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23 September 2021

Mobile payments in Finland – These services are available right now

Mobile payments are gaining ground quickly in Finland. The last of the banks have now hopped on the Apple Pay and Google Pay bandwagon or are about to. Apple’s and Google’s wallets have introduced support for reading loyalty cards through payment terminals, breaking the final barriers to the adoption of mobile payments in Finland.

The figures related to mobile payments are closely guarded secrets but, based on information from various sources, mobile currently has a roughly 10 percent slice of all NFC (near field contactless) payments in Finland. In a few years, this is predicted to go up to 25 percent.

Mobile payments require a smart phone app for managing your card and/or account information and authorizing payments. The applications used to make such payments are often called wallets. You can save payment cards, bank account details and credit agreements approved by the service you are using into your mobile wallet. You can also charge money or load tickets, gift cards, loyalty cards and other documents into the wallet.

You can use your mobile wallet to make in-store NFC payments with a phone or smart watch, authorize online store purchases or transfer money to other users.

Apple’s iPhones only support their proprietary Apple Pay system for NFC payments. Android phone users can use the native Google Pay app or a variety of third-party services.

NFC payments can also be made with watches, bracelets, rings, key fobs, etc., like Apple Watch, certain Wear OS watches, several Garmin and FitBit models, as well as any device supporting Manage-Mii or Fidesmo.

Mobile payments are highly secure. Actually more so than traditional card payments, because your card details are tokenized and therefore not disclosed to the store.

In this story, we will focus on wallets that can be used to make brick-and-mortar or online payments in Finland.
We have excluded specialized applications designed for a single type of payment, such as apps for refueling, parking, public transport, ordering food or charging electric cars. Neither does our list include wallets released by traditional banks and neo banks for managing your cards and accounts, if the wallet can’t be used to make actual payments.

Enter the contestants: these are the mobile payment methods in Finland right now.

Apple Pay

Apple’s own payment app that works on iPhones, Apple Watches and Safari browsers. The payment cards of almost any Finnish bank can be linked to the Apple Pay application, either by taking a photo of your card or, even more conveniently, adding the card to your Apple Pay wallet in your banking app.

There is no upper limit for NFC payments as long as you remember to authenticate yourself with Apple’s FaceID, your fingerprint or your phone’s password before the payment. You can set a default payment card for the service and can always choose the card to use for any given payment.

The service supports online shopping with the Safari browser on Apple computers (e.g. MacBook and iMac), and you confirm the payment with the Apple Pay app on your iPhone or Apple Watch. Many shopping apps support Apple Pay payments. In practice they automatically open the Apple Pay application for confirming your purchase and return you back to the store afterwards. In addition to transmitting the payment, Apple can give the store information such as the buyer’s address to make the transaction more convenient.

Apple Pay is a part of the Apple Wallet application, where you can save not only payment cards, but also things like airline and movie tickets and—soon we hope—the loyalty cards of Finnish supermarket and retail chains.

There is some variation in Apple Pay versions and features between countries and continents. For example, users can apply for Apple’s own credit card in the US version of Apple Pay, while you can add your COVID-19 passport to your Apple Wallet in many EU countries. In some countries, you can even save your digital ID card in your Apple Wallet and use it as identification.

More information: Apple.fi – Apple Pay

Google Pay

Google Pay, or G Pay, follows very much the same logic as Apple Pay. You can use the app to make in-store NFC payments with no upper limit. You don’t have to bring the app up on your phone, just unlock your screen before making the payment. Google Pay can also be used to approve online purchases made by app or browser.

Payment cards issued by almost any bank can be added to the wallet either by pressing the “Add Card to G Pay” button in the bank’s app or entering the card details directly into the Google Pay wallet. You can set your preferred payment card as the default card, charging all payments automatically to it unless you choose a different card for the payment from your list of cards.

The third version of Google Pay is about to be released in Europe, with improved support for loyalty schemes and other added-value features, as well as document storage capabilities similar to those introduced by Apple. Google has developed the US version of Google Pay into a comprehensive interface for managing your personal finances. The extent to which these features will be introduced in Europe remains to be seen.

