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Bank of America tests QR code mobile-payment service

The latest company to get into the mobile-payment market, the bank is using QR codes that let customers use a smartphone to scan pictures and make their payments.

Bank of America is testing a new mobile-payment service that lets customers use their Apple or Google smartphones to scan pictures to pay for things.

The bank is testing technology developed by a company called Paydiant. The solution uses Quick Response or QR codes. The way it works is that users use their smartphones to scan the QR code, which unlocks the users' bank information stored in Bank of America's network to complete the transaction.

The QR codes could be displayed at the register in a store when a customer is checking out, or a restaurant could print the code on the check, allowing patrons to scan their bills right at the table and pay without ever handing over a credit card or cash.

Because the technology doesn't require any special hardware on the device, it can be used with any smartphone running Apple's iOS or Google's Android software.

This is different from other mobile-payment technologies, including the one Google and the carrier consortium Isis have adopted as part of their mobile-payment effort. Google and Isis use Near Field Communications technology, which is short-range wireless technology that lets users pay for things by tapping their devices to a payment terminal.

This technology requires that an NFC chip be on the device as well as at the payment terminal. Because there hasn't yet been a critical mass of smartphone or payment terminals equipped with the technology, NFC has gotten off to a slow start. In fact, the technology's future has come into question recently since the newly released Apple iPhone 5 doesn't support it.

In the past, Bank of America tested NFC mobile-payment services. In an interview with Reuters, a representative from the bank declined to comment on whether the bank is still considering using NFC technology.

Bank of America launched the QR code mobile-payment service at five merchants in Charlotte, N.C., this week. The test will run for the next three months. So far, the testing program is closed to the bank's employees, a Reuters article reports.

Smartphones supported for the trial include newer Apple iPhones as well as Google Android smartphones. There was no indication that other smartphones, such as Microsoft's Windows Phone smartphones or RIM's BlackBerry devices, would also be included.