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J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Capital One Financial Corp. (COF) and Barclays PLC (BARC.LN) will enable their customers to use a mobile-payments service being developed by several wireless carriers starting this summer.
The service, called Isis, will allow consumers to pay for goods at stores by tapping their mobile phones against a merchant's payment terminal rather than swiping a plastic card. Their phones must be equipped with a technology called near-field communication, or NFC, and a merchant must also have special readers to handle the technology.
"Mobile commerce is more than a new way to pay," said Michael Abbott, chief executive of Isis, said in a statement. "It's about extending the relationships consumers enjoy with their banks and merchants into a powerful and convenient new form factor."
Isis is a joint venture of AT&T Inc. (T), T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, which announced plans for the service in fall 2010. The technology is one of several services aimed at converting consumers' smartphones into payment devices, an effort that analysts say could help banks and merchants find new ways to push promotions to customers but has been slow to catch on because of questions about costs and security.
Google Inc. (GOOG) launched its own service last fall that allows customers to load certain MasterCard Inc. (MA) credit cards issued by Citigroup Inc. (C) into the software. Customers can also set up a Google-branded prepaid account. The program, called Google Wallet, works on some smartphones running Google's Android operating system.
Visa Inc. (V), the largest credit-card processor, is also preparing to roll out its own "digital wallet" that will let customers pay for goods online using a user name and password instead of typing in their credit-card numbers for each purchase. The service, called V.me, could also be used in the future to make in-store payments, Visa has said.
Isis said Monday that the three banks, among the largest issuers of plastic cards in the U.S., would be making the service available to some of their customers starting in the summer when it kicks off trials in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Austin, Texas. A national rollout is expected to follow that trial.
The software used to power Isis will be compatible with cards bearing the logos of Visa, MasterCard, American Express Co. (AXP) and Discover Financial Services (DFS), though the banks will have the ability to choose which of their card products it works with, said Jim Stapleton, chief sales officer for Isis. For consumers, the aim for Isis is for customers to be able to use the existing cards they carry with them today with the service.
"It is meant to emulate your leather wallet ... where you are the editor-in-chief of what goes into the leather wallet," Stapleton said in an interview.
In addition to making payments, Isis also would enable customers to load their loyalty-program accounts and merchant offers into the software, Stapleton said.
A major hurdle that has held back such services is the lack of available of handsets that contain the NFC technology needed to transmit payment information to a merchant terminal. Several handset manufacturers, including HTC Corp. (HTCXF), Samsung and Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM.T), have said they are incorporating the technology into their phones, Stapleton said. In addition, Isis is also working with DeviceFidelity Inc., a technology company that will offer microSD cards equipped with NFC that can be added to some existing phones.
J.P. Morgan Chase plans to make it available first for its credit-card customers, said Richard Quigley, president of Chase Card Services at the New York-based bank.
"We're still working on exactly which versions will be available when, but the idea is that this will be a very broadly available payment mechanism," Quigley said.
Representatives of Capital One and Barclaycard, part of Barclays, did not immediately respond to inquiries Monday.
-By Andrew R. Johnson, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3214; firstname.lastname@example.org