John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Consumer Watchdog: Tech leap cuts bulk in wallet

Mobile wallet technology merges credit cards, transport cards and various coupons.
Photo / Supplied
Mobile wallet technology merges credit cards, transport cards and various coupons. Photo / Supplied

Bulky wallets can be viewed as a sign of wealth - or more likely as an obsessive collection of Eftpos receipts.

But fans of a new payment system are confident fat wallets and awkward checkout fumbles among a forest of cards will be consigned to history.

Auckland Transport, Telecom New Zealand and Westpac rolled out their mobile wallet "proof of concept" this week at the Thales laboratory in Central Auckland.

The trial, a collaboration with Thales, Gemalto and Paymark, takes near-field technology (NFC) development to a new level in New Zealand.

"This is a real-time transaction, exactly like with an Eftpos card but by phone," said Gary Alway, general manager at Christmas savings programme Hampsta.

The company hopes to be one of the first clients to use the technology once the trial is completed early next year.

Alway said customers and companies could save with mobile wallets, and he was excited to see firms such as Telecom backing the technology.

Telecom mobile commerce manager Roxanne Salton said mobile wallets offered customers a way to merge credit cards, transport cards, loyalty cards and various coupons on to their cellphones. "Most of us are overwhelmed by the number of loyalty cards in our wallets, and the number of coupons and discounts emailed to our inboxes."

Salton said shoppers could sign up for loyalty schemes at their favourite store faster "simply by tapping their phone on a retailer's smart street-tag poster".

"No need to take the time to enter their details into the computer or to foot the cost of posting them out a plastic card," she said.

Mobile wallets could also personalise daily shopping and generate tailor-made specials, Alway said.

And safety features were built into the technology - if you lost your phone, remedies were usually available.

"With the modern technology you can track your phone if someone's stolen it and you can remotely delete everything on it anyway."

For retailers, Alway said loyalty programmes often involved loads of paperwork and incurred big distribution, labour and postage costs.

Mobile wallets offered retailers the promise of easier, faster and cheaper distribution channels.

Other local firms were also making forays into mobile wallets.

Snapper launched a free applicationthis month.

Its app, downloaded from Google Play, lets people use smartphones to pay for bus fares, taxi fares and buy goods at dairies.

Mobile wallet uptake overseas has been mixed. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal said adoption of the technology in New York had disappointed retailers.

"For now, most consumers' financial use of smartphones is limited to checking bank balances, buying ringtones or using an internet browser to make an online purchase," the paper reported.

But Alway was confident the technology would take off in New Zealand. "It's only going to get bigger. Loyalty is a small component of it but being able to do a transaction by phone is going to be huge."

- Herald on Sunday

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