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Google Partnership Key to Visa Mobile Payments Strategy

Today, Visa (San Francisco) announced a new mobile financial services application designed for Mountain View, Calif.-based Google's Android mobile device platform. The partnership was unveiled at the Visa Innovation Briefing in New York and involves JPMorgan Chase (New York) and device manufacturer Nokia (Espoo, Finland) as well.

Visa plans to make mobile payment services available in the U.S. for consumers by the end of 2008 initially for Chase Visa cardholders. The strategy is centered around three offerings: 1. Mobile alerts that will give consumers near real-time information on their card transactions, something many in the industry have felt will help beat fraud. Users can customize their own parameters. 2. Consumers will be able to obtain customized offers from an array of merchants via their mobile phones—from discounts to loyalty offers. 3. People will be able to use Google's built-in location-based technology to quickly map nearby merchants where they can redeem Visa offers and locate ATMs that accept Visa cards.

After the introductory period, Visa plans to work with additional card issuing financial institutions to extend the availability of the services beyond Chase customers. Visa is also developing a payment application to enable Visa accountholders to make payments in retail locations or on-the-go over wireless networks.

The announcement is part of a broader move by Visa to ramp up its payments offerings to all its customers to provide, "better money," according to Tim Attinger, head of product innovation and development for Visa. The company will still stand by its commitment to its PayWave product by promoting contactless payments via mobile phone. As part of this plan, Nokia is building near-field communication (NFC) chipsets into its 6212 classic handsets to allow users to "wave and pay" at the point of sale. Today's announcements represent the next phase in an ongoing effort that began with a NFC pilot in 2005 between the two companies to make mobile payments a commercially viable solution.

The new trio of services consisting of the alerts, offers and mapping would be offered to consumers on an "opt-in" basis so they would only activate those services they desire. They can also "opt out" at any time, according to Visa. The idea behind the initiative is to provide all of Visa's customers—financial institutions, merchants and consumers—more valuable services and convenience, said Attinger during the showcase. "We want to go after cash and checks to give consumers more ways to pay," he said. "The Visa network automates the delivery of the benefit. This unlocks the ability for us to use our information capabilities."

According to Tim Armstrong, president for the Americas, Google, the mapping feature will be a key part of the Android offering. "When you mix this with financial information that's relevant to where you are, this is going to save consumers time and energy," Armstrong told the audience.

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