The Rapid Evolution of Mobile Payment Technology


In today's swiftly changing technology landscape, it's easy to forget the humble credit card remained the latest payment innovation for decades. With the ubiquity of smartphones and growing Internet of Things (IoT), customers today have many more payment options than the generation before them. But how did this come about and what's next on the horizon?

Early Innovation

From bartering, to metal coins, to printed cash, humankind finally saw the advent of the credit card in the 20th century. While store specific courtesy cards emerged in the early 1900s, it wasn't until 1946 and John Biggins' "Charg-It" card that we saw the first true credit card. Following closely behind Biggins, Frank McNamara invented the Diner's Club Card after eating out and realizing he forgot his wallet at home. This early multi-purpose charge card made of cardboard saw its first plastic competitors in the 1960s from the likes of American Express and Bank of America.

Recent Changes

After the invention of the credit card, the next payment innovation wouldn't occur for decades. Traditional magnetic strip credit cards remained king until the establishment of PayPal in 1998. Then in 2014, the idea of the digital wallet and mobile payments became readily attainable with Apple Pay. Technology like tokenization and near-field communication (NFC) worked together to make mobile payments a reality. In this time of innovation, even the lowly credit card got an upgrade thanks to the EMV chip in 2015.

What's Next

Mobile payment options continue to develop and become more widely adopted. According to the most recent TSYS US Consumer Payment Study, "68 percent of consumers plan to make 50 percent or more of their in-store purchases using their digital wallet within two years." As the desire for convenience pushes technology forward, trends to watch include invisible payments and "check out free" options like Amazon Go stores. Some of the latest research explores biometric applications, like voice and fingerprint recognition payments.

The payment technology of today is an exciting and rapidly evolving scene. We've come a long way from the cardboard Diner's Club Card of yesterday!