Can I Pay With My Phone?


If you haven’t heard that question from customers yet, you will — and soon. Mobile wallet payments are beginning to catch on, first with millennials and now more broadly with all consumers. The volume of U.S. in-store mobile payments is expected to reach $75 billion in 2016 and jump to $503 billion by 2020.[1]

Restaurants were among the first retail businesses to accept mobile payments, with McDonald’s, Subway and Panera Bread leading the way with Apple Pay.[2] Starbucks developed its own app that has successfully combined payments and customer loyalty.[3]

Mobile wallet uses near field communication (NFC), a contactless payment technology, to handle the transaction. Customers wave their smartphones (or Apple Watch) near a point-of-sale (POS) terminal to pay with a credit card that has been loaded on the device. The best known formats are Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Wallet and PayPal.

Mobile payments are ideal for table-side checkout, food trucks, carryout, delivery and catering. Restaurant operators find that mobile payments offer both their restaurants and their customers speed, convenience and added security when compared to other types of payment processing.

Mobile wallets may be an effective way to reduce credit card fraud, as most models protect customer credit card numbers through tokenization, which replaces sensitive data with unique identification symbols. Some mobile wallet models also require biometric authentication with a fingerprint.

To begin accepting mobile payments, restaurants must have a POS system capable of processing an NFC transaction. This may require working with a bank or payment processor to install a peripheral device to an existing POS payment terminal.

The only slowdown to mobile wallet payments is consumer acceptance. A survey by credit card processor Square found that nearly half of millennials had made a mobile wallet purchase, while only 26% of consumers age 35 and older had done so.[4] Millennial customers like the convenience of paying with their phone and not having to carry credit cards or cash. Older consumers are set in their ways, used to using credit cards for purchases. However, older consumers are coming around to mobile payments, influenced by their children and grandchildren and swayed by the convenience and added security. 

[1] “Nearly half of millennials have used a mobile wallet,” Business Insider, Sept. 6, 2016. Available at:

[2] Mobile Payment Guide: Which Banks and Retailers Support Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and PayPal,” By Lauren Keating, Tech Times, Aug. 5, 2015. Available at:

[3] Mobile Invasion: Mobile Payments in Restaurants, a National Restaurant Association white paper, May 2015. Available at:

[4] “Nearly half of millennials have used a mobile wallet,” Business Insider, Sept. 6, 2016. Available at:

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