Three of the nation’s four major wireless companies are betting big on the idea that we’ll use our cell phones instead of our credit cards. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have jointly announced “Isis,” and plan to roll the service out to merchants over the next year and a half.
Isis will use near-field communication (NFC) chips built into cell phones with tap-to-pay point of sale machines. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently announced that the newest version of the Android operating system will feature built-in support for NFC functionality. It’s relatively trivial technology to add to other phones, as well.
Isis CEO Michael Abbot says, “While mobile payments will be at the core of our offering, it is only the start. We plan to create a mobile wallet that ultimately eliminates the need for consumers to carry cash, credit and debit cards, reward cards, coupons, tickets and transit passes.”
This is a direct shot at Visa and Mastercard, two companies that are deeply invested in both debit- and credit-based point of sale transactions.
American Express may feel a bit of sting, though it deals mainly in credit-only transactions, and Discover has actually partnered with Isis to let the new service tap into its network of payment machines located at more than 7 million retailers across the country.
It’ll be interesting to see whether you’ll be able to directly link your bank account to your phone or if your wireless company will bill you for charges you incur when using Isis with your phone. I’d rather deal with my bank to try to get fraudulent charges reversed than AT&T, quite frankly.
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