Why don’t more people pay with their phones?

I first started paying with my phone by accident. I was at Botiwalla in Ponce City Market and while I was ordering I mentally panicked because I had forgotten my wallet. But by the time I had finished ordering, I asked if they accepted phone payment. They did. I double tapped my home screen button to pay and that was that. No need for a wallet. After I paid I stood there for a minute wondering why I had never tried this before.

And now when I buy food at the cafe at work, a restaurant downtown over lunch, a pop machine in the park, or at the concession stands at a Braves game, nearly every time I buy something I feel like I’m the only one in line who checks out with their phone. Everyone else uses a card. This confuses me because phone payment is simpler, faster, much more secure, and the majority of places I eat lunch at accept phone payment.

Simpler and Faster

The amount of time it takes to check out with Apple (or Android) Pay is however long it takes you to double tap the home button while within a couple inches of a payment terminal, which for me is not longer than a couple seconds. That’s it.

With a chip card, you’ve got to wait 5-10 seconds, click through some on screen prompts, and then sign your name.

Part of the reason it’s faster is that with your phone, you’re utilizing the full processing power of the CPU with NFC communication to process the transaction instead of the much less powerful chip using RFID communication in your chip card.

More secure

Phone payment is just as secure as chip card payment in the sense that the merchant never digitally receives your actual credit card number, only a token, which is verified by your card company during the transaction.

But how is phone payment more secure? Because while you’re double tapping the home icon on your phone, the phone is verifying your thumbprint. If it’s you, then you make the purchase within a couple seconds. If not, no purchase occurs.

On the other hand if someone steals your card, they get away with the goods because only rarely do merchants ask for your id to verify identity. And while most of the time you are required to sign your name, this is largely a waste of time because your signature is not being verified in real time. Signing your name is merely a formality of a past age.

How do I know if the merchant accepts phone payment?

Just look for the EMV Contactless Payment symbol (in the pic below). If they have it, they accept phone payment (Android/Apple Pay, etc.)


Why do so few use phone payments in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world?

China leads the world in mobile payments in both absolute numbers and as a percentage of all transactions. The U.S. only made $112 billion in mobile phone payments in 2016, yet China made $9 trillion. China only has 4 times the population of the U.S. yet makes 80 times more phone payment transactions.

In much of Europe, phone payment is nearly ubiquitous. In the U.S. however, only around half of all retail locations accept phone payment. The big players that don’t accept phone payments in the U.S. include grocery stores, card readers at the gas pump, and formal sit-down restaurants. Nearly all quick restaurants and coffee shops accept it and department stores are somewhat split.

In some ways it’s a chicken and egg scenario. Retail locations are slow to allow mobile payments because not many consumers pay with their phones. Yet the reason many people don’t pay with their phones is because not enough merchants accept phone payment.


So let’s reverse this chicken and egg scenario. Let’s catch up with the rest of the modern world and start paying in a way that’s faster, simpler, and more secure.



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