This week featured a handful of announcements relating to using your iPhone as a virtual wallet including news of Boston’s smartphone-based commuter rail payment system and CVS integrating its loyalty card system into its iPhone app.
Capping the week is news that restaurant chain T.G.I. Fridays announcement that more than of its franchises in the U.S. will begin offering patrons the ability to settle their restaurant or bar tab using an app. The move comes as part of partnership with startup Tabbedout – a mobile payment company that aims to bring iPhone (and Android phone) payments into the mainstream with a focus on bars and restaurants.
Fridays is the first national chain to sign on with Tabbedout. Fridays is integrating Tabbedout’s functionality into a new version of it’s iOS app, which also offers users the ability to locate restaurants, check out drink specials and other promotions, and peruse both drink and food menus.
Fridays may be Tabbedout’s first national partner, but the company has already begun to rollout service in several major U.S. cities and regional markets.
Tabbedout users store payment sources (credit/debit cards and Paypal accounts) in the app on their phone. The company uses on-device encryption to secure actual card or account data. When heading out for dinner or drinks, users can locate restaurants, bars, and other venues that accept Tabbedout as a payment option. Arriving at a location, users can open a tab using the app, which will display a code that the user showsto a server/bartender to associate it with transactions in the establishment’s POS system.
When ready to leave, users can pay, close their tab, add a tip, and even split tabs from the app without needing to hang around while a waiter or bartender processes the payment. Users can even pay after they’ve left the establishment and are on their way home. Tabbedout will email a PDF receipt for each transaction and allow users to review past purchases and print receipts if needed.
The app can also locate and call local cab companies if a ride home or to a hotel is needed and it offers integration with social networks and check-in capabilities.
The company claims that merchants need to do minimal setup to begin accepting payments. Since Tabbedout simply facilitates transactions, there’s no need for additional merchant accounts or POS systems. Credit/debit information is sent securely from the user’s phone to the merchant’s existing payment system (Tabbedout has partnerships with major POS vendors), where the transaction occurs like any other. To avoid problems like a user’s phone dying or forgetting to close out a tab, the system provides payment data to the POS system when a tab is opened.
Tabbedout’s system seems incredibly well thought out and the company seems to be pretty aggressive about getting its systems in place nationwide, which could make a staple option of the mobile payments. Like Boston’s new commuter rail system and the Starbucks app, Tabbedout should have broader appeal than NFC-based options as it doesn’t require special hardware like an NFC chip in a phone or reader hardware.