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October 29, 2014

McDonald's to Use Softcard Terminals at all US Locations

McDonald’s announced recently that it launched a new payment system at its restaurants. Customers can now make payments through Softcard terminals at all 14,000 locations in the U.S. The launch comes after the fast food chain launched a pilot program in 2013 in Austin, Tex. and Salt Lake City, Utah. As a result of this launch, McDonald’s NFC devices work with Apple Pay and Google Wallet as well as Softcard.

Softcard is a near field communication (NFC) payment system created through a joint venture of AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless. It was originally known as Isis Mobile Wallet, but recently changed its name so it would not be tied to a terrorist group with a similar name.

According to Softcard’s site, it can be used at 200,000 locations. It runs on an Android app from NFC-enabled phones; currently 80 different models are supported. The app uses an e-wallet that lets users enter card information. Whichever card the user designates as the current one is the one that will be used to pay for the transaction.

American Express, American Express Serve, Chase and Wells Fargo are the major cards supported by Softcard. If users want to use a card other than those, they can look up the card on Softcard’s site to see if it’s supported. Frequent buyer or loyalty rewards programs handled through cards can also be added to Softcard.

The latest news about smartphone payment systems is the decision by many retailers like Walmart, CVS and 7-11 to not accept Apple Pay. As Forbes contributor Mark Rogowsky points out, there is no concept of accepting Apple Pay. If you have an NFC terminal, smartphones using Apple Pay will work with it.

What MCX merchants will do is support EMV, because of the October 2015 deadline to do so or face covering fraud costs, without supporting NFC. Rogowsky adds that this will make a lot of customers unhappy during the soon-to-arrive Christmas shopping season.

As a fast food company that seeks to appeal to as much of the general public as possible, McDonald’s doesn’t want to play that game and it would seem to be a wise decision. More customers are going to like the speed and convenience of NFC payments and alienating them is not good business. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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