PenFed Rides the Wave and Pay Crest
It might seem a scene ripped out of a sci-fi novel. Within the year a Pentagon Federal Credit Union member will rush into a convenience store, grab a container of milk, and on the way out, will wave a smartphone at a clerk and speed out the door. No stop, no paper receipt.
“We definitely will roll this out this year, at least in pilots,” said Ben Scandlen, a PenFed spokesperson. “Our research tells us a substantial percentage of our membership are very interested in mobile payments. We got ahead of the curve with iPad apps, and that worked out great for us. We believe mobile payments will be a large technology change for financial institutions and we plan to be there. You don’t want to get left behind. We need to stay on top of mobile, everything is changing so fast.”
That is because stores will have special readers that instantly capture the customer’s NFC transaction, and the mobile customer can literally be out the door.
NFC goes well beyond making it easier to grab purchases on the run. “The vision is replacing the wallet with a NFC equipped phone,” added Vishal Jain, an analyst with research firm The 451 Group in London.
Huge technology players are also now piling onto NFC. Last week, stories swirled that Amazon is about to launch an NFC payments scheme, with transactions tied to users’ Amazon accounts. Google, meantime, is said to be conducting an unannounced pilot of NFC in New York and San Francisco and, supposedly, Google (whose Nexus S smartphone has NFC built in) has paid for the readers installed at pilot merchants. Neither company is confirming or denying the reports.
EBay, via its PayPal subsidiary, also is pushing into NFC, say technology sources, and AT&T and Verizon have disclosed they are moving forward with an NFC payments platform called Isis. Apple was heavily rumored to plan to build NFC into its latest iPhone launch. That did not happen, for reasons unknown, but in any discussion of NFC there is little doubt that Apple, too, plans to find a role for itself.