Pay With Your Phone: MasterCard PayPass, Google Wallet, and Mobile Payments


An interview with digital expert, Mario Armstrong, about how your phone can replace your wallet. We discuss NFC, mobile payments, MasterCard’s PayPass, and Google Wallet.

With Google Wallet’s recent launch, the introduction of MasterCard’s PayPass, and other developments in NFC and mobile payments, the reality of being able to leave our wallets at home seems closer than ever before. Of course, there are security concerns about mobile payments, just like you would worry about losing a traditional wallet or having it stolen. There are also issues that retailers and businesses will have to educate themselves on regarding mobile payments. We recently spoke to digital expert Mario Armstrong about some of the recent developments involving mobile payments and got his advice for consumers and small businesses.

Q. Has the technology regarding mobile payments changed this year, and where is it going in the near future?

It’s changed tremendously. More and more people are now carrying smartphone devices. They’re doing more with these smartphones. One of the biggest things developments of this year that will continue to grow into next year are mobile payments – the idea that your phone can actually be your wallet. You can now take your phone and use it with existing technology like MasterCard’s new PayPass terminals. You can tap your NFC-enabled phone onto these payment terminals to buy items. It’s really changing the shopping experience, making it fun and easy, and even helping you get coupons and all types of things live on the spot.

Q. Where will near-field communication technology be coming in the future, and what part will it play in mobile payments?

Near-field communication is otherwise known as NFC. You have to have a phone that has an NFC chip in it, so that it’s “NFC-enabled,” and those phones will communicate with the MasterCard PayPass or other NFC terminals that you see when you’re out shopping. We’re going to start seeing this show up in other places that you may not tend to expect – like having an NFC terminal at a restaurant table, so that you pull up the menu on your phone, order things, and pay right there at the table with your phone. I think we’re just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of where NFC technology is going to take us with mobile payments.

Q. What are some of the benefits of Google Wallet and other apps designed for mobile payments?Google_Wallet_POS

Google Wallet is a mobile payment app that resides on Android-based phones. Right now, it’s on the Google Nexus S phone, and basically it’s an app that holds all of your credit cards. You would also enter in rewards cards, like for your gym or grocery shopping. You can also get offers and coupons through the app. But what’s really cool about it is once you use the app with PayPass or NFC terminals, you get a log of your transactions – a history of what you’re spending. Within some of these apps, you can actually set spending limits, and put in other securities that you’re more comfortable with. So there is a lot of flexibility, a lot of control to help you better manage your money. Getting an alert to let me know that I’m about to go over my budget that I’ve allotted this month for entertainment expenses would be a very practical benefit.

I think once people get a chance to test out mobile payments technology, to see it and feel it, they’ll understand how easy it is – like walking up to a soda machine, just tapping the NFC terminal with your phone, and out comes your soda. It’s so simple.

Q. How do consumers know that the personal information they store on their smartphone for mobile payments—credit card information, loyalty cards, etc.—is going to be secure?

People are justifiably concerned about how they will be protected when it comes to mobile payments. I’ve boiled it down to four layers of protection. The first layer is actually placing a lock code on your phone – like everyone should do anyway, so that no app could be accessed without your approval. Number two, in order to use Google Wallet or a similar app for mobile payments, you have to enter in a four-digit pin code. Third, inside the phone, the NFC chip-set has something called Secure Element – it’s a way of encrypting the data in the phone so that if someone tampers with it, it destroys that data. The fourth layer of protection regarding mobile payments is that you’ll get the same zero liability for unauthorized transactions with your phone that you get today on your credit cards.

Another thing to consider is that you are likely to find your phone faster than you would find a missing wallet or credit card. There was a study done by First Data, and they say it takes, on average, eight hours for someone to recognize a credit card is missing. Guess how long it takes on average for someone to recognize their smartphone is gone? About four minutes.

Q. How quickly do you think the technology for mobile payments is going to be adopted by retailers and businesses?

Right now, you have150,00 merchants in the U.S. that have NFC terminals. You have 300,000 or so of them globally. You’re going to see more merchants recognize the benefits of being able to accept mobile payments with NFC – especially small businesses. Small businesses need to jump on this, because they’ll also be able to use mobile coupons and other types of mobile rewards to reach customers is a more fun, engaging, and interactive way.

The other issue is manufactured handsets. How many handsets will actually have the NFC chips embedded in them? Right now, you have the Google Nexus S 4G phone that’s available on Sprint. Other Android manufacturers and practically everybody’s talking about developing phones that are NFC-enabled to make mobile payments because they know that’s where the market is going. It’s going to move fast, I really think 2012 is going to be the year where you’re seeing a lot of activity, and especially as we near 2013.

Q. Do you have any advice for small business owners or retailers regarding mobile payments and NFC technology?

I think they should start paying attention to technology developments around mobile payments now. I think they should go to MasterCard’s website to see a video, go to Google Wallet’s website to understand how the app works, stay informed on other technologies for mobile payments. They may have been hearing about social media and location-based services, which mobile payments are really going to play into. So I think it’s smart for them to really start to figure out how does this get me closer to my customer? How does it help me make a better shopping experience for them?

Watch Mario test out the Google Wallet app in New York City:

Mario Armstrong is an Emmy Award winning media personality. He is a Digital Lifestyle Expert, talk show host, media personality, social entrepreneur, public speaker and co-founder of an educational youth initiative:! He translates technology for non-tech audiences. He is the on-air tech contributor for NPR’s Morning Edition program reaching 17 million households. He appears weekly on CNN, he hosts the only, daily technology talk show on SiriusXM radio ch. 128 and hosts a radio series on Maryland public radio station WYPR.  Visit his website at

For more information on MasterCard PayPass, and Google Wallet:

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About the Author

Editorial Team is a leading industry news site for the point of sale and payments industry.We are also the go-to resource for small business owners that want expert tips and inspiration on how to run a successful business. Collectively, our team of experts has decades of POS, payments, and small business experience.