Windows Phone users can now tap to pay for items on the go, courtesy of a new app from AT&T.
Released on Friday on Microsoft's Window Phone store, the Softcard app brings the ability to make mobile-wallet payments at various retail merchants in the US.
Backed by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, Softcard (formerly known as ISIS Wallet) is a mobile wallet service that lets you store credit card information, loyalty cards and coupons in the associated app itself. From there, you can make payments from your mobile device.
Sounds easy enough, but there are several gotchas.
The retailer needs to support Softcard. That doesn't include all merchants that handle NFC (near-field communication) point-of-sale systems but it does cover more than 200,000 retailers across the US. Your Windows Phone device needs to be enabled with NFC. You'll also need an enhanced SIM card from AT&T in order to store and secure your payment information.
Softcard also supports only certain credit cards directly. Participating cards include those from American Express, Chase and Wells Fargo. However, you can set up an American Express Serve account to which you can add money from your preferred debit card, credit card or bank account.
Since the app is created by AT&T, it supports only AT&T subscribers. But a spokeswoman for Softcard told CNET that Verizon and T-Mobile will launch Softcard on Windows Phone in the coming weeks.
Assuming you meet all the necessary requirements, what will Softcard offer you? The description on the app's Windows Phone page covers the key features:
- Payments: Add eligible payment cards and get all the benefits and protections you would with your physical card. Or set up a prepaid account and add money to it with your preferred debit card, credit card or US bank account.
- Offers: Find money-saving offers from participating merchants -- right on your phone and ready to use.
- Loyalty: Store participating loyalty cards and cut the clutter.
The app is a step in the right direction for Windows Phone users who want to use their device for payments on the go. But Apple Pay it's not.
Unlike Softcard, Apple's new payments system is relatively painless to set up and use, at least for owners of the new iPhone 6. With Apple Pay, you simply enter your credit or debit card information into the app. At supported retailers, you can then just pull out your phone and press the Touch ID fingerprint sensor to pay for your goods. The new iPhone already contains the necessary secure hardware to protect your financial information, so no additional or special SIM is required.
Still, it's good to see a payment option for Windows Phone users who can take advantage of the new app.