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Multiple payment options: delightful or detrimental?

By the time the main stage had cleared, the #FinTech Bingo sheets were completed, hitting on every conceivable buzzword from FemTech to Blockchain, and what has more or less come up in every discussion…Brexit. But the topic that stuck (or struck) was options, payment options. And to hearken back to a jeer I used to yell to Barry Bonds when he came up to bat, ”how much is too much?”

So with that question ringing in my ears I did a little poll to find out how many options I had on hand. 19… 19 is the total number of payment options that my intrepid cohort, Mr. Ranta, and I have combined…right now.  And that’s on top of the Danish Kroner, which is essentially Monopoly money to us with American dollars. So 19, that’s a lot of options as a consumer, which brings us to our aforementioned question, how much is too much?

As a consumer, the more options the better. Fewer options are limiting. HOWEVER, with 19, there is almost a POS paralysis, so Mark, is there a number that makes sense?

Well, as is usually the case, it depends. From the merchant side, the way in which you can quickly get to the seamless transaction experience would be to limit the options as much as possible. Bring it down to 1 to 3. I think you nailed the problem though, as a consumer, more is always better. Maybe one schema offers better rewards or cash back versus another, or you are a mobile-only consumer with an iPhone or a Samsung.

We heard a few options from today’s panel; was there a compromise middle point?

I think we heard 5 as the pen ultimate number. Think about that, it’s probably enough schemes/options that the client has choice but avoids the paralysis.

And is that something that can likely happen in the near term?

No, I think we are going into a payment option proliferation stage. I mean look around the hall here, you have AliPay, MasterPass, Amex, Android Pay (which is hosting tomorrow night’s  DJ event to which I am bringing my glow sticks), through to Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Chase Pay (phew) and you can see where this all leads us… A LOT of options.

So what ultimately happens? And who ultimately determines if we have more or fewer options? Consumers or merchants? Or even another player?

I think, in the end, it will be driven by the consumer; after all, as the adage goes, the customer is always right. There is an educational gap that is a void today, which we as industry need to correct. Helping customers understand WHY limiting options is good, while helping show the value proposition for one payment option over another will help us get closer to Utopia. 

Vice President of Public Relations

Dan is a veteran of tech companies large and small and leads global PR efforts for ACI. Among his responsibilities is working to educate external audiences (press, analysts, influencers) on just how cool ACI is. Dan is not a payments expert, but knows more than the average layperson to be slightly dangerous. He's bullish on mobile and bearish on wearables.