Taxis, Boris Johnson and another step closer to VC Day

Speaking at the European Payment Summit this year, where he was chairing the panel discussion on Mobile Digital Payments, Michiel Verhaagen (Chief Commercial Officer at AirPlus International) told a story about forgetting his wallet and made the point that he always looks for taxis that accept credit cards and the problems he had trying to find one after arriving in Brussels for the conference. I had exactly the same problem, and I’m steadily becoming more militant about it. When I arrived in Brussels for the event I went to the taxi line at Zaventem and got into the first taxi in line, reassured by the Visa/MC sticker in the window. I loaded my luggage in the back and settled down. Just as the taxi was about to move off, I saw a sign in the back saying, in several languages, “no cards, cash only”. I told the driver to stop and got out. A woman, next in line, walked toward the taxi and asked, in an American accent, if I didn’t need the taxi. I told I didn’t, because it didn’t take cards. She told me that in that case she did want it either.

My heart skipped a beat. I’m a sucker for an American accent and a dislike of cash. A payments soulmate! We walked down the line of taxis together to find one that took cards. When we did, I think it was like the fourth or fifth in line, I naturally opened the door for her and moved on down the line. Fortunately the next taxi took cards as well, so I hopped in and headed to La Hulpe.

Taxi sign


Unless we vote with our feet, nothing will change. The same is true in London, by the way, where if I get in a cab and it says “cash only”, I get out right away. It’s the only language they understand. The Mayor of London has just said that all London cabs must take cards by October, but there’s about to be some pushback on this.

However, the group said it was now planning to use the money it has raised so far, more than £350,000, to prevent TfL’s plans to have a contactless credit card reader installed in every cab, which it said could cost cabbies “tens of millions”.

From London cabbies abandon bid to challenge Uber licence after fundraising blow | London | News | London Evening Standard

I think I might be able to pour some oil on troubled waters here. The goal is for the average passenger to be able to get in a taxi and get somewhere in London without having to use cash. Another goal is for the average business passenger (eg, me) is to get a receipt that you can use when you submit your expenses at the end of the month. Frankly, an app like Hailo does both of these things and it does them much better than a card does, contactless or otherwise.

It’s not about tap and pay, it’s about app and pay.

Hence the obvious compromise position. Instead of regulating on the basis of specific technology like contactless, taxis should be regulated on the basis of the desired outcome, which is cashlessness. Why not require taxis to accept contactless payments or any one of a number of acceptable in-app solutions. If the driver refuses to accept any one of the acceptable in-app solutions (e.g., Hailo) then the ride is free. Furthermore, I would make it illegal to surcharge for a debit transaction or an in-app debit or (soon) instant payment transactions. Let them surcharge whatever they like for credit cards, cash, cheques, Bitcoins, cowrie shells or tickets to West End shows.

Taxi POS

But back to the story from the Summit. Michael was making a point about how close we are to having the phone replace the wallet and the cusp at which forgetting your wallet now longer matters. Well, I think we are close. If I forget my wallet in the morning, I apply this algorithm…

  • Am I going to our office in Guildford? If so, continue to office in Guildford. I can use my phone to buy lunch, coffee, whatever, so I don’t need my wallet.

  • Am I going into central London? If so, I call South West Trains every name under the sun, because the ticket machines at Woking station don’t take contactless, and return home for wallet. I can pay for the bus to the station with an app, I can pay for parking at the station with an app, I can pay for anything I need in London during the day (coffee, lunch, taxis, buses, tube) with my iPhone, but on South West Trains I am trapped in 2006 time warp.

  • Am I going overseas? If so, I’ve got my travel wallet in my bag and that has my passport, an Amex card, and a Caxton FX card that I can top up from an app, so continue.

  • Am I going somewhere else in the UK? If so… well it depends. If I’m driving somewhere, I can use my phone to buy coffee and lunch, I can use my Shell app to buy petrol. I’ll probably go. I once did drive off without my wallet, in the days before Apple Pay and Shell apps, and I ran out of petrol in Watford. I called the AA, and they told me that they couldn’t bring petrol because it’s against health and safety regulations, so they towed me to a garage. I filled up the car, wandered in to pay and… discovered I’d left my wallet at home. (Not the first time I’ve done this.). Having thought about it, and left the car keys with the clerk at the filling station, I phoned my bank. It turned out that there was a branch a few minutes walk away, so I set off to find it. On the phone, I answered some security questions, and when I got to the branch there was (if memory serves) £30 waiting for me. Hats off to Barclays.

We are surely (South West Trains unique role as boat anchor against progress notwithstanding) not that far away from the day that I started dreaming about when I saw my first Nokia phone will contactless payment all those years ago. The day when it finally doesn’t matter if you leave your wallet at home. Or “VC-Day” as I intend to call it (for Victory over Cash Day).

