Testing out NFC phone payments

Last month Visa invited us to test its new payWave app, which allows NFC phone users to pay for good wirelessly (check out our full guide to NFC payments for the how's and why's). Eager to see what all the fuss was about, we headed straight for the nearest NFC-friendly store and nabbed one of Visa’s Samsung Galaxy S III handsets, fitted with a special secure SIM card. The Visa app is actually stored on the card, rather than the phone. This might sound a little odd, but it means you can make payments even when the phone is switched off – although make too many in a row and you’ll be prompted to enter a PIN, which can only be done when the phone is turned on.


NFC contactless payments


First we had to top up the app with funds from our bank account, a simple enough process done through the app itself. Then, with the Galaxy S III turned off, we strode up to the counter and ordered some tasty beverages. The shop assistant wasn’t phased when we brandished our smartphone instead of cash, pointing us to the Chip and PIN pad at the side. This pad had been specially modified, with built-in NFC support. We simply tapped the phone against the pad, and our payment was instantly accepted even though the phone was switched off. A second later we were merrily strolling away.


NFC contactless payments


A week in action...

All too easy, but we wondered if paying by phone would always be this painless. To see for sure, we called on Graeme Neill, deputy editor of sister title Mobile Magazine, to test out the NFC Visa app over the course of a week, hitting a number of high-street stores that are currently trialling NFC payment. Here’s how he got on.

‘I’ve been using a Samsung Galaxy S III with the NFC Visa app for the past few days and the results have unfortunately been mixed, with just over half of my payments being accepted. While some stores have been happy to help – with staff actually quite impressed to see someone using it – I did receive several blank stares too. The NFC payment also hasn’t worked in a few retailers that are supposedly part of the trial.

‘Still, it’s simple enough to top up the prepay account from your own bank, and paying for something is literally a case of holding your phone over a terminal when you get to the checkout. Here’s hoping the creases are ironed out in the months ahead and more retailers get on board. At the moment, it’s mainly restaurants and retailers at the Olympic Park that are trialling the scheme, but we reckon that plenty more will start installing the terminals in the coming year.’


NFC contactless payments


Tap your phone here...

At present, it’s mostly food establishments that accept phone payments, with a reasonable balance between healthy outlets and greasy fast food joints. Visa’s website has a full list of supported stores, as well as instructions on how to use NFC. Best of all is the interactive map, which displays your nearest businesses that use contactless payments.

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Mobile Choice

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