Carrier-Backed Mobile Wallet Isis Ties Up With Chase, Amex, Ahead Of Nationwide Expansion

Carrier-backed mobile payments initiative Isis is gearing up support for its mobile wallet platform ahead of the nationwide launch later this year. Today, Isis is announcing Chase has signed on to be a part of the national rollout, following the pilot trials in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City.

Chase cards supported by Isis now include Chase Freedom, Sapphire, Slate, and JPMorgan Palladium. Isis currently has similar deals with Capital One and American Express.

isis-chase2The cards, once loaded into the mobile wallet application on supported phones, can then be used by tapping to pay at NFC-enabled point-of-sale terminals. However, real-world adoption of NFC as a payment method has struggled due to a lack of ubiquitous support for the technology at checkout, as well as consumer confusion over supported phones and how to use NFC if provided. Plus, there’s also the fact that Apple has not adopted the technology in its own devices, including the iPhone.

Isis’s plan B may then involve gaining initial traction as a platform for mobile couponing and loyalty rewards – something the wallet app supports today through its merchant partnership program.

The news of Chase’s support comes just days after Isis announced a partnership with American Express, which will see its own payment application called Serve, integrated into the mobile wallet. Isis and Serve had been working together for over a year, and now mobile customers will be able to sign up for an American Express Serve account in Isis, then use it to pay bills online, or send money to family or friends. Serve accounts are something of an alternative to a bank account, but can be funded through existing bank accounts, credit cards, debit cards, or other Serve accounts.

Isis competes with a variety of attempts at building a functional mobile wallet, including Google’s own NFC-based application, Google Wallet, which has also had troubles at point-of-sale as well as refusal by carriers to support the app so they can move forward with Isis.

Largely, the success of mobile payments in the offline world — at least here in the U.S. — has come from those who avoid tying themselves to NFC. This includes startups like Square, which signed deals with Starbucks and Blue Bottle Coffee to power their payment-processing infrastructures, as well as online payments company PayPal, which has been integrating with point-of-sale system providers, and has established partnerships with dozens of retailers reaching tens of thousands of locations across the U.S. PayPal also has its own Square alternative, with PayPal Here, which recently expanded its U.K. trials.

Isis, jointly run by AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile, limits itself to NFC, which may prove quite challenging, then, in terms of consumer adoption. When an NFC terminal is not present, the fallback for Isis users is to pull out their card and swipe as usual. That’s also a deeply ingrained habit that will be hard to break, especially if the “pay by tap” method doesn’t seem to offer any sort of value add to experience from the checkout.

Isis announced in late July, too, that it would be rolling out nationwide this year, though it did not provide a launch date. The series of announcements, including last week’s around Amex and today’s around Chase, hint that the launch date for the platform is drawing near. Isis’s pilot debuted in October 2012, so perhaps the go-live date will also be October, in order to make it a full year between to the two launches.