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McDonald’s doubles down on NFC with both Softcard and Apple Pay

McDonald’s is extending nationwide its partnership with mobile payments platform Softcard in an effort to push sales and offer more convenience to consumers.

While the program initially underwent pilot testing in 2013, the partnership is currently launching nationwide on more than 80 mobile devices across Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile networks. McDonald’s also accepts Apple Pay, pointing to how the chain is looking to reach both Android and Apple users via offerings that will make it easier for them to pay for their meals.

“Merchants should not choose only one,” said Nathalie Reinelt, industry analyst at Aite Group, Phoenix, AZ. “That would be akin to only accepting Visa, but not accepting MasterCard.

“The whole business model of merchants is to accommodate all payment types in order to grow their business. Pledging allegiance to one mobile payment solution over the other would be shooting themselves in the foot.”

Fast food going mobile
McDonald’s is the latest fast food restaurant to join the mobile payments bandwagon. In September, fast food chain Subway rolled out what it referred to as the largest NFC deployment in the United States, with Softcard-branded terminals available at over 26,000 locations in the nation (see story).

Softcard, previously known as Isis, only works on Android devices, while Apple Pay is solely for iOS devices. Therefore, while merchants are using different payment systems, customers should not be confused as to which retailer accepts which payment – it depends on their smartphone of choice.

“Since Apple Pay is not available on Android and Softcard is not available on iOS, I can’t see consumers being confused unless they carry both phones with them regularly,” Ms. Reinelt said.

Softcard, which is a free mobile application, will allow guests to pay with their phones in McDonald’s restaurants and in the drive-thru lane at all U.S. locations. Offers and deals may also be redeemed within the app.

Taking advantage of Softcard
While McDonald’s does also accept Apple Pay, using Softcard is a logical solution for all of its Android consumers. Many brands, including Subway, have synced their rewards programs into the Softcard app to make the ordering process even more streamlined for guests.

NFC payments are likely to garner more interest with the rise of ApplePay. Softcard comes preloaded on approximately 30 mobile devices, and can be downloaded for free on any Android smartphone.

Ultimately, restaurants will continue to gear themselves towards mobile payments to provide greater speed and satisfaction for their customers, and will likely use more than one platform.

“Fast food merchants can actually sign up for both, so I don’t see any reason why they would select one over the other,” Ms. Reinelt said. “To exclude one in favor of the other would not serve these merchants at all, since they whole idea is to cater to what consumers want.

“The only distinction will be merchants who are part of the MCX CurrentC offering and contractually obligated to not accept any other mobile payment service.”

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York