Thursday, October 6, 2011

NFC vs. Mag Stripe

Who cares? Did you ever go to a Mag Stripe conference? Why are there so many conferences now focused on NFC? Stupid question! Because it is the latest bandwagon and therefore conference organizers jump on it. What really matters? It isn't the technology. It is the simple fact that the mobile phone is adding more and more value to our lives and regardless of the technical bridge used, it is obvious that using our phones as a proxy for our payment credentials has great promise. Freeing consumers from having to carry around a lot of cash or providing (hopefully) responsible consumers with a credit facility is what matters. This matters to both consumers and merchants. So, lets all stop worrying about which technology is going to win and give the consumers and merchants what they want. Bar codes, mag stripes, NFC, OTA are all going to co-exist for a very long time. Damn, I was at a resort recently and they still used an old knuckle buster to capture my credit card info. p.s. They had advanced to the carbonless version of the sales draft!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I am in the midst of reading a new (& well written) whitepaper on Mobile Payments from the Smart Card Alliance.

I came across this defition of transaction sizes; " Transaction Size
Transaction size affects the choice of mobile payment technology and approach. Mobile payments typically fit into one of two transaction size categories. Micropayments (less than $10-$25) are typical for paying for ring tones, music, parking, transit, coffee, and items in convenience stores. Macropayments (over $25) are typical for all other transactions, such as person-to-person domestic and international remittances, charitable donations, Web site purchases, bill payment and retail POS."

I see things here a little differently. I have always thought of micropayments as $1-$2 in size, minipayments as $3-$7 and normal or as they say macropayments as $8+.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Try it, you'll like it (or maybe not)....

I read press releases everyday about what are pitched as the latest and greatest innovations in payments. But, then, I go behind the "lines" and sign up (if necessary), and actually try the product or service. You need to do that too, before rendering an opinion.

I have (or had if they have gone four paws to the sky) the following accounts; Serve & the predecessor Revolution Money , Obopay, BlingNation, PayPal, Square, Mazooma, Kwedit, Rixty, Starbucks, PaybyTouch, Mobibucks, ClipperCard(BART NFC), Safeway echeck, Google Check-out, itunes, BillmeLater, Click n'Buy, Verified by Visa, Amazon PayPhrase, TwitPay, etc., way too many to name (but I tried).

There is one thing to keep in mind, though, when you do this. In a prior phase of my career, it was important for me to have a credit card from every brand and every major bank since I was calling on all of them and it was awkward to take someone from Visa out to lunch and pay with an Amex card. Once when applying for a mortgage, everything was excellent in my application but the one hit I took was having too many accounts. :-)

Friday, June 17, 2011

First NFC Payment Completed!!!

Wow! I actually found a merchant to use my NFC enabled Discover Card to pay for a recent purchase. It was at Mickey D's. (BTW - I have been showing off my Discover NFC decal which I have applied to the back of my iPhone to everyone!)

Friday, May 13, 2011

NFC (or Mobile Payments depending on your preferred spin) - My real life story

So, I was in NJ on business this week. I stopped in at a supermarket, picked up a few items and arrived at the check-out. There was a Verifone (still brings a smile to my face everytime I see one considering my tenure there during their formative years)terminal with the necessary NFC attachment so since my iPhone was already in my hand (playing Words with Friends while waiting to pay) and is equiped with my recently received NFC decal from Discover, I thought GREAT, I finally found a place to use NFC.

I started tapping my phone on the NFC reader. The clerk looked at me like I was from MARS. He had no idea what I was doing - "dah, have never seen that before". Well, it did not work, so out came my credit card and a simple swipe and I was done.

I contrast that with my experience (previously written about) at Starbucks using the iPhone 2D Bar Code app. Bravo!!!!

The point is, it isn't about the technology. It is all in the execution. And, the challenges of a successful execution at the very diverse and complex POS are staggering. Under the best of circumstances, this is a 5-10 year evolution. For God's sake, people are still writing checks at the supermarket register.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ouch, another major breach! (Not an issue for Direct Carrier Billing!!!)

One of the major benefits of DCB (Direct Carrier Billing) is that the merchant is not burdened by having to handle or store any sensitive information that could be used to create subsequent fraudulent transactions and therefore there is no PCI.

We talk often of the benefits to consumers;
- no username/passwords to remember
- everything they need to transact is in their heads and their hand
- no enrollment
- for someone to put a fraudulent charge on their bill, they would have to have their mobile phone in their hand at the exact moment of the tx and depending on the carrier, also have to know their billing Zip Code. (note - this add'l 2nd factor of auth will be available on two of the four major carriers within a month and three of the four by late summer).

But this is a major benefit to the merchant!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Alternative Payment Systems Innovations Conference, San Francisco, 3/29-3/30

I attended and moderated a panel at this conference on Alternative Payments. The emphasis of the conference was Mobile, dah! Isn’t every conference these days? This was the 2nd annual version of this event and I would rate it a 7:10. It attracted a very high quality group of speakers (present company excluded!). It was missing a critical mass of attendees and especially prospective buyers in the form of merchants. That is a common problem with most payments conferences, other than the Direct Response Forum and Merchant Risk Council which are both primarily merchant grass roots driven.

The most profound thing that came out of this conference was a quote from a former colleague and now esteemed consultant, Richard Crone. Richard stated; “the one who enrolls, is the one who controls” and further that “the carriers have the consumer’s payment info and access to leverage their device for security” and "are therefore in the best position to win in mobile payments". I could not agree more with Richard and that is the why I came to BilltoMobile. We are an extension of the carrier’s platform and leverage that existing enrollment and the ability to validate not only the phone but a 2nd factor of authentication, the billing zip code as well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kindle Experience

After 30 years having the Wall Street Journal delivered to my home and reading it every day, I switched to a Kindle subscription.
They offer a 14 day trial and I am on day two.
When I went to lunch today, I realized I did not have my Kindle with me but alas I had my iPhone which I had loaded the Kindle app on.
I thought, GREAT, I can sit and eat and read the Journal.
But, alas, it was not there. So, I emailed the customer inquiry link via the app and got a prompt answer back that newspaper and magazine subscriptions are only available on the Android Kindle app, not the iPhone Kindle app. If this sort of thing persists, it could make consumers switch to a more open platform where they can have uninhibited access to content that they have rightfully paid for.
This reminds me of a bygone era of closed systems (ie; Wang word processors and Sun servers that would only run Solaris, etc...) Well, we know what happened to Wang and Sun.
What does this have to with payments?
Well, this is a sensitive topic so I will leave it to your imagination.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sprint Selects BilltoMobile to Enable Subscribers to Charge Online Purchases to Their Wireless Bill

3 down, 1 to go!

Sprint Selects BilltoMobile to Enable Subscribers to Charge Online Purchases to Their Wireless Bill
— BilltoMobile™, the leading provider of mobile payments for web purchases, today announced a Direct Mobile Billing Gateway Service Provider agreement with Sprint (NYSE: S), which will allow Sprint customers to charge online purchases directly to their Sprint bill. Once implementation is complete in the coming months, merchants and payment resellers using BilltoMobile's mobile payment service will be able to offer this payment option to Sprint customers.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Alt Payments Systems Innovations Conference
Hope to see you at this conference coming up in late March.
Last year was the first in this series and I went (hey it was 10 minutes from my house) with my normal skepticism.
Well, it was a very pleasant surprise.
And, since I am speaking this year, I am looking forward to contributing to its value.