American Express' recent moves show it wants to score more points with its Serve digital wallet platform and become a software provider alongside its place as a card network.
One of Amex's latest efforts in this strategy is this month's launch of its white-label eWallet within the Brooklyn Nets mobile app. The eWallet is built on Serve, which is also the underlying technology of the stored-value account linked to the Softcard mobile wallet and the Bluebird prepaid card offered by Walmart.
Consumers can use the eWallet to pay at other Barclays Center events, such as Disney on Ice or concerts, although they'll have to open it within the Nets app. The eWallet will be embedded into the general Barclays Center mobile app in December, and Amex envisions an eventual launch of its own mobile wallet.
"We see a day where we not only power existing merchants' and partners' applications, but also have an Amex branded application that could potentially be used everywhere," said Jo Lambert, senior vice president of product and operations in enterprise growth at Amex.
Amex has partnered with 26 merchants, enabling mobile payments at 109 tablet-based terminals within the Barclays Center. Fans use the Nets app to scan a QR code at the point of sale to make a payment.
Amex is talking to other retail merchants about building white-labeled payment capabilities into their apps as well, Lambert said. Amex's revenue comes from interchange fees on card swipes, but in the future the company could drive incremental spend by delivering software to merchants and partners, she said.
"It's really about driving spend with that particular partner or merchant," said Lambert.
While Amex is the preferred partner, consumers can load any credit, debit or prepaid card into the eWallet.
"The Brooklyn eWallet is part of a larger initiative between the NBA, Barclays Center and Amex to enhance the experience for basketball fans," Lambert said. In the future, though, the partners may offer Amex cardholders additional features and benefits, she said.
Consumers load cards with PayPal's Card.io software, which reads account details off a card held in front of a smartphone's camera. While Card.io seems convenient, during the Nets game on Nov. 19 when Amex invited several journalists to come try out the eWallet, the feature proved a bit finicky. The Nets app also had a bug that affected older versions of the Android operating system; Amex fixed this in a Nov. 20 update.
A cashier at Junior's restaurant inside the stadium said he'd never experienced a failure of the payment before, and said because consumers have their phones out all the time anyway, the eWallet makes transacting faster.
"Looking around the center visitors are constantly on their phones, texting to meet up with friends, taking pictures or looking up stats and other information," Lambert said. "Now they can use that same device to buy burgers and fries."