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MasterCard to roll out mobile wallet in the UAE this year

Dubai: MasterCard users in the UAE are in line next to have their online payments made more secure and easier without having to enter the card details each time they make a purchase from a web retailer.

MasterCard’s new digital payment platform called “MasterPass” on mobile devices will be rolled out in the UAE this year, a top regional official told Gulf News yesterday.

In this digital wallet, all the card details are entered only once when setting up the account.

It has been rolled out in the US, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

“[The] UAE has an excellent opportunity to go beyond plastic. Even though the country is very sophisticated, 90 per cent of the transactions are made by cash and cheques whereas it is 85 per cent in rest of the world,” said Michael Mieback, president of MasterCard Middle East and Africa.

In the UAE, he said that the contactless payment cards are in the process of taking off.

MasterCard has around 700,000 NFC (Near Field Communication)-enabled cards and 3,000 NFC-enabled terminals to conduct transactions in the country.

NFC, a technology similar to Bluetooth, allows a mobile phone to conduct a transaction by tapping the phone on the NFC-enabled reader.

He said the UAE hosts a sophisticated consumer segment that has expressed keen interest in adopting “contactless payment solutions.” However, contactless payments are not widely available, due to lack of infrastructure to accept such payments.

“There is always a tipping point. You need to have enough cards and enough terminals for people to use it,” he said.

Banks that issue contactless cards in UAE are Emirates NBD, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Mashreq and Dubai First.

The next step in the road map is enabling the payment service through “NFC-enabled mobile phones”.

Lebanon has become the first country in the region to offer cashless mobile payment NFC service called Tap2Pay.

“We are partnering with Bank Audi and telco operators (Alfa and Touch) to introduce the service and the deal was signed at the Barcelona Mobile World Congress,” he said.

Mieback said that this service will take time to happen in other countries. In the UAE for example, there are a lot of banks, a lot of cards and a lot more players but there is a much “better chance” for the UAE to truly become a “dynamic player.”

“We have a set of innovative telcos in the region and are in talks with all the operators to launch this service,” he said.

MasterCard has been working with etisalat since 2012 to offer mobile payment service in the region. Etisalat’s mobile wallet service called “Flous” (which means money in Arabic) was launched in Egypt last year and plans to launch the service in the UAE soon.

“We are waiting for the UAE Central Bank’s approval to launch NFC services in the UAE. We are ready with the technology, just waiting for the green signal,” Khalifa Al Shamsi, Chief Digital Services Officer for the etisalat Group, told Gulf News recently.