Credit Card Companies Target Digital Wallet Applications

Visa and MasterCard launched partnerships and technology systems this week intended to make it easier for consumers to make purchases online, via mobile devices, and in stores without having to directly handle a credit card. MasterCard introduced its new MasterPass program that will allow cardholders to store varied card information in a single software program, while Visa has new deals in place to push mobile payments forward.

“Consumers can load information for credit and debit cards from competing brands — Visa, American Express, and Discover Financial Services — and not just those carrying MasterCard’s logo. The software program will be accessible on smartphones, tablet computers and other devices,” details the Wall Street Journal. MasterPass can be used through merchants that sign up for the service.

And Visa unveiled partnerships with Samsung and point-of-sale equipment maker Roam “to advance use of its mobile-payments technology,” notes the article. The moves represent the strategies of payments networks that have “long set their sights on eliminating cash to capture more transactions over their processing networks.”

So instead of swiping plastic cards, consumers can simply enter a password on an e-commerce site or tap a smartphone against a merchant payment terminal. “When paired with special retailer deals and other consumer incentives,” explains WSJ, “such services could increase transaction volume and provide new revenue streams for the payment networks, banks and merchants, analysts say.”

Previous attempts like this, at creating “digital wallets,” have proven nearly fruitless, largely because of a lack of merchant and/or consumer adoption. “Regardless of how advanced a technology is, if there is no merchant adoption, then there will be no consumer adoption and vice versa,” suggests KBW analyst Sanjay Sakhrani. But, he added that the focus on digital wallets by traditional card companies “is an indicator of the… inevitability of mobile payments.”