While doing our holiday shopping this season, we noticed that alternative forms of payment are starting to make their way into consumers’ everyday lives. Macy’s was one of the first companies to accept Google Wallet, a Near Field Communication (NFC) payment method that uses a smartphone as an alternative to a credit card. To use, the customer simply enters their PIN on their phone and taps their phone on the vendor’s reader (the red area in the photo below). Funds are then either deducted from a Google Prepaid Card, or added to the user’s existing Citi MasterCard account. While this method is a big change for US consumers, Google Wallet can only be used on the Sprint Nexus S 4G for now. However, the reader can also accept MasterCard credit cards that use the same PayPass technology, increasing the system’s usefulness and the likelihood that customers will try it.
New York City, though, prides itself on being on the cutting edge of new technology and consumer trends. So it was more surprising to find a vending machine sporting the same technology at a random gas station in New Jersey. Rather than emphasizing Google Wallet, though, here customers were encouraged to simply tap their MasterCards to pay. As anyone who’s attempted to scrape together $2 in change or to smooth out a wrinkled dollar bill can attest, waving a credit card in front of a vending machine is much more convenient.
While it remains uncertain that customers will embrace this particular form of payment, there’s no doubt that vendors will continue to experiment with new technologies that painlessly and quickly separate customers from their cash. Easy transactions can mean the difference between an impulse buy and a lost sale, and in today’s uncertain economy, every penny counts.