Using 200 of its San Francisco staff, the bank will test mobile-phone payments for six months—and may launch a commercial service soon after. Wells Fargo (WFC) is again trying to make mobile payments at restaurants and retailers mainstream, three years after an earlier attempt lost steam. Peter Ho, product manager of card services at the bank, led a test several years ago that let executives use a Nokia phone, rather than a debit or credit card, to pay for fast food and other items. While he liked the convenience, Wells Fargo didn’t end up offering the service to customers, partly because only the one handset was capable of transmitting payment information at the time.
This month, Ho gets another chance as the bank kicks off a mobile-payment trial with 200 employees in San Francisco using a technology that can be inserted into existing phones with microSD cards. To make payments at participating retailers, employees will simply open the Wells Fargo Mobile Banking app, select the pay-with-phone button. and wave the phone in front of special mobile-payment readers.
“We have made an investment in this technology, and we hope this investment pays off,” says Ho, who declined to give the amount of the investment in so-called near-field communications (NFC) technology that uses short-range wireless connections to transfer payment or other information between devices.