The concept of paying by phone finally is taking shape in the U.S., following success abroad. In parts of Europe and Asia, consumers can buy a soda from a vending machine, pay for lunch in their office cafeteria and pay to play videogames at an arcade through their cellphone. They dial a number listed on the machine or in the cafeteria, then send a text message to that number using the phone keypad. The cost of the soda, game or other item is added to the customer’s cellphone bill.
One advantage over other newer payment options such as smart cards or electronic key-chain fobs: Consumers don’t need to add something to their wallets or purses. “They carry a phone with them anyway, so that was convenient from their perspective,” says Simon Pugh, vice president of infrastructure and standards at MasterCard, who is also president of the Mobile Payment Forum, an industry organization.