Cellphones may replace credit cards

A pilot project involving RIM, BMO and MasterCard Canada could result in cellphones one day replacing credit cards.

A pilot project involving RIM, BMO and MasterCard Canada could result in cellphones one day replacing credit cards.

MasterCard Canada has partnered with BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion and Bank of Montreal to try a contactless payment technology called PayPass that allows a shopper to simply tap their enabled phone against a sensor to make a purchase.

MasterCard is the second Canadian credit card company to run a pilot project on a mobile payment system.

In June, Visa partnered with Royal Bank and Rogers Communications to test a mobile pay system in the Toronto area, using Visa's payWave technology. Rather than tapping a sensor, the Visa method involves waving an enabled cellphone in front of a sensor. The cellphone is enabled after an application is downloaded.

"We believe this will revolutionize payment," Scott Lapstra, vice-president of market development for MasterCard Canada, said in an interview Thursday with CBC News.

"People are more likely to leave their wallet at home than their mobile phone."

Global trend seen

MasterCard's four-month pilot project will involve 200 employees from MasterCard, RIM and BMO. Their experiences with the technology will be evaluated and refined. Other banks and phone types would be included before the new pay system is launched.

There is a global trend to paying for goods and services with a mobile phone. Pilot projects are underway in numerous countries, including Australia, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

The U.K. market research firm, IMS Research, predicted in a report earlier this month that by the end of 2013, there will be 12.5 million locations accepting contactless payments around the world.

"Card vendors and banks are now issuing more and more contactless cards and consumer awareness is starting to grow in a number of countries," according to the IMS report.

Chains like McDonalds, Tim Hortons and Second Cup have signed on to the MasterCard pay-tap system, which should speed up lines that are slowed by people having to root around for change for a coffee, said Lapstra.

"We built PayPass for that express purpose, where lines can be long and intimidating. With the PayPass, you're not fumbling to count out change for that egg McMuffin with a long line behind you."

The new mobile pay system essentially adapts technology already in use in MasterCard PayPass credit cards. These cards are embedded with a chip and an antenna and people use them to pay for a product by tapping on a sensor.

MasterCard has adapted it for BlackBerrys with a "self-adhesive device" resembling a small piece of foil, that is attached to the BlackBerry.

Once a purchase is made, a customer would receive an email notifying them of the cost, time and place of their purchase.