Amex suggests that with Serve and Payfone you’d be able to link your cell number to a variety of credit and debit card accounts, and then pay swiftly and securely at the checkout in stores.
If that sounds familiar, then it should–it’s almost the exact same process needed for wireless NFC credit card payments, a system we expect to see exploding over cell phones and smartphones from about now onwards. And that reveals Amex’s plans for all to see: This investment is a precursor to enabling NFC payments from phones in stores.
And since location data is securely included in Payfone’s protocol, it could also enable a secure way for NFC phone owners to transfer money between themselves merely by putting their phones together–Payfone would do all the fund verification, work out the phones are co-located, and Amex’s Serve would handle the transaction. More than this, the investment in Payfone has a slightly tactical flavor because Amex could have invested instead in technology that didn’t use cell phone network infrastructure…and hence it’s a sign Amex knows it needs the networks on its side if it’s to be a player in the upcoming market.