Samsung-Visa alliance to boost NFC payments adoption

The payments technology vendor and handset manufacturer have teamed up to help financial institutions make in-store payments through smartphones commonplace.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

Samsung and Visa have entered a global partnership, which may see the adoption of near-field communication (NFC) mobile payments soar.

Announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013 in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, this is the first partnership of its kind between a payments technology provider and a handset manufacturer, and will pave the way for large-scale mobile payments program implementation, according to Visa.

Selected Samsung NFC-enabled handsets with a secure chip embedded inside will be preloaded with Visa's payWave app. Banks and other financial institutions can then load payment account information remotely using Visa's mobile provisioning service to those Samsung handsets for a mass NFC mobile payments rollout.

"Samsung devices enabled with Visa payment functionality will no doubt be a powerful product offering — especially in markets where paying with a mobile device is becoming commonplace," Visa global head of products Jim McCarthy said in a statement. "However, the key to making mobile payments broadly available all over the world is to offer financial institutions a secure way to provision millions of smartphones with payment account information — and that is exactly what Visa and Samsung are ready to deliver."

A Visa spokesperson told ZDNet that there is "nothing to announce yet" in terms of Australian banks that are set to take advantage of the new Visa-Samsung partnership.

One of the hurdles for NFC mobile payments is that NFC-enabled handsets that exist today don't have a secure element activated inside.

According to Visa, the agreement covers "existing and future handsets that will have NFC capability", including the popular Samsung Galaxy S III.

Visa approved Samsung, LG, and BlackBerry phones to use its payWave technology in January last year. Since then, the company has trialled NFC payments with telcos Optus and Vodafone internally.

Westpac and ANZ are two banks that have tested NFC mobile payments using Galaxy S III smartphones with a secure chip embedded in SIM cards. The Commonwealth Bank, which has snubbed NFC payments testing altogether, deemed the SIM card method an "expensive and complicated" exercise.

Westpac ran its trial with Visa competitor MasterCard.

The latter also made an NFC announcement at WMC this year, launching MasterPass, a digital payments service that supports payments using NFC, QR codes, tags, and mobile devices for in-store purchases.

Australia and Canada will get the MasterPass service first from the end of March, followed by the US and the UK. Interested customers can sign up for the service at their respective financial institutions.

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