More information: Google.com – Google Pay

PayPal

PayPal is a pioneer of international e-commerce and still a major player. Users save their payment cards into their PayPal wallet and authorize purchases made in online stores and apps with the PayPal application or by entering their PayPal password.

PayPal can also be used to transfer money between users, make payments with a QR code in stores that accept PayPal, and order services with recurring fees. Stores can use the platform to promote campaigns and manage discounts.

There is a different version of PayPal for each country. In the United States, for example, PayPal users can buy and sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash cryptocurrencies, as well as store them and make payments with them. Investing in crypto is possible in the UK as well, where users can also split bigger purchases into instalments. There is no word on the introduction of these features in Finland as of yet.

More information: Paypal

MobilePay

MobilePay is a system originally developed by Danske Bank for transferring funds between users. It works with the credit and debit cards of any bank. MobilePay is extensively supported by Finnish online stores and applications, and online payments can be authorized conveniently with the Mobile Pay application.

You can also add Kesko’s Plussa card, the S Group’s S-Etukortti, Teboil’s loyalty card and the Frank student card to the application.

Instore payments are currently supported in at least Kesko and S Group stores, using Android and iPhone phones over Bluetooth, depending on the vendor’s payment terminal.

Bluetooth payments are not quite as smooth and convenient as NFC, because there can be a short lag in communications between the phone and payment terminal, and the user has to open the Mobile Pay app and authorize the payment manually.

The 50 euro limit for NFC payments does not apply to contactless payments made with Mobile Pay. Users can pay smaller MobilePay MyShop stores and associations by reading the Mobile Pay QR code displayed next to the payment terminal, entering the store’s MobilePay number or choosing the store from the MobilePay application’s menu.

Users can transfer money to other MobilePay users by entering their phone number. The payment is charged to the payment card and made to the bank account registered in the service.

The latest features introduced to MobilePay include invoice payment, authorizing subscriptions, buying and giving gift cards, as well as creating and using a shared prepaid fund. The MobilePay ecosystem also includes the WeShare app used to report and share costs between users.

More information: Mobilepay.fi

Pivo

Pivo is a mobile wallet and payment application developed by OP Bank. It was originally designed for monitoring your expenses and use of money. Pivo’s features and services have evolved a great deal over the years. In principle, the Pivo wallet offers much the same services as MobilePay.

After you have saved your card and account details in the wallet, you can make online payments and transfer money to others regardless of their bank. Pivo can also be used to donate money to charity or enjoy Cityshopper benefits.

The money transfer service connects users by their phone numbers and, if both users are customers of compatible banks (Nordea, OP, S-Pankki and Ålandsbanken), the transfers are made from account to account over the real-time Siirto network. If not, the transfer will be subject to the standard delay between banks, and the funds will be charged from the payer’s card.

NFC payments are only possible for OP customers with Android phones. After the user has added OP’s Visa to Pivo, it will function as a payment wallet with any payment terminal and no upper limit.

If the user links their Plussa card to their OP payment card in Pivo, they will accumulate Kesko’s loyalty benefits when making payments.

OP will probably eventually transfer its Android customers to the Google Pay platform to avoid having to keep developing its own NFC payment service.

Pivo has partnered with a few student diners, letting users pay for their meals by reading a QR code. Students can use this payment method if they have registered their digital student card and any payment card in the service.

Many Finnish online stores support Pivo. After choosing Pivo as the payment method, the user authorizes the payment in the mobile phone app.

More information: Pivo.fi

Siirto

Siirto is not an independent application, but a real-time payment system operated by Automatia, now owned by Loomis. Three user interfaces from two banks have been connected to the system: Nordea Siirto, OP-mobile and Pivo. S-Pankki shut down its Siirto service a few years ago, but the customers of S-Pankki and Ålandsbanken can still use Nordea’s Siirto application.

