Visa Teams With Google for Mobile Play Using Android

Deal Could Turn Cellphones Into Credit Cards While Altering Mobile-Marketing Landscape

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NEW YORK ( -- Life may take Visa, but life today for many takes a cellphone. So Visa is going mobile, striking a deal with Google and its new Android mobile operating platform that incorporates not only innovative mobile payment methods but takes advantage of new marketing technologies.

With Android, some users will soon be able to opt into a Visa system to sign up to for offers from marketers that sends deals sent directly to their phones. A user could click an "Offers" button on his or her phone to see what the latest deal might be. Then, through a "Locator" feature, which uses Google Maps, the customer can find exactly where the nearest retailer offering the deal is located.

Getting deals direct
Tim Attinger, head of product innovation and development at Visa, at a press conference showed a mock-up of eight clickable logos on a phone screen using the Android system, and demonstrated how when one -- in this case, Burger King -- was selected, up popped an offer for 30% off value meals through the rest of the day. The offer can be redeemed by showing the store cashier the phone. Other offers allow customers to buy four Starbucks' coffees and get the fifth free; Visa would track the purchases and credit back the fifth coffee on the customer's statement and send an e-mail to the mobile phone saying it had done so.

No merchant marketing partners have been announced, but Pam Zuercher, Visa's head of global product innovation, promised a "wide range of merchants," from bricks-and-mortar to online-only, when the program rolls out. "This has the potential to change the advertising model in the U.S." Mr. Attinger said. "It now enables merchants to show [return on investment] from message to transaction."

However, any big changes would be a ways down the road. Though the initial trial launches before the end of the year, for the first few months the service will be available exclusively to Android users with Chase Visa cards. Further slowing the rollout down is the lack of phones with the Android platform. Google unveiled the mobile platform this week, and the first handset, called the G1, from T-Mobile and Taiwan-based manufacturer HTC, is expected from T-Mobile in October.

Google President Tim Armstrong, who spoke at Visa's press conference, thanked the company for taking a chance on the new platform. He predicted that "Visa is going to be a leader in this space and took the challenge right out of the gate."

From cellphones to credit cards
Mobile payments and transactions are an important area of emphasis for Visa, which sees the 3.3 billion phones in global circulation -- far more than its 1.6 billion cards -- as potential financial-transaction devices. Visa today also said it will launch the first trial of mobile-money transfer between consumers, from one registered Visa cardholder to another, beginning before year's end.

Visa and partner Nokia additionally said they will begin a trial to allow Visa payment services, including remote and contact-less payments, money transfers and alerts on the next-generation Nokia 6212 Classic, available next month. The service essentially allows the phone to act as a consumer's credit card.

"Mobile payments and services are one of the most vibrant areas of innovation at Visa, as we seek to accelerate the migration from paper forms of payment to digital money," Mr. Attinger said.

Visa Global Chief Marketing Officer Antonio Lucio noted that plans for marketing the new mobile-merchant offers and payment choices are still in the works.
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