We have a fascination today with payment services it seems. Although most of us are looking for ways of saving money for the most part, we are at times living a contradiction when it comes to how easy we want it to be when we do want us to part with our money. It’s an odd situation to be in where people can check their bank balance 5 times a day on a mobile app to make sure that they still have the same amount, or see if that direct debit for some bill we were dreading has been taken out, and yet at the same time we want to be able to purchase things in a single click. Fire and forget so to speak.
Over the last few years we have seen a wide range of new services and addons, not only from our own financial institution, but 3rd parties, social media providers and even technology companies which allow for quicker and easier payment for goods and services. It appears that we are fast approaching a time where we can be looking over our Facebook feed and seamlessly buy some gadget that someone has recommended with only a tap or a click of the mouse.
There are pros and cons to this ease of use when it comes to handing over our hard earned money. I was delighted a few years ago when the banks in Ireland started to introduce contactless payments. Most people would be familiar with this method by this stage, but in case you’re not clear, if you have a new credit or debit card, the card is now equipped with a small near field communications tag (NFC) which means that it can wirelessly transmit its information when it comes into close proximity with a receiver. In other words, if your grocery store has a new credit card machine, and you have a contactless card, you can tap to pay for anything up to the value of about €30. I know, it says contactless, but you still have to tap. In truth it’ll work from a few millimeters away, but tapping is just easier and feels like a real action.
This took some time to catch on in a lot of shops, cafes etc, but once it did, particularly places that traditionally had queues, like coffee shops, it did speed things up slightly. It’s more the personal convenience though, rather than the retailers seeming to get the benefit. You no longer have to worry about fumbling for 4 euro in change or spending three minutes entering your pin and waiting for authorization. Plus I’m a big fan of not getting a credit card receipt. I know how much I spent, I don’t want to be reminded every time I open my wallet… stop judging me small piece of printed paper.
Now we are going one step further with the technology. Instead of having to use or carry your card, mobile phone manufacturers for example are adding the ability to use the contactless built into your device for the same purpose. Samsung, Apple and Android are all starting to offer this service. It works similar to how PayPal works. PayPal stores your credit card details securely and when you want to buy something online, rather than having to get out your card, you can login with your Paypal details and they process the transaction securely for you. No remembering card numbers, no exposing your details for the whole world, they provide the protection.
This works really well for online ordering and for subscriptions like Netflix as you can set up recurring payments for multiple services and rather than having to update them all if you card expires or gets lost, you simply update Paypal and it does the whole job of making sure that each of your subscriptions are paid. Google have recently launched their Pay with Google service which aims to make this hassle free by letting you pay with one tap if you are signed into Google on your phone.
These services are great, but the problem remains in the real world. I hate carrying cash, and I don’t like carrying credit and debit cards. This is compounded by the fact that I have a personal debit card, bills debit card, credit card, petty cash card and a business debit card. So I have to carry several cards at once. Before you ask the balance on most of them is zero, so before you start comparing me to Rockafeller I just have these useless pieces of plastic, but I still don’t like carrying them, and so I’m excited about the introduction of the services that let you pay with your phone.
Android, Samsung, and Apple have all introduced their own payment services that allow you to store your details on the device, and in lieu of using your card, you can tap your phone. Once I can replace my keys and my ID I’ll be in geek heaven. I personally love the idea of only having one thing to carry, in spite of the worry about having one single point of failure, if managed right, can actually be more secure. Think remote wipe of your device and suddenly it makes sense. I lose my phone, I remotely delete everything and all of a sudden I’m not worried about someone running around with my cards in the hour or two it takes to cancel them all. Plus when I get my phone back I don’t have to update my Netflix etc, because I didn’t really loose the card. The card number can stay the same because the person who gets my phone never got to see the number, so the details are still secure.
While all of these companies on the surface seem to be competitors, what’s really interesting about this technology is that as long as your card issuer supports it, it works, and why wouldn’t a card issuer want to have as many ways as possible for you to use your money? Banks in Ireland are sadly lagging behind, with only a few of them supporting Android, Apple and Samsung pay which seems to defy logic. If I want more ways of using my card and in effect making them money, why wouldn’t the banks want to allow me to use these services? After all they are adding a layer of security, convenience and even a bit of a cool factor while still needing the bank to be involved.