Capital One: Ready to Make a Move into Mobile Payment?

Though one of the largest card issuers in the United States, Capital One has for the most part been quiet when it comes to contactless payment and NFC.

But that could change. The large credit card issuer and bank is seeking to recruit a senior business director for mobile payments with knowledge of NFC and the alternative-payments scene. Capital One posted the job opening last month.

Observers believe Capital One is considering aligning with one of the planned NFC mobile wallets, such as one from the Isis joint venture or Google. A less likely alternative would be for Capital One to introduce its own mobile wallet, possibly on microSD cards. A spokesman declined to confirm a move toward any of the proposed wallets.

“There is a vast array of technologies out there, which Capital One is looking into, NFC being one of them,” he told NFC Times. “We are hiring the right talent so that we can capitalize on the market opportunities being presented by mobile banking.”

Capital One began issuing contactless cards in Canada supporting MasterCard PayPass in 2008. It’s unclear whether the company continues to issue contactless cards in Canada or whether it has issued in the United States.

In any case, the company has not been a standard-bearer for contactless technology and has not apparently been involved in any contactless-mobile payment trials, either with NFC phones, contactless microSD cards or passive stickers–at least no public trials.

That contrasts with nearly all of the other major U.S. payment-card issuers, including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and Discover Financial Services. Citi will offer a payment application on the Google Wallet. Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase and U.S. Bank all have trialed mobile payment using either NFC phones, contactless microSD cards or both.

American Express, while also not participating in any public NFC or microSD card trials, is a member of the NFC Forum trade and standards group and has rolled out contactless cards in the United States. It also has said it might later equip its planned global mobile payments offer–based on the Payfone mobile processing and authorization service and AmEx’s own Serve digital payments service–to support NFC.

Capital One is probably testing a number of mobile-payment alternatives, some supporting NFC, others not, said David Schropfer, co-founder of the U.S.-based Luciano Group consulting firm and a former analyst and business development officer for Capital One. At least one of the options could include a payment application that could be funded from a variety of bank accounts. That's why the issuer might not be talking to Google, at present, about being part of the Google Wallet.

“With their decoupled debit patent, I think they would try to create a competitive product to the Google prepaid card, the other payment type which will, at present, be accepted through the Google Wallet, Schropfer told NFC Times, adding: “That's why I think they are talking to Isis.”

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