Freddy Cloud

Frederick (“Freddy”) Cloud has had a passion for all things electronic since he “accidently” caused the class Commodore PET to malfunction in 8th grade. “I swear. I didn’t do it on purpose” He was quoted as saying to a very unhappy computer teacher... Read his full bio

My Adventure using Mobile Payments

imgresI remember when they first announced Google Wallet. I thought the idea of being able to pay with your phone (you know, like a lot of the world has been doing forever) was going to be all kinds of awesome. It wasn’t. The issue was that I didn’t have a phone that had a NFC chip, so I wasn’t able to join in on the revolution. But that was only PART of the problem. The other part of the problem was that, at the time, stores didn’t have credit card terminals that accepted a NFC transaction. No NFC readers. So even people in the US that had phones with NFC chips and Google Wallet weren’t able to use them that often. Times are a lot different now … kind of …

I decided that I was going to try (TRY) to go an entire day only using my phone to pay for things. I felt as though I had a bit more of an advantage because of the phone I have (Samsung Galaxy Note 5), and it not only has NFC for Android Pay, but also hardware that sends out a signal that mimics the magnetic strip on my credit/debit card. Samsung Pay will use both the NFC chip and the MST hardware and whichever one works, that’s what it goes with. My day usually consists of getting something to eat in the morning and for lunch and sometimes a snack. If I have a few minutes free I’d go to Starbucks and get a hot chocolate or a tea or something. So that’s what I was going to do, but I’d also add a cab ride just for kicks. How did it go? Well …

My train pass is already on my phone, so that didn’t count. I use that every day. But after I got off the train I hailed a cab. This particular cab had a card reader in the back, and it was working. I’ve taken cabs before that either didn’t have one that was accessible to the passenger, or the bloody thing just didn’t work. So a short time later I used my phone, paid for the ride, and was on my way into my building to grab a bagel. That’s when my progress hit a snag. You see, my phone can work with a register or terminal that accepts a card, but if the card reader is part of the register, the cashier has to be willing to use my phone to make the payment. And this cashier wasn’t. First mobile payment hurdle: people who won’t cooperate. I ended up using my card, and was determined not to allow this one particular plebian to mess up my plan.

We have vending machines that take credit cards, and some of them will accept NFC payments like Android, Apple or Samsung Pay. I tried one that did and one that didn’t. Both worked. Sometimes to the surprise of people standing in the room. This has happened to me before; there was a cashier at a different store that told me when I took my phone out that the credit card terminal they used didn’t accept Apple Pay. I told her that’s fine, I don’t have an iPhone, and proceeded to pay for my purchase with the Note 5. I paid, she was puzzled, I left. Score one for Samsung.

Lunch time came, and I went across the street to get a salad. I knew the place in my building was going to give me grief, so I didn’t bother with them again. The cashier at this restaurant gladly took my phone to make the payment, but timing is everything; it only sends the signals for a short period of time, and if they don’t know what they’re doing or where to place the phone, it’ll time out. It took a couple of tries, but eventually it worked. Another victory. It also worked at Starbucks later that day, but the cashier was puzzled why I wasn’t using my Starbucks app instead. There are places that have their own payments systems; Starbucks has their card, Walmart is working on getting theirs together, and I’m sure there are others I don’t know about. But right now, I was on a mission. I missed my star for that transaction by not using my Starbucks app, but it’s the price I had to pay for performing my test.

The day ended, and I went home. My results weren’t too bad; in my experience that day and days after I’ve determined that the Achilles heel of mobile payments is 1) the slow adoption of merchants to get the hardware, 2) the hardware BEING ON and ACTUALLY WORKING, 3) cashiers understanding and be willing to use the technology. Everything isn’t an iPhone. But then if you go out to a restaurant you’re not going to go to the back with your waiter/waitress to use your phone on the cash register. It also doesn’t work well at gas stations; seems as though there’s a trigger in the pump that your card activates when you stick it in. Can’t do that with a phone. But that’s one of the main places I’d like to be able to USE my phone. You can’t clone my magnetic stripe if I never insert the card, and even if they try to read the signal my phone puts out, it’s not the same number that’s on my card. Most mobile payment applications create a token with a virtual card number and not the actual number on your card. It’s MUCH safer and MUCH more secure.

I’m anxiously awaiting the day that my phone can completely replace my wallet. Not that I’d never carry my wallet as a backup (driver’s license, medical card, that kind of stuff won’t be virtual for a while. At least not where I live), but knowing if I forget or lose my wallet that I’m not completely out of luck for the day is more comforting. For now, I’ll still carry and use both. Eventually we’ll be like the cool kids in other countries that use their phones for everything. If you have a phone that does it, give it a shot. Join me in the future of paying for stuff. Let me know how it works out for you …

Freddy C.



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