The world of digital wallets is slowly gaining momentum.
On Thursday, Mastercard made updates to its Masterpass program that lets Android users pay in physical retail locations using contact-less payment terminals. This makes the Masterpass payment service, which began in February 2013, more of a truly “omnichannel” digital payment service, as consumers can use it to pay online, in mobile applications and now, in physical retail.
The service is available to retailers that already have enabled a contactless payment terminal. It’s estimated that there are more than five million merchants in 77 countries that accept contact-less payments, according to MasterCard. Merchants that will deploy Masterpass in the coming months include JetBlue, saks.com, lordandtaylor.com, Subway app and The Cheesecake Factory app.
The Cheesecake Factory app, for example, lets users pay for a meal on the app, rather than waiting for the bill from the server.
The service is only open to Android users for now and the use case is similar to that of Apple Pay or Android Pay. The difference, said Mastercard executive vice president of digital payment products James Anderson, is a focus on issuers, meaning the banks that issue the credit or debit card, as a distribution channel.
“We love Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, but banks have a critical role to play,” Anderson said. “As the banks jump on board through Masterpass, it will open up a larger consumer base.”
It also opens up features not available through something like Apple Pay, he said.
“If I have a debit card, the one thing that would be nice to know is do I have any money? That is one of those basic features that are missing from a debit card,” he said. Through a digital wallet, he said, a bank could include a user’s current balance. “Those are the basic benefits that the bank is in a position to offer.”
Masterpass is not limited to those that have Mastercard, but to others such as Visa, American Express and Discover.
The initial partners include several banks and credit unions including Bank of America and Virginia Credit Union.
Masterpass stores all payment information, including card details, shipping information and payment preferences, and lets users check out online or in merchant apps by clicking the Masterpass button and authenticating to complete the transaction. In-store, customers tap to pay at contactless-enabled terminals.
Masterpass is currently available in 33 markets globally, with plans to expand to three more by the end of the year. This updated Masterpass will roll out in the U.S. later this month, followed by Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Although the technology has existed for a while, consumer adoption of mobile payments — including digital wallets that let users pay with a smartphone or smartwatch — has been slow to catch on.
According to research from Gallup last year, 13 percent of U.S. adults with a smartphone had a digital wallet on their device, and 76 percent of those had never used it or had almost never used it to make a purchase from a retailer in the past 30 days.
Still, when Apple Inc. chief executive officer Tim Cook talked to investors earlier this year, he said that Apple Pay was averaging one million new users each week. Add to this the growth in option from Samsung Pay, Android Pay, PayPal and more.
Anderson said that these increasing options might encourage merchants to turn on the ability to accept contactless payments; due to the recent migration in the U.S. to EMV processing devices mean that more retailers already have installed the necessary payment terminal.
Mastercard this week also shared a revamped, simplified logo, which, according to a spokeswoman, is “optimized for relevance in an increasingly digital world.”