November 8, 2012, 11:45 AM

Suretap mobile payment system debuts in Canada

More than 5,000 Tim Hortons restaurant locations will accept it.

Lead Photo

Users hold the smartphone against a payment device to make the mobile payment.

Tim Hortons, a Canada-based restaurant chain, played host to the first mobile credit card transaction made with a smartphone using the recently launched Suretap mobile payment app from wireless operator Rogers Communication.

Approximately 2,300 Tim Hortons locations already can accept Suretap transactions, with another 3,000 expected by December. Rogers says it has 9.4 million wireless subscribers.

Consumers with a compatible Rogers smartphone who have a credit card issued by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce download the Suretap app, available from BlackBerry App World. The bank, also known as CIBC, is the only financial partner in Suretap.

Consumers also must buy a Near Field Communication-enabled SIM card for C$12.99 (nearly equivalent in U.S. dollars) that enables a secure download of credit card details to the chip. Suretap uses Near Field Communication technology that enables devices to communicate with each other wirelessly. Suretap is compatible with payment devices that display the contactless payment mark of Visa Canada, payWave, or MasterCard’s PayPass. Visa says more than 15,000 merchant locations accept payWave in Canada and MasterCard says 29,000 accept PayPass.

Once the SIM card contains the credit card information, the consumer sets up her account in the app and then is able to make contactless payments with the smartphone. To make a Suretap payment, the consumer opens the app, selects the card to pay with and then holds the phone near the contactless-enabled payment reader. As a security precaution, the consumer only has 30 seconds to complete the transaction, says a CIBC spokesman. Consumers also can enable a passcode to open the app.

Consumers can use their Suretap-enabled smartphones to make purchases of up to C$50, the spokesman says. Most retailers require signatures for credit card transactions above C$50, CIBC says.

Currently, Suretap only is available on two BlackBerry devices, but Rogers says the service will be available for Android and Windows 8 devices in early 2013.

Contactless payment schemes mainly aim to replace cash for low-value transactions, providing a new source of revenue from transaction fees for the financial institutions that issue credit and debit cards.  But North American consumers have been slow to adopt the mobile payment schemes banks, Internet companies and telecom companies have introduced. In part, that’s because the schemes haven’t worked on many phones or been accepted by many merchants. Google Inc.’s Google Wallet, for instance, initially was available on only one smartphone on Sprint’s network. Google Wallet relies on NFC, too. Since then, additional Google Wallet phones have become available, including one that can be used on AT&T and T-Mobile networks.

And Isis, a consortium backed by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, launched in October in just two cities, Salt Lake City and Austin.

Merchants, too, are working on a mobile payment service. In August, a group of merchants, including 7-Eleven Inc., Best Buy Co. Inc., CVS/pharmacy, Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., announced their own mobile wallet program dubbed the Merchant Customer Exchange. Development is underway, and the group has not said when its service will be available.

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