We use our smartphones for all sorts of things – just not at the checkout. Google and the savings banks will change that now.

Will the Gircocard soon be a thing of the past?

AAt the beginning of this decade, the Otto retail group came up with an extremely auspicious idea: Because people always carry their smartphones with them everywhere, it would be only logical if they also used it to make payments. So Otto founded his own mobile payment service called Yapital, put a lot of money into it and from then on wanted to compete with large payment services like PayPal. Things went really wrong. Neither customers nor dealers saw any benefit in preferring the cell phone to cash or bank cards at the checkout. Yapital disappeared silently after four years in January 2016, and as a farewell Otto sent a press release in which contrite said: “Consumer habits change much more slowly than all market observers predicted.” A wrong product at the wrong time, something like that comes in front.

After a few more years in which mobile payment was regularly proclaimed the new trend and then ultimately rejected by everyone, everything could change from this summer on. Because now not only niche providers like Yapital have committed themselves to mobile payment, but real heavyweights. On the one hand, there are American technology groups that have just introduced their payment system in Germany, such as Google Pay, or are presumably about to do so, such as Apple Pay. On the other hand, the savings banks, who want to make paying by mobile phone appealing to the majority of their 45 million customers from July 30th, and the Volks- und Raiffeisenbanken, which will follow suit shortly.

The German financial power and large American corporations are thus promoting the great mobilization in payment. Ralf Ohlhausen from the international payment specialist PPRO speaks of a “breakthrough in Germany”: “So far we have seen in this country how mobile payment doesn’t work. For example, when every major retail company brings its own payment app onto the market. “

The idea of ​​using the cell phone to make payments has a lot to offer

The idea of ​​using the cell phone to make payments has a lot to offer. If people do all sorts of things with their smartphones – write short messages and e-mails, surf the net, listen to music, watch films, play games and make phone calls – then it would be natural to pull out the device that is always at hand to pay: in the supermarket , in the drugstore or at the gas station. This is now common in other countries.

But the Germans are lagging behind. Deutsche Bank and Postbank have enabled their customers to pay with their smartphones since last year. The payment processor Wirecard also offers a mobile payment app called Boon, which every user can use to pay at McDonald’s, Aldi and Lidl, for example. But a lot more is needed before mobile payment becomes a mass phenomenon.

According to the latest Bundesbank study on payment behavior published in February of this year, seven percent of Germans have already paid with their smartphones; especially if they have shopped online or bought tickets for buses, trains or the cinema. Holding a cell phone in front of a reader at the checkout, instead of digging notes and coins out of the wallet, is still a rarity: only one in fifty does this. This is not only due to consumers, who are slow to change their payment habits, but also to retailers who have barely upgraded their checkouts for a long time or have not adequately trained their staff.