Subway to use Softcard NFC for mobile payments

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by Lance Whitney, cnet.com
September 16th 2014

The Subway sandwich chain is teaming up with Softcard to offer customers a way to buy food via their mobile phones, but it won't currently be compatible with the new Apple Pay feature.

Announcing the news on Tuesday, Subway said that it will kick off NFC-based mobile payments starting October 1 using Softcard, a mobile payments venture set up by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless. Formerly known as ISIS Wallet, Softcard offers an app that supports mobile payments across more than 80 mobile devices sold by AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon and comes preloaded on more than 30 different devices.

Consumers will be able to use their supported NFC-enabled mobile devices to tap a payment terminal at their local Subway restaurant in order to pay for their food. A pilot program launched in 2013 and will now reach more than 26,000 Subway locations around the US.

But iPhone 6 users will still have to pay for their Subway sandwiches the old-fashioned way for now. Apple has confirmed that the NFC capability built into the new iPhone 6 will be restricted to its Apple Pay service, at least for the next year. That means the new iPhone's mobile payments feature won't be compatible with Softcard.  However, a possible solution may yet surface down the road. In a blog posted on September 9, Softcard CEO Michael Abbott said that the company is "actively working with Apple to enable Softcard on the iPhone in 2015 -- using an integrated secure SIM-based hardware solution."

Beyond the ability to let you pay for an item on the go, Softcard offers its users a rewards program. Subway customers who load their rewards card into the Softcard app can tap their phones at the point of sale to take advantage of the feature. Subway promises that over the next few months it will automatically add the rewards card into the app.

A special promotion is also part of the new agreement. Softcard users who tap to pay for food at a Subway restaurant will score $1 back on every purchase made over $1. There are a couple of caveats, though. You must use an American Express Serve card for the Softcard app, and the deal ends December 31.

"Softcard has proven to be a valuable partner to us and we are proud to extend our relationship with them," Carman Wenkoff, Subway's Chief Information Officer, said in a statement. "As we've worked together to implement and pilot this technology, we've been impressed with the Softcard team and opportunities available through the Softcard platform."

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