I went to Walt Disney World at the beginning of December. It was absolutely glorious. And each day, while in the parks, I did not take a wallet with me. I stuck my driver's license in the back of my phone's clear case, and that was all I brought. And while I bought tons of keepsakes and food, my credit cards stayed safely in my hotel room.
Did I use Android Pay? Samsung Pay? Apple Pay? No; I used something even better.
This is a MagicBand. There are many like it, but this Limited Edition Very Merry Christmas Party one is mine. MagicBands are how Disney revolutionized their ticket system, turnstile and FastPass system, hotel key system, and hotel room charging system. MagicBands are waterproof, wearable tickets/keys/credit cards for resort guests that function over RFID, have a two-year battery, and work almost everywhere on park property.
Coming into the Magic Kingdom? Tap your MagicBand to the turnstile and press your fingerprint to verify your identity. Going back into your room? Tap your MagicBand to unlock your door. Paying for your oh-so-delicious Mickey Bar? Tap your MagicBand to the contactless payments pad, type in your PIN, and be on your way. No fussing with PINs and fingerprints on my phone, no messing with figuring out where the NFC tag on this damn thing is (I swear the sensor on my HTC 10 moves between transactions). It. Just. Works. 100% of the time.
In the course of a week no one using mobile payments systems besides MagicBands — and trust me, I saw a LOT of Apple Watches.
These same Mickey-shaped terminals that take MagicBands also take Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and Apple Pay. In the course of a week, during one of the busier times of the year, I saw a grand total of no one using mobile payments systems besides MagicBands, and trust me, I saw a LOT of Apple Watches at Walt Disney World. No one wanted to hassle with a system that had failed them so often back home; no one wanted to suffer than embarrassment and hold up the long lines at the registers.
This isn't the fault of Android Pay and the others. Not entirely anyway. This is on the businesses we patronize, and it's on us for not politely asking them to turn on NFC every time we use the terminal. Yes, I ask H-E-B almost every time I buy groceries when I can start paying with my phone. I got a new Target card out of their hack, I've gotten a new credit card out of a gas station skimmer, and I want businesses to know that turning on mobile payment systems can limit their liability and protect them just as much as it protects our customers.
It's also on the banks, which is a damn shame because wearable and mobile payment systems have such huge potential for them. Mobile payments systems mean that, yes, there is a potential for you to rack up mobile fees if people use your system, but that's not nearly the end of it. Most mobile payments systems use one-time tokens, meaning no actual card/account numbers can be stolen by infected POS terminals or card skimmers, potentially eliminating millions of fraud cases and the costly process for replacing a compromised account.
I want businesses to know that turning on mobile payment systems can limit their liability and protect them just as much as it protects the customers.
Supporting mobile payments systems mean that you have a greater potential to be the primary card your customer uses. When we have to pull out a wallet, all cards are equally in reach to be used. When you use Android or Samsung Pay, the primary card is the first, meaning switching to another card takes more steps that most users won't bother with.
The other problem here is an Android problem: if we truly want to make these systems more convenient, they need to be on wearables, not just on phones. If I have to dig into a pocket, the wallet is easier. If my card is already on my wrist, I'm far more inclined to tap that than to pull out my wallet. Sure, we have tap-to-pay on the wrist for Samsung Pay, but Android Wear is still sorely lacking in that department. Maybe not for much longer, but for too long already.
MagicBands were glorious, and when I had to stick my wallet back in my pocket and go to the airport, I felt a small pang of sadness. I'm still wearing my MagicBand today, wishing I could tap it to that little Mickey-shaped reader when I'm in line for groceries or out grabbing dinner. I glimpsed a mobile payments utopia… and now I'm back in the real world, wondering how long it'll take us to bring that magic here to Texas.