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American Express Wants to Scrap Plastic

American Express face featured

American Express seems to understand how the future will play out

The payments market is somewhat of a paradox for the classic card companies. Almost every day is spent trying to think of a way to render their main product obsolete in a bid to move forward into the gleaming future of mobile payments and the adoption of a mobile wallet. While it’s well known what MasterCard’s goal is, and Visa haven’t been too shy in trying to expand into mobile payments, American Express hasn’t been overly vocal. Until now, that is.

According to a recent article on Wired.comAmerican Express seems to be hell-bent on removing it’s credit card business entirely, moving into the world of the digital wallet. At a recent event on the future of retail, Leslie Berland, American Express’ SVP of Digital Partnerships and Development, revealed the companies future aims.

“What we are hyper-focused on is how do we merge those two things,” she said. “Especially as one day the physical card will disappear.”

It’s the same conundrum that most people have been thinking about for a while now. Google has tried to venture down that route with its Wallet service, but even that saw it branch out into a physical card. Apple has seemingly dabbled, yet nothing has really come from them yet, and the likes of MasterCard and Visa provide a way to integrate an existing card into wallets, but no way to remove the card completely.

The current model doesn’t work for American Express, as these apps just get in the way of working with customers directly, practically diluting the membership aspect of using an AmEx card. By taking charge and developing a new payments platform that replaces your card seamlessly, American Express can maintain this one-to-one connection it desires with its customers. Berland hasn’t ruled out the future of a bespoke POS system, but they’re happy to let Square and PayPal fight that area out between themselves.

American Express also sees the benefits of mobile for a way to encourage shopping and understand its customers better, understanding that this can also be a way to get users to see extra benefits when using their phone to pay.

“Our card members expect us to know where they are,” she explained. But it’s ensuring that it’s relevant information that gets passed on and down the chain to improve the experience. “The businesses that can do that and get there first will beat the competition.”

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