In the last two days, two bombs have been dropped that might finally spur Canadians to adopt NFC payments on their phones. Backed by major Canadian brands, these two announcements could lead to digital wallet apps that Canadians will actually use on a daily basis.
The first is Ugo, a digital wallet app announced yesterday and arriving in spring 2014, is brought to you by the good folks at TD Bank and PC Financial. Loblaws and its PC Points program have signed on as the first retail and loyalty partners for Ugo, which should be a major coup since Loblaws is Canada’s largest retailer and is in the process of expanding its reach with the acquisition of Shopper’s Drug Mart.
Billed as Canada’s first open mobile wallet, it says it will accept loyalty and payment cards from a variety of sources. It remains to be seen which additional retailers, if any, will sign on for the system but Ugo should be able to build a pretty strong case study with the PC Points loyalty program already built-in. With months to go until the app is launched, Ugo should have time to add more partners and increase its utility.
In an email to the Dx3 Digest, Barry Columb, President of President’s Choice Financial explained the significance of the open nature of the wallet.
“An open wallet is a mobile wallet in which many types of cards from different financial institutions, retailers, and card issuers can be stored and used by the consumer. Ugo will be open to include partners in the retail, financial, loyalty and other sectors,” he wrote.
Update: In August 2015, UGO announced it had surpassed the 50,000 user milestone.
The second announcement came this morning, with Rogers revealing that its Suretap wallet will be available in coming weeks. The strength of this system is the reach and billing control offered by Rogers – the first Canadian carrier to create a digital wallet – which can link the system to its recently announced credit card (to launch in 2014) and already has a multi-year partnership with MasterCard Canada in place for integration with prepaid cards.
Last year, Rogers partnered with CIBC to kick off mobile payments in Canada. These partnerships are necessary to enable the payments, but now that Rogers has its own credit card starting next year, the system should be more accessible to their customers and more seamless in terms of billing and execution.
In their press release this morning, Rogers described the advantages of its approach:
“The suretap™ wallet will deliver a secure mobile payment experience, safely storing payment card information and passcodes on the secure SIM card in select NFC-enabled smartphones. Customers will have access to additional features within the suretap™ wallet including gifting of gift cards, reloading of prepaid cards, the ability to check account balances, view recent transactions and use location services to find contactless payment terminals nearby. In the near future, additional cards will become available for download including payment cards from multiple banks and payment networks and loyalty cards.”
Of course, the limitations of NFC payments remain. Both these systems are exclusive (some would say limited) to devices and operating systems that enable NFC payments – namely, Android and Blackberry. Additionally, agreements among retailers, carriers, payment networks and banks for these systems will be an ongoing and intricate process.
In a long-term sense, today should be marked as the day when major brands finally kicked off the battle for mobile payments in Canada. With slightly different perspectives on how the digital wallet should be executed, it’s a good day for competition and the advancement of mobile payment technology in Canada as well.