Commentary

Mobile Payments: Tap to Pay vs. the Credit Card Swipe

As I tapped my iPhone 6 at a checkout register while making a quick purchase at a convenience store over the weekend, it again struck me the distance this process still has to go.

The beauty of using NFC in the iPhone is that no app or anything else has to be loaded, it just takes a quick tap of the phone to the terminal where credit cards are routinely swiped.

Of course, that means the particular checkout hardware has to be one that takes Apple Pay.

On my phone, the thumbprint read again didn’t work, even after deleting and rescanning it a couple of times recently. That means having to use the passcode, which isn’t really difficult to type a four-number code, although it does then take an extra step.

Another issue is that after the phone payment is accepted, I still had to identify on the store’s point-of-sale screen that it was a credit card payment.

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Even though my American Express card is linked to Passbook, sending me an instant notification identifying the store and the amount just charged, the cashier still handed me a paper receipt along with my one-item purchased.

In other stores where I paid by phone, either by Apple Pay or by Softcard on my Samsung Galaxy S4, I was handed a small slip of paper to sign.

None of this seems to make it easier to use a phone over a simple credit card swipe, since all the touch payments are doing is essentially mimicking a credit card, except with a phone (yes, and of course the added security features).

There are other approaches in the market and coming in the future that use codes on screens for payments. Those approaches typically integrate other things with the payments, such as loyalty cards and coupons.

Technically, tap-to-pay is starting to work quite well in many places. But then again, so is swipe to pay.

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2 comments about "Mobile Payments: Tap to Pay vs. the Credit Card Swipe".
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  1. Jack Brain from Private, January 26, 2015 at 11:31 a.m.

    When using ISIS/Softcard (in days gone by: prior to Apple Pay rollout and the ensuing MCX debacle), my experience was much more seamless at those merchants (notably CVS).

    While the payment pad did present a "type of payment", simply tapping the device overrode that, completed the transaction, and sent me on my way.

    I was handed a receipt, not to sign, but for returns. My biggest frustration was the sensitivity of the individual pads. Some took multiple taps, others took a single one.

    Like your experience with AP, SC did require a PIN code, however I had plenty of time to enter that while the cashier rang up my 5 items. I tend to try to maximize efficiency though, so for those waiting to the last second to pull out their phone (or for an unexpected TouchID failure), this would certainly serve to make the process longer... or at best, on-par with a card swipe.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, January 26, 2015 at 8:34 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your mobile payment experiences, Jack -- always good to hear additional perspectives.

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