Canadian QSRs offer close look at mobile payments

Editor's note: Cary Stemle is editor of MobilePaymentsToday.com, a sister website of QSRweb.com. He recently returned from a press tour to study the mobile payments industry in Toronto. The following is his account of the tour.

TORONTO — We must have been a sight — a dozen journalists with cameras and inquisitive expressions on our faces, accompanied by several tour guides descending en masse.

The scene was a shopping center in Downtown Toronto. The occasion was a press tour to study the mobile payments landscape in Canada.

The mission: to watch a mobile payment happen in real time.

Group watching mobile payment at Tim Hortons


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Throughout the week, our group, largely made up of international reporters and editors who cover banking and payments, had met with scores of business leaders working in Canada's mobile payments ecosystem. But despite their assurances that many Canadians were already tapping to pay, our own shopping excursions had failed to turn up any actual examples.

So, Will Giles, vice president of emerging payments for MasterCard Canada, agreed to reconnect with the group and walk us through some real transactions.

We started at a Starbucks, where he chose a bag of chocolate-covered almonds and then pulled out his NFC-enabled BlackBerry to pay.

He accessed a personal credit card that was stored in his MasterCard MasterPass digital wallet, tapped the phone against an NFC-enabled terminal and that was that. The whole payment process took less than 30 seconds.

Giles repeated the move a few more times, changing phones to access a different credit card. (Though the SIM-based secure element in each phone can store multiple cards, he has only one active card on each phone for the time being).

As the tour moved quickly through the mall, Giles bought a corkscrew at a liquor store, a bottle of water at a grocery store and a bookmark at a bookstore. We then exited and crossed the street, where he bought coffee at a Tim Hortons, which claimed to have hosted the first Canadian mobile credit card transaction in November 2012.

So far, MasterCard has live cards connected to CIBC (the Canadian Bank of Imperial Commerce) and Carta, an Ontario-based program manager. Purchase amounts are currently capped at $50, but that will increase to $100 next month. Giles said about 86 percent of all MasterCard transactions in Canada are $100 or less.

All of the purchases we witnessed were contactless, using the NFC capability in the phones. The MasterPass solution has been live in Canada since March, and the counter help at the various stores we visited generally knew exactly how to use it, though several customers were unfamiliar and very curious. 

The quick tour proved quite helpful for the group; discussions of technology are useful, but there's nothing like seeing the technology in action.

Read more about mobile payments

Photo credit: Mike Palmer

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