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Emerging Payments

Isis, Amex Strengthen Digital Wallet Ties

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Building on an earlier announced partnership, Isis and American Express are integrating their software and allowing Isis mobile wallet users to access their Isis accounts with Amex's Serve prepaid cards.

Amex's Serve customers can also opt in to using Isis to make contactless payments at the point of sale with their phones, and to initiate bill payments and person-to-person payments within the Isis app.

"The way to think about it is that you'll have two kinds of applications coming together as seamlessly as they possibly can," says Dan Schulman, Amex's group president of enterprise growth, in an interview.

"By actually combining the capabilities of the Serve platform with the Isis wallet, you have an open ecosystem where anybody can load any card they want into our wallet," he says. "They can load cash. They can do a direct deposit... What you really do have is a truly open wallet that allows for consumers to manage and move their money the way that they want."

The Isis wallet relies on Near Field Communication chips to make contactless payments from properly equipped smartphones, and both Isis and Serve also support payments from a linked plastic card.

"We've done the user interface working with Isis on this and that will automatically come over the Serve platform," Schulman says. "So if somebody swipes their Amex Serve card at a retailer where there isn't NFC available, that will automatically go over the Amex network."

The move serves as an example of the importance of partnerships in mobile payments. Each company has been diligently working to expand their businesses.

Last fall, Amex entered a partnership with Walmart to offer Bluebird, the first non-Serve account built on top of Amex's digital wallet platform. 

And Isis, a joint venture formed by AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA. Isis plans to take its mobile wallet nationwide this year.

Neither Schulman or Isis CEO Michael Abbott would divulge details on the design of the Isis application or what the business details of the partnership are.

For Amex, though, it's a move to further entrench itself into the digital payments. Amex has separately been working to link Serve to Verizon devices.

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