Could technology put an end to the annoying wait time for a hot dog in a stadium line, or eliminate the need to hand over a credit card to the bartender to keep an open tab? At least one payment company is hoping it can.
MasterCard MA, announced at this week’s Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona it’s expanding its offerings on its payment app Qkr! for Masterpass, which is available on iOS and Android devices. MasterCard added a new feature: the ability to create an “open tab” at participating bars that would replace the need to leave a physical payment card or ID with the bartender. Instead, consumers can open a tab within Qkr (if bars accept it) and also split their bill with others within the app, rather than having one person pay the full bill. In order to use the app, consumers must set up an account on MasterCard’s mobile wallet, Masterpass.
Before this year, Qkr was available in Australia, Colombia, Mexico and the U.K., and in 2017 it will come to the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Singapore and South Africa. The payment app in partnerships with restaurants, including the pan-Asian noodle chain Wagamama and coffee chain Juan Valdez, allows customers to pay for food from the app, rather than wait for their bill at their table.
The company did not disclose how many U.S. locations will use Qkr in the coming year, although it did announce this week it had partnered with Oracle, which owns many point-of-sale systems, on the new offering, said Michael Minelli, the vice president of digital payments and labs at MasterCard. MasterCard has previously used Qkr for attendees of the PGA Tour, which lets app users order food from their seat locations and pick it up from vendors at the events. MasterCard may use its Qkr technology for other vendors’ apps, he said.
Mobile in-person payments — defined as consumers paying for products or services on their phones, but picking them up or using them in person — are projected to grow by 6.8 times from 2015 to 2021, a faster growth rate than mobile peer-to-peer payments or mobile remote payments, according to a recent report by research firm Forrester. Overall mobile payments are also expected to grow. In the U.S., mobile payments were estimated to reach $112.2 billion in 2016 and will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20% to reach $282.9 billion by 2021, Forrester found.
MasterCard isn’t the only company offering new ways to pay for drinks without having to open a tab or hand over cards or cash. Barclaycard in December 2016 debuted a prototype of a “robot bartender” that automatically dispenses beer when customers make a payment on the machine with their contactless card, mobile device or wearable. And Visa V, +0.38% experimented with allowing sporting event attendees pay for concessions from their seats at 2016’s Super Bowl. (Card processing companies in particular have an interest in creating loyalty to their cards, as they collect a percentage of consumers’ purchases each time they pay.)
But there are obstacles to these services becoming widespread, said Brendan Miller, a principal analyst at Forrester: In order to allow new mobile payment options, vendors have to integrate them into their existing payment systems. They may not be willing to go through the effort for systems few consumers will actually use, he said. And with competing payment apps and systems already on the market, convincing consumers they need one more way to pay may be difficult. (Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, come pre-loaded on smartphones and don’t require consumers to download an additional app.)
And adding the ability on Qkr for consumers to split a bill may be solving a nonexistent problem, Miller said. Many servers will allow patrons to split bills anyway, or payment apps like PayPal’s Venmo (PYPL) and its new competitor Zelle allow customers to settle up. And it could be a lose-lose for customers with big appetites who like to eat and drink when they’re at a football game, particularly if they’re trying to be conscious of their wallets and waistlines. In that case, they might be better actually getting out of their seats and standing in line at the bar.
This article originally appeared on Marketwatch.
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