Don’t judge mobile payments by the way they work now

A few people tweeted and e-mailed to point out how app-centric commerce can be perversely annoying, citing the example of car parking given in this recent British newspaper piece.

The competitive marketplace for cashless parking has resulted in a fragmented and rather irritating experience for motorists

From Cashless parking was meant to make life easier for drivers but our phones are awash with competing apps | Features | Lifestyle | The Independent

Well, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say “awash”, but I take the point. I’ve got RingGo and PayByPhone on my iPhone right now. I use RingGo the most. It’s super easy and convenient, except for the hello-2013 bit about paying. Although it’s on an iPhone, it doesn’t use Apple Pay. So I had to sod about typing in my credit card details when my new card arrived and every time I use RingGo I have to remember the three digit code from the back of the card (which I do, to be fair, a good four times out of five). If you want to know how an app should work, check out the new Trainline app.

Trainline Pay

Select Apple Pay, thumbprint, done. Why isn’t all in-app purchasing like this. Come to that, why isn’t all purchasing like this. Actually, it soon will be…

Apple Pay is already available to use in stores and on your phone in apps where it’s supported. Now it looks like the service could be expanding to Apple’s Safari browser, making it possible for pretty much any website to add the mobile payment service as a checkout option.

From Apple Pay said to hit the Web soon

I share the writer’s frustration that when you load a new app to do something straightforward like buy a bus ticket or park a car you have to mess about typing in all of your details, getting out your credit card and typing your financial information back into the phone for the 100th time, searching for the app when you need it and all the rest of it. But that’s because all of this stuff is currently built on yonks old web crap. Look at this screen, for example. Why is the Arriva app asking me for this? Why doesn’t it ask my Barclays app? Or use Apple Pay? Or just remember what I typed in last time?


As the example of the Trainline shows, when you build an app properly using the infrastructure that is growing up in the mobile world then it’s a different story. What should happen when you walk up to the car parking machine is that the app should be fired up automatically either because of Bluetooth beacons in a car park or some other kind of geolocation service, and if you don’t have the app you should be given the option of downloading it quickly and conveniently there and then. When you run the app for the first time it should just look and see if you have Apple Pay or Android pay or Barclay Pay or Chase Pay or Walmart Pay or Lego Pay or PayPal or whatever else pay and ask you which one you want to use. End of. And when you want to use the app you should never have to put up with the sort of nonsense I do buying a bus ticket, standing in bus queue trying to type a PAN into a small screen using a tiny keyboard.

“But if you are an online service provider of any kind – whether you are Waitrose or Airbnb – you want to provide the best experience for the customer. “The bit that’s currently the pain is the customer having to fish out their card and look for the number on the back to complete a payment, and these services avoid the need for that.”

From Google to expand Android Pay digital wallet to UK – BBC News

My point, as I said in that BBC news report, is that that apps deliver a better and more personalised service to the customer and allow the service provider to deliver a better customer experience around their purchase. What’s more, some of those customers won’t even download apps for casual purchases, they’ll just use bots sitting behind WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger whatever else it is that the kids of today are using. Imagine going to the car park at Woking station and instead of running RingGo just using Messenger are to send a message to RingGo instead. The grammar of a car park is pretty limited so is not that hard to construct a bot to manage the interaction. You don’t need Alpha Go to recognise an end time or “day” or “week” or whatever.

Mobile payments are going to be huge. Don’t visualise the commerce of the future as the half-baked agglomeration of cut-down web interfaces that you have on your phone right now, but the constellation of interacting apps on the infrastructure of the future.

A swift transition to in-app in Cologne

The kind people at Visa Europe invited me over to give the keynote talk at their Retailer Forum in Cologne. The thrust of my talk was the transition to in-app (and the corresponding shift in retailer strategy “from check out to check in”) and the importance of developing strategies around this transition that exploit the key technologies APIs, apps, tokenisation and all that jazz. I had a great time and enjoyed the event (I learned a lot about payment data analysis from BeyondAnalysis), but I also had an interesting and weirdly self-referential payments experience

I flew into Cologne and found a taxi. Off we went, and before you could say “fourth largest economy in the world” we were at the hotel. I handed over my payment card, and the driver looked at me as if I had just handed him a piece of toast with my face on it. I tried miming tapping the card, then tapping my phone, then just blankly staring at the card. He shook his head: he didn’t take cards. I opened my wallet and showed him that I had no cash. Then I had an idea and went into the hotel and asks the guy at the desk if there was an ATM in the building, or nearby. He shook his head. “Can you give me some cash against my card” I asked him. Another shake of the head. So I went back out to the taxi and gave a shrug. The driver took out a piece of paper and gestured. I handed him the card and he laboriously copied out the card number (which was hard to make out in the semi-darkness) and the expiry date. He seemed happy with this, and I took his gestures to mean that HQ would run it CNP later on.

