MasterCard is taking another step towards ubiquitous mobile payments with the launch next week of MasterPass, essentially a short-cut for online payments using any credit card.
From March, the new payment option will manifest itself as a button on checkout pages of participating e-commerce sites. Registered customers will have their credit card information held in the MasterPass ''digital wallet'' and will not need to enter it each time they shop.
The service will be available on mobile and web pages, first in Australia and Canada, with the rest of the world to follow, according to MasterCard's Head of Market Development and Innovation, Matt Barr.
It will store any credit card, dispensing with agreements between the different card issuers and MasterCard, Mr Barr said. Only the merchants need to make it available at their online checkout. A dedicated smartphone app using near-field communications (NFC) to pay in-store would be next, he said.
''We will have capability to enable that but it doesn't avoid the need for [phone] manufacturers to collaborate to make the phones enabled. We're not going to wait for the stars to align for NFC payments,'' Mr Barr said.
In November, eBay-owned PayPal announced it would make its online payment gateway available in stores via a smartphone app that uses face recognition to allow the store worker to validate the purchaser. It already has in-store payments enabled when customers ''check-in'' on the phone.
At this Mobile World Congress this week, Samsung announced all future smartphones will be built with Visa NFC capability.
Sixty-four per cent of Australians own a smartphone, and analysts predict the mobile payment industry will be worth almost $50 billion worldwide by 2014.
Westpac, NAB, Commonwealth Bank and ME Bank have signed up to link their bank-issued cards to MasterPass, while JB Hi-Fi, Roses Only, Harvey Norman and merchants using payment gateways Merchant Warrior and PayCorp will be the first to display the option.
Mr Barr said Australia was not a test bed for the new product, but had been chosen for the launch because Australians were early technology adopters and the country was experiencing rapid growth of e-commerce, mobile commerce, and smartphone penetration. ''We're bringing a new payment solution which helps streamline all the ingredients for a market that is very bullish about the [mobile payment] process.''
Mr Barr said the new service was 100 per cent secure, with credit card information held by MasterCard rather than merchants.
''At no time will information be stored locally,'' he said.
The MasterPass launch will coincide with the rebranding of MasterCard's PayPass contactless payment system to be known by the same name.