Is paying with a smartphone in Italy still utopia?

04/05/2018 | Digital


The answer is no. Paying with smartphones even in Italy is no longer utopia. We live in an era in which exchanging contacts, photos, videos and songs between one smartphone and another is purely everyday, it was not unexpected that it would also come to money. In recent years, in fact, dozens of services have made their way into the market that take advantage of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology and beyond to make payments without the need for cash or credit cards.

Kicking off this trend was Google in 2011 with Google Wallet, which, however, was not as successful as hoped and was soon replaced by the newer Android Play.

However, the service became widespread with the launch of iphone 6 and IOS 8, apple's first cell phonecontecnologia NFC.

How does contactless payment work?

It is much simpler than you think. You start by downloading the application you want to use and registering within the so-called wallet (a kind of digital wallet) your credit cards. Once you enter a store, all you have to do is activate the NFC technology in your smartphone and bring it closer to the POS to make the payment. You will not need to insert the card into the reader and type in your PIN. It is all based on a secure communication channel that allows the transit of all the data necessary to complete the transaction. The bank in a few senconds will authorize the payment and the POS can then issue the receipt, or otherwise deny the payment.

The advantages of this new type of payment are many. First of all, the time factor, the convenience of using one's smartphone, and security: the customer himself can accept the transaction through the application to which he has previously linked his cards. All payment data is stored on the device's SIM in a secure area.

Let's look at the main apps for being able to pay via smartphone and how they work.

Apple Pay

The app was launched in September 2014 while in Italy since May 17, 2017. It is available from iPhone 6 onwards and not only that, it can also be downloaded to iPad and Apple Watch

Apple Pay synergistically leverages Wallet (a virtual wallet where credit card details, coupons, tickets and loyalty cards are stored) and clearly NFC technology.

Is it possible to pay with Apple Pay in Italy? Certainly, and it is very simple: to pay, you just bring your iPhone close to the POS. You wait for Apple Pay to load the credit cards inside the Wallet and choose the one you want. Thanks to the Touch ID sensor you will be able to authorize the transaction, while in the case of the iPhone X the user will have to use Face ID. In Italy Apple Pay for now supports debit and credit cards from Unicredit, Mediolanum, Fineco, BCC, Carrefour Banca and Boon, but the service is to be extended to other banks very soon.

If you are impatient Apple Pay supports the Boon service, which offers the ability to create a virtual reloadable credit card through your bank account. This way even if you are not a customer of one of the aforementioned banks you can still use Apple Pay for smartphone payments.

Android Pay

As mentioned Androd pay is heir to the big G's previous and failed experiment, Google Wallet. The app made its debut in the United States in September 2015, and in Europe the following spring, while in Italy it is not yet available. The system is very similar to Apple Pay: payment is made through NFC, while authorization can be done either through biometric chips (fingerprint recognition, facial recognition) or through an unlock code. Google Pay is compatible with a Large number of devices, greater than apple Pay: it is sufficient that the smartphone has a version of Android higher than KitKat 4.4 and is equipped with an NFC chip.

Samsung Pay

Samsung also has its own contactless payment method, launched with the Galaxy S6 initially in South Korea and gradually exported to the rest of the world, including Italy. Samsung Pay from a technological point of view is not so different from Apple Pay and Android Pay. We also find here: NFC chip for communications, virtual wallet to save credit card data, and authorization with biometric recognition. In order to develop its contactless service, Samsung purchased the startup LoopPay. Payment with Samsung Pay is similar to those already seen. It starts with the configuration of the device and credit card, then it will be enough to bring the smartphone close to the POS and scan the fingerprint.


Satispay is a service that is fully developed in Italy and does not require NFC technology. Let's see how it works in detail.

Having installed the app you will need to sign up for the service and link your bank account through the IBAN. Then it is necessary to set the amount to be transferred to the Satispay account, which can be used to make payments with the smartphone or to send money to other contacts. The service is completely free and there is no fee for the transfer (except for some banks). The app allows communication and transition only between registered accounts. So both to make payment at stores and to transfer money it is necessary that the merchant or our friend has an active account on Satispay. At the moment, there are about 18 thousand merchants in Italy that support the app.


Another service that allows smartphone payments without the use of NFC technology is Jiffy. But how exactly does it work? Quite simply when one is about to make a payment in a store, the application will generate a QR Code that the merchant will have to scan with their smartphone. It will then be possible to make payments and money transfers.

Vodafone Pay

We could not fail to mention Vodafone, which in turn has launched an application for contactless payments. It is called Vodafone Pay and since it works through PayPal, it has no limitation regarding supported credit institutions. In order to make payments, the money is directly deducted from the PayPal account, which is linked to the current one. It thus increases security, in fact you will not have to save within the application your credit card details, but only those of your PayPal account.


Tinaba is also a service that allows money transfer and does not require NFC technology. The app does not stand as a simple digital wallet, but as a digital ecosystem with modes typical of social sharing but transferred to the sphere of money. In fact, it is possible to exchange money with one's contacts, share expenses with a shared account, share an account among friends, raise funds to carry out one's projects or for a good cause, or save money automatically with Piggy Banks. With Tinaba, you can also create a business profile to manage the income and expenses of your business and offer your customers a personalized shopping experience. 

the app is available for both IOS and Android and provides a digital wallet that you will be able to reload via wire transfer or with a credit, debit or prepaid card. It is possible to upgrade to Level B and receive a free, prepaid Tinaba card. While with Level A you get to sign up for a real checking account with Banca Profilo, an exclusive partner, and can send up to a maximum of 5,000 euros per day.

In conclusion, this is a real revolution in the world of commerce, which is gaining momentum and breaking down the Italian tendency to prefer cash. No more credit cards and much less physical money, just use our favorite devices such as smartphones, tablets and smartwatches.

The time factor will decree its increasingly widespread use, just think of all those situations where pulling out your wallet creates slowdowns or inconvenience: supermarket, subway and parking meter just to belt out a few.

it is therefore a revolution that will benefit not only consumers but also merchants.


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