Mobile World Congress: Visa considers future of mobile payments

Visa makes a number of enhancements around its mobile payments strategy ahead of Mobile World Congress 2015

On the eve of Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona, Visa Europe has made a number of announcements around its mobile payments strategy and says the mobile payments sector is rapidly reaching a tipping point for user acceptance and adoption.

Visa Europe executive director of mobile, Jeremy Nicholds, told Computer Weekly that Apple’s entry into the market was uplifting the mobile payments scene.

The Apple Pay service, launched in the US in October 2014, enables iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users to pay for goods and services using a mobile wallet and fingerprint authentication.

Just one month later, the service accounted for 1% of all digital payments made in the US, which analysts at ITG said was remarkable given the limited number of merchants signed up and the fact that it was available only to users of Apple’s latest devices.

“Certainly I think recent events, along with the entry of Apple, have galvanised a lot of people,” said Nicholds. “I am sure we will see many more entrants into the payments market.”

Nicholds said growing awareness and acceptance of mobile payments among end-users would help the payments industry redefine what banking and financial services are all about, making a rather staid industry more responsive to customer needs, for example.

There was still an educational task at hand to introduce people to contactless and, ultimately, mobile payments, he added.

Nicholds noted that with 40 million contactless payments made since Transport for London (TfL) introduced contactless capabilities in September 2014, coupled with frequent public address announcements on the London Underground about the technology, the effort was progressing well.

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“We are most excited about the behaviour changes we are seeing around contactless,” said Nicholds.

New secure payment services

At Mobile World Congress, Visa will show off a number of new products and services, including peer-to-peer payment capabilities and a secure payment tokenisation system.

Visa Direct – formerly Visa Personal Payments – will now extend its offering beyond Europe to create a global peer-to-peer payment service for customers of member banks. It will be available in 20 languages and will support multiple currencies to enable users to send money to friends and family using just their mobile phone number.

Visa claims the service now has more than 200,000 users and has seen a total of €43m transferred since its launch two years ago.

At the same time, a partnership with Singapore-based Fastacash will enable member banks to extend social payment features, letting customers send peer-to-peer payments across the Visa network using Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and WhatsApp.

Meanwhile, the launch of tokenisation technology, which Visa will roll out to financial institutions in April 2015, will help protect the personal data of customers using their smartphones and wearable devices to make payments.

Tokenisation technology works by swapping out the payment account information usually found on a credit or debit card and replacing it with a series of one-time use numbers that can be used to authorise a payment without exposing account details over the air.

Visa said the service would support the ongoing fight against fraud by enabling banks to control the environments where the token can be used.

For example, it claimed, a token set up for contactless payments cannot be used to make an online purchase.

Finally, visitors to Visa’s stand at Mobile World Congress will be able to explore a new partnership with the UK branch of Hearst Magazines, publisher of titles such as Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Good Housekeeping.

Hearst will integrate the by Visa digital wallet service to enable its readers to buy publication subscriptions to Hearst titles. Further phases, such as the ability to buy from Hearst’s e-commerce channels, are set for launch in the coming months.

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