PayPal Does Distribution Deal with Discover for Massive Reach

PayPal today announced a deal with Discover Card that will potentially bring its mobile payments services to more business locations than any of its rivals, including Square. The potential reach is reportedly seven million merchants.

The new in-store payments capability should be live by Q2 of next year. Consumers will be able to pay by swiping a PayPal card, that in turn backs onto a credit card or checking account or PayPal account balance. In that instance PayPal is no different than using a conventional credit or debit card. However for some subset of merchants (but still perhaps millions) consumers will be able to enter a mobile phone number and a security PIN on the retailer POS terminal (as in the Home Depot implementation). 

That mobile + PIN scenario is potentially faster and more secure than a card swipe. Today there are roughly 16 major retailers that have implemented PayPal in stores. However number is expected to grow by the end of the year in advance of the Discover rollout. 

Yet PayPal/eBay will need to educate and aggressively market the service to consumers if it hopes to drive adoption. There will also need to be incentives and rewards to get consumers to try the system. Even though the mobile + PIN approach is more secure than a card swipe consumers often express security concerns about mobile payments. There's a perception they're less secure.  

The deal with Discover now vaults PayPal back to a leadership position in mobile payments. However mobile payments isn't a zero-sum game. There won't be a single winner. Several major competitors can operate and succeed. Beyond PayPal and Square the question is: who will be the other winners?

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