NFC-based mobile payments are getting another boost here in the States: U.S. Bank, one of America’s largest, has announced that it will begin to trial a new mobile payments service called “U.S. Bank Go Mobile,” which allows iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S users to pay for purchases at point-of-sale by waving their smartphone. The initial tests will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Portland, Oregon.
Apple has notably held off on integrating NFC chips into its mobile devices, while Nokia, RIM, HTC, Samsung and others have moved forward, to varying degrees. Although the technology has many other purposes, it’s often associated with being an enabler of mobile payments, where a tap or wave of a NFC smartphone or other NFC tag, like a key fob, can take the place of a credit card swipe at checkout.
NFC is being used in several early mobile payments experiments in the U.S, such as those run by Google with its Google Wallet, as well as with the carrier-backed initiative known as Isis. Incidentally, Salt Lake City is also one of Isis’s test markets, which may have contributed to U.S. Bank’s decision to launch there first.
As with the other NFC payments programs running today, U.S. Bank’s rollout is still an early test, likely meant to see whether or not such a technology can gain real traction before the company commits to a wider rollout, as it’s promising to do in 2013. We’ll see. Bank of America has tested similar technology as well, with mixed results.
U.S. Bank is now introducing the Go Mobile service in beta with its new FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature credit cards. Account holders who opt-in receive both the card and a customized NFC-equipped iPhone case, developed and patented by DeviceFidelity, and personalized by Datacard. The case includes the secure element that enables the phone for mobile payments, and it will also help to extend the battery life of the phone by more than 50 percent. The case is not yet available for the newer iPhone 5.
The service works in conjunction with a Go Mobile app for iPhones, and can be used anywhere Visa’s payWave is accepted. Currently, Visa’s website indicates the technology has been adopted by over 32,000 retailers worldwide, but U.S. Bank’s test is limited to a small number of merchants in Portland and Salt Lake City.
U.S. Bank has been testing the contactless microSD cards that are now being used in this initial rollout since late 2010, but it has never publicly offered details of how those trials progressed. In a prepared statement, Dominic Venturo, chief innovation officer for U.S. Bank Payment Services, says the bank has “incorporated all of the feedback we have received from prior pilots and our customer research into this latest offering.”
More info about Go Mobile is here on U.S. Bank’s website.