Verizon Wireless Teams With AmEx to Expand Mobile Payment Options

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Two weeks after Sprint (NYS: S) signed on as the first mobile operator partner to support American Express' (NYS: AXP) fledgling Serve digital commerce platform, Verizon (NYS: VZ) Wireless said it will integrate Serve solutions across many of its mobile phones and tablets, enabling subscribers to make payments and redeem offers for goods and services in a matter of clicks.

American Express unveiled Serve in March. Serve unifies multiple payment options into a single digital account that consumers can fund from their bank account, debit, credit or charge card, or by receiving cash from another Serve account. After users set up an account at Serve.com or download the appropriate Android or iOS application, they can send and receive money, pay bills and make online purchases. In addition, AmEx issues each Serve subscriber a reloadable prepaid credit card linked to their account, which they can use at any merchant or ATM that accepts American Express.

Verizon Wireless and American Express will partner to source, distribute and simplify redemption of offers and promotions -- for example, when subscribers redeem certain discounts, the credit may automatically appear in their Serve account. In addition, the companies are collaborating with Payfone to bolster Serve checkout with pre-authorization and intelligent routing features designed to improve payment efficiency and security. Verizon adds that it will roll out Serve support over the coming months.

Last month, American Express, as well as rival financial services providers Visa, MasterCard and Discover, officially joined Isis, the mobile commerce joint venture spearheaded by Verizon Wireless, AT&T (NYS: T) and T-Mobile USA. According to Isis, the moves significantly expand the payment options available to mobile subscribers, at the same time extending the network's reach to encompass payment terminals already installed at U.S. merchant locations.

Verizon Wireless, AT&T and T-Mobile USA first announced Isis in late 2010, promising services enabling consumers to conduct point-of-sale transactions, redeem coupons and use store merchant loyalty cards via mobile device. Isis initially stated it would roll out its own Near Field Communications-based contactless payment network designed to go head-to-head with the likes of Visa and MasterCard, teaming with Discover Financial Services to build out the necessary mobile payment structure and naming Barclaycard US as its first issuer partner. In May, Isis said it would instead open its system to all interested credit issuers and banks, aligning its technology with the existing m-payment infrastructure.

Isis has identified Salt Lake City as its first launch market, stating in April it will team with local merchants and business leaders to roll out a pilot program slated to go live in early-to-mid-2012. In addition, Isis will partner with the Utah Transit Authority to enable mobile phone-based payments across the entire UTA commuter system. In June, Isis named Austin, Texas as its second launch market, stating it will collaborate with the Austin Chamber of Commerce and local merchants to boost consumer adoption of m-commerce services.

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