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Visa adds partners to ease mobile payment adoption

Payment giant Visa matched rival MasterCard with some news of its own at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today. The first announcement was that Visa will be partnering with handset manufacturer Samsung to make mobile payments simpler for both consumers and banks.

As a part of the agreement between Visa and Samsung, Samsung will begin loading a Visa payWave applet on its NFC-enabled devices. The result is that off-the-shelf phones will be ready to have payment credentials loaded on to the secure elements already embedded in the devices; there will be no need to find and download a mobile wallet app.

"Samsung devices enabled with Visa payment functionality will no doubt be a powerful product offering — especially in markets where paying with a mobile device is becoming commonplace,” said Jim McCarthy, global head of product for Visa, in a statement.

The second part of the Samsung agreement is aimed at financial institutions. Visa said it will offer its Mobile Provisioning Service, which securely downloads payment credentials onto the payWave applet, to any FI looking to launch a mobile payment program. The FI will be able to load customer account data over-the-air to the secure chip in the device.

"[T]he key to making mobile payments broadly available all over the world is to offer financial institutions a secure way to provision millions of smartphones with payment account information — and that is exactly what Visa and Samsung are ready to deliver," McCarthy said.

The simpler the better

Either part of the agreement would likely make it easier to get fully-functioning — meaning installed and provisioned — NFC-enabled mobile wallets into consumers' hands. That's something that other mobile wallets from Google to Isis have struggled with. But when both parts of the deal are taken together it means consumers don't have to download any software and FIs can provision them more easily.

"Putting the payWave applet on the phone as it is shipped is smart," said Cherian Abraham, mobile payments and banking advisor at Experian Decision Analytics. "Customers will most probably activate their wallets as they activate their phones — no need to download a mobile payment app or a wallet aggregator."

Only a few customers will go out and download a payment app, Abraham said, but if it comes with the phone it has more visibility. "If I see an option to activate my Visa mobile wallet — then I will. And it will probably be on the home panel and remind me to use it at every turn," he said.

The first Samsung devices loaded with the Visa applet will come later this year, said Bill Gajda, global head of Visa mobile, in a press conference at Mobile World Congress.

A source familiar with Samsung's products said it will likely come loaded for the first time on the upcoming Galaxy SIV smartphone.

Addressing merchant needs

Along with its Samsung news, Visa also announced it has signed an agreement with mobile point of sale provider ROAM Data. ROAM, owned by POS maker Ingenico, will be a part of the Visa Ready Partner Program that was announced last week. That means ROAM's hardware device, the card-reading dongle it offers to merchants that turns mobile devices into credit card terminals, can display the Visa Ready symbol.

Other provisions of the agreement mean Visa and ROAM will work together to promote each other's mobile solutions and ROAM will develop a white label mPOS solution for Visa's acquirers and merchants.

ROAM CEO Ken Paull said his company is enthused to be collaborating with Visa. "Security is a primary focus for us at ROAM, and we fully embrace the Visa Ready Partner Program as a way to identify the differentiation of our mag-stripe and EMV solutions,” Paull said.

Mobile World Congress, the wireless industry's annual international conference, is being held in Barcelona Feb. 25-28.

For more stories like this, read about Card Brands.

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