But then I thought… this is my MasterCard prepaid Euros card. Surely it will be declined if keyed manually? So I wrote my mobile phone number on the back of the piece of paper and then pointed at the hotel indicating that if there was any problem he could find me at the hotel. He never came back.


I used this to story to illustrate a point in my presentation. I said that no-one in developed markets uses cash for taxis anymore because you either pay by card or, as I do most of the time, in-app.When I had finished going on about how certain retailer categories in the German market might skip card acceptance and because of high smartphone penetration move directly to in-app payments, Jens Loos pointed out that normal people in Cologne used MyTaxi already.

MyTaxi Pointer

So when it was time to head on out, I downloaded MyTaxi (which took about eight seconds) and then booked a taxi (which took about another eight seconds) and at the end of the trip I added a tip and put my thumb on TouchID (which took about another eight seconds) and… that was it. As I pointed out the first time I paid in a taxi using a phone, it’s impossible to imagine a better way of doing it. The reason is, of course, that when you sit in the back of a taxi, you have your mobile phone in your hand. Every time. All the time. So it’s the natural way to pay.

(What’s more, when we got to the destination, I got the trip half price as they were having some kind of promotion! Hurrah!)

Summary of my German payments experiences: card terrible, in-app brilliant. Make of this what you will!

App and pay is where it’s at

A few weeks ago, I said that Apple Pay isn’t disruptive (for retail payments) and I made the point that its real impact will be “in-app”. I want to explore and emphasis this point in the light of more recent developments. Specifically…

The big news is that it will expand to the UK market next month

[From Apple Pay to be available in UK – Business Insider]

Apple Pay is coming to the UK. Now, when Apple Pay was first announced in the USA, our basic analysis of it for our clients was that it was an incredibly important development in the payment world, but not because of the use of the NFC. The fact that Apple had decided to use tokenisation, we told people, makes tokenisation as big a deal as chip and PIN. It will change the way business gets done, because it brings chip and PIN security to online and mobile transactions. In fact, I bored a number of people on this topic, to the point where it became part of my spoof write-up of Money2020 in Las Vegas last year

“Well, for the big merchants it’s not about tap-and-pay it’s about app-and-pay” he told Osama Bedier from Poynt.

[From Casino Royale-with-Cheese, Part 7]

At the end of the year, we made “in-app” one of our “live five” areas for our clients to explore in 2015 (along with the blockchain, as it happens) and started trying to persuade people to pay attention to it as area of massive opportunity.

Much of the discussion around ApplePay, tokenisation, NFC and retail has naturally focused on the “tap and pay” simplicity of the proposition. However, there are lots of reasons for thinking that this will be a sideshow rather than the main event.

[From Live Five for Fifteen]

The good people of the GSMA invited me to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier in the year to explain this point to a general audience, where I predicted that tokenisation would accelerate a shift away from the check out and the conventional POS terminal as the nexus between the consumer and the merchant drifts away from physical space and into the mobile phone.

while much of the talk at the Congress was about what I’ve previously called the “last millimetre” using NFC, RFID (and now Loop) to link the phone to the point of sale (POS) in the store, the really disruptive impact of the Apple Pay, tokenisation and strong authentication via mobile would be away from the “traditional” POS because bringing chip-and-PIN levels of security and convenience to in-app transactions will change the way that we pay pretty quickly.

[From In-app and on-message in Barcelona]

I made exactly this point again a couple of weeks ago, when I was interviewed by the BBC in connection with the UK Apple Pay launch [audio, starts at 30 minutes in]. On the whole, I think. Consult Hyperion got a consistent message out to our clients and then to the wider marketplace. But is it the right message?

It is. I was interested to note some comments by people far more important and influential than I, comments that might be taken to mean that I may have perhaps been too conservative in my proclamations, around the announcement of Apple coming to the UK.

John Collison, one of the cofounders of $3.5 billion (£2.25 billion) payment processing startup Stripe, says this feature, not the contactless mobile payments, is getting businesses most excited… John Lunn, senior global director for the mobile-payment company Braintree, which was bought by Paypal for $800 million (£512.18 million) in 2013, also thinks Apple Pay’s in-app element is the most exciting thing about it.

[From Apple Pay in-app purchase power could be its most important feature, say Stripe, Braintree – Business Insider]

Well when people like John Lunn, who I can personally testify is a very smart guy, go on to say that “everybody’s talking about the in-store stuff, but actually when you look at the presentation when they launched it, the merchants that were sitting behind Tim Cook were online” I think that tell us the direction of travel pretty accurately.

As my colleague Tim Richards pointed out earlier in the week, tokenisation is a really big deal. App-and-pay changes industry dynamics in a way that tap-and-pay does not.

In-app and on-message in Barcelona

Dgwb blog white border

Wandering around #MWC15 in Barcelona this year I got involved in a bunch of conversations about Apple Pay, Loop, NFC and so on. But I thought that focus on the physical, in-store interface, could be diverting people away from the central strategic shift to in-app payments.

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