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Pay with your phone…pay with your fridge

Pay with your phone…pay with your fridge

Posted on: March 10, 2017
Author: Michelle Stead

A small crowd gathers around the checkout at a dollar store in Camrose Alberta. Something must be wrong. Maybe debit is down.

Turns out there’s no need to be alarmed. It’s just Jackie Coughlin at the centre of the crowd, giving one of her impromptu tutorials on Apple Pay.

“Last night I had a crowd of about four people around me looking to see what I was doing. It was like another customer and a couple of the clerks there. So I just talk it up.”

If you think it’s only millennials eager to embrace the ease of paying with a mobile phone, you’ve got to meet Coughlin. She describes herself as middle-aged and she’s one of ATB Financial’s early (and often) adopters of Apple Pay. She also works as a personal banking specialist with the Alberta-based financial institution.

She was quick to start using it in the fall of 2016 when ATB came out of the gates alongside some of Canada’s biggest banks as Apple introduced the payment option to Canadians. Now that ATB customers can add their debit cards to the wallet, she’s using it even more—for 90 per cent of her purchases, she estimates.

“I love it for the convenience. I don’t always have my wallet with me but I always have my phone with me,” she said.

 

But quietly going about her business using a mobile wallet isn’t exactly Coughlin’s style. She’s in the business of educating anyone and everyone around her.

“I show them how easy it is and they’re quite impressed with it,” she said.

While Coughlin spreads the gospel of Apple Pay around central Alberta, Brian Hans is looking to the future and trying to predict the next big way to pay. He’s the senior product manager for ATB’s mobile payment solutions and he’s seeing some pretty cool things on the horizon. There are more digital wallets on the way, and wearable technology that will provide new payment possibilities.

A concept known as “the internet of things” has plenty of potential on the payments landscape. In the not too far off future, more and more of our devices and appliances will be connected to the internet. We’re seeing it already with smart fridges—an example Hans used to explain what’s possible.

“Imagine your fridge is getting low on milk, eggs—the critical stuff,” he said. “Your fridge notifies you and asks, do you want me to order it? You say yes, it puts the order in to the grocery store and then you stop on your way home from work and pick up the groceries.”

There’s no need for you to ever take out your wallet. Your fridge has already made the payment. Similar scenarios would play out with washing machines that can order their own detergent and cars that can pay for their own gas. It’s all possible, and likely not that far away.

Hans is highly aware that ATB can’t be a spectator as these advancements move swiftly from concepts to reality.

“If your fridge is telling you I’m going to order $300 worth of groceries, ATB should be asking you, do you want us to transfer some money to cover that? Because we know that your fridge typically pays from this account, and you don’t have the money to cover that right now,” said Hans.

Brian Hans
Brian Hans at ATB Campus in Calgary

As new methods of payment emerge Hans also has his eye on security, knowing that convenience can never eclipse safety.

“ATB’s role is to make sure that our cards and our data is protected when it comes to those types of transactions,” he said.

When it comes to helping customers, digital payments have some handy possibilities. Hans relates a common scenario all banks have to deal with. A customer is stranded on vacation after losing a wallet. Inside it were the physical cards needed to buy food, pay for hotels, maybe even pay for the flight home. A digital solution to travel trouble like this is already being used in a few countries overseas, including Australia.

“Some banks are capable of doing instant digital card issuance. They can issue the customer a card to their digital wallets. It’s ready to go, without the need for actual plastic having to change hands,” explained Hans.

Cynics might accuse financial institutions of trying to influence how their customers pay for things. You could suggest it’s in the interest of banks to get people hooked on the convenience of digital payments and giving less thought to the balance racking up on credit cards.

“We don’t want to drive people to digital payments. What we do want to do is provide that option to them and explain what the benefits are,” said Hans.

“Ultimately it is their decision. Some people will never be comfortable with giving out their information or putting a card number into a phone.“

Hans also points out that notifications and transaction alerts could help people become more in tune with their finances than they’ve ever been. Setting a budget and sticking to it could be easier if you’ve got constant reminders flashing on your phone.

Jackie Coughlin and Maggie
Jackie Coughlin and her dog Maggie

As for Jackie Coughlin, she concedes she is spending more, but it doesn’t add up to much. There’s an extra coffee every Sunday on her way home from the dog park.

“I wouldn’t usually stop because I didn’t have my wallet. But now I can. And I do,” she said.

She may need to pick up a few extra coffees for the neighbours if she ever gets a smart fridge. It’s not hard to imagine her at the centre of a crowded kitchen, demonstrating how to get the grocery shopping done without leaving home—no purse required.


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