Citi Launches Contactless Credit Sticker
U.S.-based Citigroup has quietly launched its contactless payment sticker, making it available to customers who request it on the bank’s Web site.
The sticker is believed to be the first in the United States enabling consumers to make credit payments. Other contactless stickers in circulation are linked to prepaid or debit accounts. Citi intends for customers to attach the stickers to the backs of their mobile phones, then tap them to pay just as they would PayPass cards or key fobs the bank issues. They can tap to pay for purchases of under $50 at roughly 70,000 merchant locations that accept PayPass in the U.S.
The bank has ordered the sticker in quantities of hundreds of thousands, not millions. But as NFC Times reported in early April, the Citi stickers could signal a larger mobile-payment initiative for the bank. More sticker orders could follow, as well as more sophisticated contactless-mobile payment devices, including NFC phones or contactless microSD cards, when these products become available.
It was unclear when the bank would announce the sticker following the recent soft launch. But customers who find the Citi sticker Web page can order the product. Citi describes the sticker with the slogan, “The back of your phone just became its coolest feature.”
The PayPass application on the sticker will have no connection with the user interface or applications on the phones customers might attach the sticker to. And Citi does not apparently intend to send customers transaction alerts to their phones after they tap the sticker to pay, as some other payment-sticker promoters are doing.
Sources expected Citi to announce the sticker launch by the end of April. It’s failure to do so raised speculation that production problems may have delayed the project. The bank declined to comment for this article on that speculation. Kurt Weiss, a senior vice president in the Citi Cards unit and head of global mobile strategy, would only say in a statement to NFC Times that the stickers are “currently available to customers who request them.”
A source close to the bank, however, said there were no production problems. France-based Oberthur Technologies is supplying the sticker, using a chip from Infineon Technologies.
Contactless-payment stickers have not yet taken off in the U.S., including the prepaid Go-Tag from transaction processor First Data.
The Go-Tag is sold in such retail convenience store or drugstore chains as Sheetz, 7-Eleven and Duane Reade, but it has failed to catch on with consumers since being introduced last year. Most observers blame a lack of promotion by the retailers. In addition, a major prepaid and gift card company had planned to roll out Go-Tags, but the deal fell through, said a source.
U.S.-based Discover Financial Services plans to issue a contactless sticker with its Zip application onboard later this year. Surveys of participants in a trial launched by the card brand last year indicated consumers would prefer to hide the sticker, not wanting their phones identified as payment devices.