Visa CEO praises Apple Pay as a trailblazer for mobile payments

But despite the love connection, Visa must keep its options open.

SAN FRANCISCO---If Visa could send a valentine this week, it would probably be to Apple, based on the comments of Visa CEO Charlie Scharf on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference at San Francisco's Palace Hotel, Scharf acknowledged a number of "false starts" in the mobile payments market over the last several years.

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But Apple, he argued, has completely turned that flailing trajectory around.

"Apple is the first of the really strong use cases out in the marketplace," insisted Scharf. He posited Apple Pay is exciting because "it's a platform people can see, feel, touch, use, and understand the experience."

"It also provides the roadmap for others to be really thoughtful about," Scharf observed about Apple Pay.

Visa has been involved in a number of different mobile payments schemes itself - not to mention upgrading its own credit card and payment methods, such as the implementation of EMV, or chip-and-pin cards.

With Apple Pay, which debuted last fall after years in the making amid anticipation from consumers and analysts alike, Visa is involved through a security element called tokenization.

Visa's Token Service was designed to support payments made on all major mobile platforms, replacing methods that stored sensitive payment account data on the devices themselves.

When Apple Pay debuted last September, Visa said the tokenization method should result in a decrease of digital commerce fraud.

"From our perspective, we love Apple and appreciate they've done in this in a way that supports banks and networks alike," Scharf said. He also praised the iPhone maker for being "very clear about the role they want to play" in the mobile payments market.

Scharf predicted "we're about to see many more things and implemented that will compete with Apple Pay" this year.

But despite the love connection, Visa must keep its options open.

Scharf clarified it's Visa's job is to figure out which strategic financial and tech industry partners work best for the payments ecosystem while providing real scale with robust security.