Siirto can be used to transfer money between users and make online payments in online stores that support the system.

More information: Siirto.fi

Fitbit Pay

Nearly all activity bracelet and watch manufacturer Fitbit’s devices can be used to make “wrist payments”. Users enter the payment card details of compatible banks (incl. Nordea, Danske Bank and Aktia) into the Wallet section of the Fitbit application on their phone and authorize the card in their bank’s service.

When you have done this, you can make purchases with just your bracelet or watch—no phone required. Payments are authorized by entering a PIN in your wearable, which communicates with the payment terminal over NFC.

More information: Fitbit.com — Fitbit Pay

Garmin Pay

A number of the latest Garmin heart rate monitors and activity bracelets support Garmin Pay. These wrist-worn devices contain an NFC chip that transmits the data to the payment terminal. Users enter their payment card details in advance into the Wallet section of their Garmin app and authorize this use of the card in their bank’s service.

Finnish banks that support the service include Nordea, Aktia, Danske Bank and Bank Norwegian. As long as you remember to punch your PIN into your wrist device before making the payment, you will then be able to leave your phone at home and shop with just your Garmin.

In some countries, though not yet in Finland, you can also load a public transport travel card to your Garmin device.
More information: Garmin.fi — Garmin Pay

Latest developments in mobile payments

It was announced in June 2021 that Pivo, MobilePay and the Norwegian Vipps have plans for a new shared mobile payments platform that would connect 11 million users, making it one of Europe’s largest mobile payment services.

According to the preliminary plans, the wallet would be based on Vipps’s tech. The merger is still waiting for approval from the competition authorities.

Nordea Wallet deserves a mention

NFC features have been removed from Nordea Wallet, so it is no longer a payment wallet in itself. However, Nordea still deserves a mention in this story for its groundbreaking work in the field of Finnish mobile payments.

Nordea was the first bank in Finland to support Apple Pay and Google Pay. It has since extended this support to practically every payment method on the market, like Rosan Pay’s NFC jewelry, LAKS Pay rings, fobs and bracelets, Tapster NFC watches and fobs, K Ring smart payment rings, Garmin’s and FitBit’s watches and bracelets, etc.

You still add and activate your preferred payment method through Nordea Wallet, but don’t need the app to make payments any more.

Much respect for showing love to the customer like this!

More information: Nordea

We are still waiting for some mobile payment methods – such as Samsung Pay and Click To Pay – to land in Finland.

Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay is Samsung’s own mobile wallet that comes factory-installed in many of the company’s phone models. Samsung Pay is still not available in Finland. In fact, it has only been launched in eight European countries to date, Sweden among them.
Samsung Pay operates according to a simple idea: users add the card details of banks that have partnered with Samsung into their Samsung phone’s wallet and can then authorize NFC payments with their fingerprint or password.

As a special feature, Samsung Pay supports MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission) technology in addition to NFC. This means that the phone is able to emulate a virtual magnetic stripe and transmit it wirelessly to the payment terminal. It’s difficult to find reasonable use cases for this tech any more, though, because you can do the same thing over NFC.

More information: Samsung.fi — Samsung Pay

Click To Pay

Click To Pay is a new virtual wallet platform for online payments jointly developed by Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discovery. Unfortunately, it has not landed in Finland yet. The new service was introduced as a replacement for the card giants’ proprietary services, such as Mastercard’s Masterpass.

Users save their card information in their own card brand’s service, after which they should be able to make payments in online stores without further authentication or entering a password. The service’s smart algorithm examines each payment in real time, identifies the user and their device automatically, and deduces whether the payment in genuine.

Sounds too good to be true? It remains to be seen, since the versions published by Visa and Mastercard, closest to launch at the time of writing, are not yet available to Finnish consumers.

More information: Visa Click To Pay

Written by

Antti Välijärvi

Antti is one of Qvik’s great minds of digital payments with years of experience from the banking industry. On his free time, if the conditions are right, Antti might go for a 70 kilometre long cross country skiing trip.

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