Apple Pay could benefit from Visa Europe's new security

Visa's "tokenization" service substitutes your credit card data with random numbers when you pay for items with your phone, a move that could open the door for Apple Pay and its rivals.

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During transactions using a service like Apple Pay, a token is submitted instead of your actual credit card information. James Martin/CNET

Apple Pay could find its ticket into Europe courtesy of a new service to be offered by Visa.

Announced on Tuesday by Visa Europe, the new "tokenization" service will benefit European consumers who wish to use their mobile phones to pay for items on the go. The service replaces the numbers and other data on your credit card with a series of random numbers to protect your account. During the transaction, a token is submitted instead of your actual credit card information.

Apple Pay uses the same type of security with credit card providers in the US, therefore Visa's move could open the door for the use of Apple's payment system in Europe.

Visa Europe's new token service also paves the way for Apple rivals, specifically Google. The search giant announced Monday that its Google Wallet service would join forces with Softcard to expand its reach among mobile-phone users and retailers. Like Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Softcard both use tokenization to secure your credit card information.

Rolled out in October, Apple Pay is the company's first entry into the world of contactless payments. Using an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, which are equipped with the necessary near-field communications technology, you can pay for an item simply by waving your iPhone near an NFC-enabled payment terminal or device. You store your credit card information in your iPhone, and then your card is charged once you make the transaction. But the right security is critical to ensuring your credit card information is protected, hence the need for tokens.

Apple has been busy garnering support for Apple Pay among banks and retailers in the United States. But now the challenge is to expand that support beyond the US. Visa's service could help with that challenge across Europe. However, nothing is set in stone just yet.

Steve Perry, Visa Europe's chief digital officer, told Reuters that his company's service parallels what Visa Inc. offers in the US. But he declined to comment on whether Apple had set up a deal to use Visa Europe's service for its payment system.

"Apple and Visa (Inc) have an agreement around what has happened," Perry said. "I am as excited as anyone, but we have to wait."

Visa Europe said that it plans to introduce its new service to participating banks by the middle of April. The company, which is independent from Visa Inc. in the United States, consists of more than 3,700 European banks, according to Reuters.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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