Imagine walking into your favorite cafe and instead of waiting in line to place your order for a large iced nonfat latte and handing over your debit card, you submitted your order and authorized payment from your bank account via an application on your phone.
You can’t do that now. But it’s very possible that some day you will. It will be a big leap forward getting banks, credit card companies, retailers, and cell phone makers–not to mention consumers–on board with this idea. But a few companies are beginning to provide digital stepping stones to what someday could be a wallet-less future.
On Thursday, Intuit and Mophie (maker of the JuicePack battery for iPhone) will introduce the Complete Credit Card Solution, which fits over the iPhone 3G and 3GS like the JuicePack and has a credit-card reader that uses Intuit’s 18-month-old GoPayment mobile payment software. It will be available as an iPhone accessory in Apple Stores.
The idea is to allow small businesses or anyone who needs to process payments that doesn’t have a permanent place to plug in a cash register to be able to accept something other than cash on a device many people already have. The hope is consumers would find this more convenient than keeping cash on hand when they want to make a purchase, even from a nontraditional retailer.
While plastic and cash are still the way the vast majority of retailers do business, that could change over the next few years as smartphone usage continues to skyrocket, and more personal finance details are being taken care of online and on the phone. Hardware makers, banks, and payment processors are at least dipping a toe into the water by participating in trials or offering new ways to pay people without using plastic or cash.