition possible. In Africa alone, twice the number of people who have bank accounts have mobile phones. Banking transactions through mobile phones draw on an existing infrastructure, allowing “banking beyond branches” to occur safely for both financial service providers and their customers in rural areas.

By working together, financial institutions, telecom companies, and retail networks are working to vastly expand access to electronic and mobile-banking services, and even to switch to electronic delivery of social welfare transfers and other assistance.

Kenya’s M-Pesa, the mobile money transfer service that began in 2007, is now used by more than half of the adult population. The secret: you can deposit and withdraw at any of 20,000 stores. That’s 20 times the number of Kenya’s bank branches.

A huge opportunity

Electronic banking platforms like mobile phones and point-of-sale devices that leverage mobile technology hold the promise of providing poor savers with the proximity and liquidity they need. But the opportunity is actually much larger.

Imagine if every person had access to a transactional account via an electronic network that was convenient, affordable, and trusted. Beyond access to a savings account, clients could also use such networks for remittances and other person-to-person transfers and payments. Vitally, the record of these payments could provide the basis of a financial history, in turn providing customers with access to credit products, and bolstering entrepreneurship.

Policymakers and regulators also have a lot to gain. The financial identities promulgated by massive financial access via electronic systems reduce the informal economy, making transactions more visible and traceable. At the same time, electronic platforms can improve the efficiency of social welfare and other government-to-person payments — which currently reach approximately 170 million low-income households worldwide by reducing the costs of delivering cash to poor beneficiaries.

As long as cash dominates the economic lives of the poor, and the systems that service them, massive access to financial services, including savings, will remain an elusive goal. It is time to get cash out of the way and put financial services in the palm of every hand, freeing up the poor's time and resources to invest in their small businesses, health care, and education.

Jamie Zimmerman is director of the Global Assets Project at the New America Foundation. Ignacio Mas is deputy director of the Financial Services for the Poor team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Discover Begins Rollout of Contactless ZIP Cards, Stickers

Near Field Communications World
November 30, 2010

Discover Card announced that it has begun issuing Zip contactless credit cards and stickers to its customers.

Discover’s Zip is a new payment solution that enables consumers to simply touch a payment device -- in the form of either a plastic card or a sticker that can be attached to a mobile phone or any personal item of their choosing -- to a Zip-enabled contactless reader to make a payment.

Acccording to Discover, there are currently more than 100,000 U.S. merchant locations offer contactless readers that accept Zip transactions at the point-of-sale, including quick service restaurants, gas station and convenient stores, retailers, pharmacies and public transit agencies.

Select Discover Card members began receiving contactless cards and stickers in the mail on November 15, with a larger scale rollout (based on consumer request) slated for January 2011.

Bank of America to Roll Out m-Payment Stickers, Contactless Debit Cards

Near Field Communications World
November 23, 2010

Bank of America has announced plans to issue contactless stickers to its credit and debit card customers next year, according to American Banker.

The new stickers can be attached to mobile phones and other device to enable contactless mobile payment at the point of sale. The bank also announced that it will begin issuing contactless debit cards in addition to its contactless credit cards.

Bank of America says that offering contactless debit cards and payment stickers is another step toward its goal of delivering more convenient, more secure and faster payment types to its customers.

U.S. Bank to Test PayWave Contactless m-Payments

Near Field Communications World
November 16, 2010

U.S. Bank is partnering with DeviceFidelity, FIS and Monitise to introduce contactless mobile payments via Visa’s PayWave technology to its customers.

U.S. Bank is one of the first major card issuers in the United States to pilot this technology, which enables customers to conduct transactions with a wave of a smart phone.

The solution leverages DeviceFidelity’s In2Pay microSD or its specially-designed iPhone case (In2Pay iCaisse). FIS and Monitise developed the application that enables customers to make mobile purchases and access account information.

U.S. Bank employees in multiple states will begin testing this month, and plans are underway to introduce it to select customers next year.

U.S. Bank has been at the forefront of innovative mobile payment solutions. Last month, the company launched a full-suite mobile banking solution with bill pay capabilities for prepaid cardholders, which it claims is the first of its kind in the prepaid marketplace. It was also the first large American bank to test the Visa Money Transfer person-to-person mobile payment service, and was one of the first banks to test the Visa Micro Tag, an early contactless mobile payment device.

DBS Launches Mobile Payments Pilot

Near Field Communications World
November 29, 2010

Some 1, 000 DBS customers with StarHub mobile plans will be the first in Singapore to use the near field communications for mobile payments.

The trial will begin in December 2010 and will last for eight months. The project, which was collaboratively organized by DBS Bank, EZ-Link, Gemalto, MasterCard and StarHub, will involve adding an N-Flex solution enabling to turn conventional handsets into NFC-enabled mobile phone without any change to the device.

The N-Flex solution functions on SIM cards across multiple mobile handsets helping to accelerate the ubiquity of handsets supporting NFC. The conforms to the Single Wire Protocol as endorsed by the GSM Association.

The NFC trial user will then be able to make payments with their mobile handsets at all merchant outlets that accept the MasterCard PayPass or the ez-link card, as well as on public transportation such as buses and trains.
 The trial will involve a group of participants who will receive an electronic mailer from either StarHub or DBS Bank that contains instructions on how to register their participation online.

Pilot participants will then be required to visit the StarHub Customer Service Centre at One Raffles Place (OUB Centre) or designated StarHub road shows to have the Upteq N-Flex device inserted and mapped onto the SIM cards of their mobile handsets before they can start making payments with their phones.

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