MasterCard’s MasterPass makes mobile payments easier

Buyer, beware: Purchasing products is becoming almost too easy. MasterCard is building on its existing PayPass mobile wallet technology with MasterPass, a service that lets consumers store payment information on their smartphones and buy items with just a tap on the screen. Dangerous.

The company announced MasterPass on Monday at Mobile World Congress, where most of the major phone and tablet makers are rolling out new devices.

Master Pass interface

MasterPass will open up to customers in Canada and Australia next month and will be available in the U.S. later this spring.

You sign up for MasterPass through your financial institution. The open service lets you pay with any type of card, not just a MasterCard.

MasterCard plans to support basically all in-store payment methods, such as near-field communication technology, QR codes, and tags. For online buyers, MasterPass will enable one-click purchases similar to Amazon.

Buying into the future

Mobile payments are expected to become the norm, according to an April 2012 study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. Most people think smartphones will replace money at the cash register by 2020. Tom Litchford, vice president of retail technologies for the National Retail Federation agrees.

Litchford points to breakthroughs like Square’s partnership with Starbucks as a sign that mobile payments are going mainstream. Coffee drinkers who have the Square Wallet app on their phones get their regular fix by simply saying their names at the cash register.

But until stores can prove that mobile wallet technology offers more value than swiping a debit card—discounts, personalized offers, social network integration—then consumers will continue to pay the old-fashioned way, Litchford says.

“From a retailer’s perspective, we’re not in this game anymore of who has the best price,” Litchford says. “The game is: Who can provide the best experience and solve the needs of the customer? Technology is on the forefront of providing that.”

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