Mercury Payment Systems LLC plans to upgrade its closed-loop gift card system so that any small to mid-size merchant can offer gift, loyalty and reloadable prepaid options to customers in one card.
The Durango, Colo.-based payment processor will begin testing the Mercury StoreCard next month with about 50 merchants that currently use Mercury for gift card services, says Travis Priest, vice president of value added services for Mercury.
The back of the StoreCard will provide a QR code and incentives for the consumer to scan the code or enter a URL to learn about cash-back functions, and reloads through another payment card, Priest says.
In addition, the consumer can share the card with friends or family through social media, customizing cards with photos or other art, and link the card to Apple's Passbook or to Android devices, Priest adds. Consumers can also use their smartphones to view their Mercury StoreCards balances.
"Our goal really is to show the prepaid industry what can be done with this product," Priest says.
Even though Mercury operates as an independent sales organization for Global Payments, it operates the StoreCard program through its own channels, Priest says. Merchants will provide the StoreCard at their stores or through gift card racks at other locations, or as promotional giveaways at various events.
"This prepaid product will operate completely separate from our processing services partners," Priest says. "We have 3,000 partner companies that we work with who are point of sale developers or dealers, and StoreCard will be available through those channels."
Mercury views the creation of StoreCard as a way for smaller merchants to afford a card program with multiple options. "When you look at what StoreCard offers, that's the Starbucks mobile payments experience," Priest says. "StoreCard will deliver an experience for smaller merchants that only the national brands have been able to afford."
Mercury plans a broader rollout of the StoreCard mid-year.
Any merchant can participate in the program. If the merchant's system does not integrate with StoreCard, the merchant can use a separate tablet for the card program.
"Clever" consumers can use a credit card to load funds onto the StoreCard, thus earning points or rewards from both cards, Priest says. In addition, the StoreCard prepaid functions provide an extra layer of security because the consumer's linking credit card data never enters a merchant system and stays encrypted in Mercury's secure storage.
Wells Fargo serves as an acquiring bank for Mercury Payment Systems.
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Corrected January 8, 2014 at 9:07PM: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Mercury's acquiring bank.