Will Apple Launch a Points and Payments Platform Today?
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At 1pm ET today Apple will be releasing information about their new iPhones today, but that likely won't be all. There's a lot of chatter about an additional announcement regarding a mobile payment platform that could change the way consumers think about their wallets. In typical Apple fashion, I don't expect it to be a service similar to what exists today, like Paypal or Amazon Payments.
Cash As An Increasingly Obsolete Currency
I don't have statistics, but I'd bet the usage of cash as payment continues to decline as consumers switch to more secure debit, credit and now online payment platforms. The proliferation of lower-income "checking alternative" products like American Express Bluebird also contributes to the ongoing trend of making cash obsolete. Why use cash when it comes with no protection and can easily be lost or stolen? Sure, there are a lot of reasons for some people, many of them nefarious, but for the average consumer I think it's safe to say that the shift is clearly toward a cashless society, as we've seen on many airlines who only accept debit/credit cards for on-board purchases.
Today I suspect Apple will announce a new technology that allows iPhone (and maybe even new iWatch) users to use their phone to pay for anything they need at the point of sale, and to send money electronically to anyone with an email address. My guess is that Apple will be teaming up with Barclaycard (who currently does most of the financing for Apple products) to run the platform, and potentially even offer a lucrative credit card to work in tandem with that platform. As a Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, Visa Black Card and US Airways Premier World Mastercard cardholder, I'd love to see more partnerships and discounts with Apple as a redemption partner.
The big question is: will they get aggressive and try to lure competing cardholders that have cards with Amex/Chase/Citi/Capital One, etc., or will this new platform welcome all sorts of credit cards as a way to streamline your life?
I also wouldn't be surprised to see Apple launch their own loyalty program, with a points system that can be used for discounts and advanced product releases. Why not reward your most loyal customers with the very newest products? Why should someone who has the freedom to wait for a week (or more!) outside of a store get the first product? I think Apple has a hugely loyal fan base (myself included, though if they don't improve the battery life of the iPhone I may just switch one of these days), and I think they can gain even more market share by launching their own rewards platform. I can see the rewards program driving more revenue, since it would incentivize customers to buy directly from Apple for even more points, thus increasing margins by cutting out middle-men and online shopping portals that give cash back or airline miles for Apple purchases.
Only time will tell what Apple really announces, but I'm hopeful for not only a better iPhone product, but also a payment platform that supports all credit cards and has low to no fees, making the sprint to a cash-free society (and more points earning!) even faster.
What do you think Apple is going to announce today? Am I reading too much into the hype?