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Five or so payment stories, five rings = your Olympic payment preview (and a reminder not to stick your head in the water!)

Five or so Payment Stories Five Rings Your Olympic Payment Preview

Cue the athletes, start the music, release the doves… it’s time to shimmy down to your skimpy excuse for a bathing suit and head to Copacabana beach to celebrate the 2016 Rio Games (just don’t stick your head in the water)! For those of you lucky enough to be going to the Games, good for you; for the rest of us, we’ll have to read, listen and watch from afar…letting our imaginations fill in the blanks from the all-night parties I am sure will be rocking (and for those party-goers, don’t stick your heads in the water). My Rantings cohort and I will be among those watching from afar, with Mark likely focused on Michael Phelps and the other swimmers and me focused more on tennis player Leander Paes who’s participating in his seventh (7th!!!) Games. With that, we sat down for a virtual chat on payments and Rio. 

Mark, if you were walking along Ipanema Beach, soaking up rays, would you be concerned about bringing cash and cards?

Dan, 10 years ago I would’ve said yes. But as our recent studies have shown around credit card fraud and Rio, it might be wise to hedge your position on cash. For me, it’s also a matter of acceptance. With the Olympics and other big events, you get small local merchants that will only accept cash in local currency (or in some cases, in good ol US dollars). You and I have gone down this road before…on foot and by way of rickshaw.

Ahh, the famed rickshaw ride, where I had no cash. So theoretically, you’d be bringing cash as well as going to the airport’s Travel Ex to get some Real? And speaking of cash (and the latest Star Trek film, which was great), it will live long and prosper, right? We’ve been discussing its demise (or lack thereof) for the past 3 years. What gives?

Cash isn’t going anywhere because the system is still there to support it all the time, every time. Think about the basic process: I hand cash to the vendor; the vendor hands me an “official Rio Games” tchotchke; the vendor then turns around and buys milk for the family on his way home. Cash is real-time and it’s universally accepted, which cannot be said for cards…especially when we’re talking about street-side “officially licensed” merchants.

Staying with the international theme of the Games, talk to me about International Remittance/FX.

The ability for a US (or other) tourist to easily transact in local currency is something we take for granted at the moment. It wasn’t that long ago that going to Rio (or to the Games in any other location) would’ve required a lot of advance financial planning (i.e., getting travelers checks, moving money, calling your bank, etc.). Today, you simply get off the plane, pull out your card and swipe…or tap…or insert/dip. And taking this a step further, let’s look at the budding entrepreneurs who sell their wares to said tourists either upon arriving at the airport or throughout the city. For them, the ability to handle transactions in local currencies and remit back to their home countries, via numerous options offered by fintech providers, actually makes this a feasible endeavor for these Games—a great benefit of some of the advances we’ve seen in the global remittance category.

Let’s transition to a related topic that’s near and dear to you and me, mobile commerce. Mobile and the Rio Games is about as logical as chocolate and peanut butter or a speedo and the beach, IMHO.

Mobile is interesting—because of the frequency of the Games, this will be the first major foray for mobile and the summer Olympics. Four years ago, mobile payments was still in its incubator/early adoption period among a select group. Four years later, everyone’s at least heard of mobile payments, and many have conducted mobile transactions. And I’m not just talking about mobile wallets, but also about using apps like Square for merchant acceptance. Mobile IS an integrated part of these Games—and this is the first Games where that’s going to be fully on display. Further, mobile will also play a role for those of us watching the Games from home. Between the live streaming, I’m sure they’ll be offering up official schwag, extending the experience to make you feel like you’re part of the Games, even if you can’t be in a skimpy bathing suit on Copacabana beach.

So let’s discuss the medal stand; which technology or innovation is gonna take home the gold?

I think the Rio Ring, which we ranted about recently, could do it—convenience and simplicity will oftentimes trump functionality.

Could there be a dark horse medalist looming?

That would be the whole mCommerce ecosystem. As noted, it’s the first summer Games where mCommerce is likely to have a role, and one that could be quite major when the cauldron is turned off in two weeks.

So that will be akin to a team gold, like the 4x400 relay?

Yep, only less friction! Ahh see what I did there, a mobile commerce joke!

With all of these athletes and tourists descending upon an already-crowded region, will there be enough Pokemon to go around?

Let’s hope more official Pokestops emerge… but this Pokemon Go phenomena is a great cross-sell opportunity for merchants. Catch a Pikachu, buy a bottle of water!

Before we adjourn, we’ve already seen shifts from physical to virtual across the business and technology board. Thoughts on medals moving from physical to virtual?

I’m never one to say never, but the physical medal is a conversation piece. Speaking of medals, what’s in your trophy case at home, Dan?

As a proud Gen X-er, we didn’t receive trophies just for participating…we earned ‘em! That said, I’ll have to go to my mom’s basement where they’re likely boxed up.