This Month in Payment News: February 2015

In our monthly series here on the Cayan Insights blog, we round up the biggest stories in the payments industry—the breaking news and developing trends that stand to change this space and herald innovation. In this edition, we’re covering February. Follow along!
February was a big month for some big players. Consolidation of mobile payments heated up even further, with Samsung and Google both making major acquisitions. And on the EMV front, American Express kicked off an initiative aimed at helping small businesses stay secure and save money.
Samsung Acquires LoopPay
First there was speculation that Samsung’s Galaxy S6 release would also mark the debut of the company’s own mobile payment offering.Then came the announcement that Samsung had acquired LoopPay, a powerful Apple Pay competitor. One of the most attractive features of LoopPay’s technology is its no-hassle experience for merchants, since 90 percent of POS terminals are already compatible.
The Samsung-LoopPay convergence has some interesting history behind it. The phone maker’s Global Innovation Center actually invested in LoopPay’s technology in the early days of its development. That relationship will continue as the founders of LoopPay are brought on to help guide Samsung’s mobile payment pursuits going forward.
Samsung’s strategic move makes the company a strong force in the mobile payments world. Owners of the Galaxy S6 will now get a similar mobile treatment as Google and Apple users, with the ability to connect debit and credit cards, along with cards associated with their favorite loyalty programs.
Google Buys Softcard, Announces Carrier Partnership
Samsung wasn’t the only one making headlines with acquisitions in February. Google also announced its purchase of Softcard (formerly Isis Mobile Wallet), adding more features to its mobile payment offerings, like gift card and loyalty program syncing and peer to peer payments right from the app. Softcard’s NFC-enabled payment system was seen as fairly disruptive when it first debuted in 2010, with the potential to change the way merchants and shoppers view payment options and security.
Google’s mobile payments strategy doesn’t end with this acquisition, however. Thanks to some powerful partnerships with Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T (the three companies that introduced Softcard to the market five years ago), by the end of 2015, Android phones will come pre-loaded with Google Wallet. This is a big deal because these carriers previously blocked Google Wallet on most of their phones, creating a strong barrier to Google’s influence in the retail world. Now those barriers will be broken down. As for those currently making mobile payments with Softcard, they’ll still be able to use the app for the time being.
American Express Launches Nationwide EMV Campaign
In October of last year, President Obama formally supported the identity theft-reducing capabilities of EMV by announcing an initiative to speed up the adoption process. At the same time, American Express came out with plans for a program of its own aimed at small businesses who don’t have the same resources for adopting new technology as larger retailers. This February, American Express’ Small Merchant EMV Assistance Program officially launched.

According to a release from the company, small merchants who qualify will receive a reimbursement of $100 from the credit card company after they’ve switched to an EMV-ready POS terminal. AmEx is also making strides to become a go-to resource on EMV readiness, implementing the “American Express Fraud Squad” to answer questions and travel to visit small business owners in major U.S. cities as needed. The company has also created a page to answer common questions about EMV adoption.
This extra support for small businesses comes at a crucial moment in the EMV-readiness process. A survey from Aite Group found that just 59 percent of POS systems will have upgraded to chip-enabled technology by year’s end. The report also noted that small businesses will likely be among the last to make this important switch, which puts them at increased risk of breach.

Bottom of the News
EMV Countdown: It’s February. Are Your Clients Going to Meet the Deadline? (BSMinfo)
The Next Step for the Mobile Wallet? Loyalty Programs (Wall Street Journal)
Apple Pay Makes Chase’s Investor Day (
Bitpay and Adyen Partnership Means Facebook, Airbnb and Spotify Could Accept Bitcoin (Inside Bitcoins)
Groupon Starts Selling Beacons to Merchants (Street Fight Mag)
Apple Pay Deal Will Bring Mobile Payments to Vending Machines (SlashGear)