Have you ever rented a PubliBike, used SBB EasyRide or renewed a streaming subscription? If so, you’ve already had your first experience with invisible payments. Payments are “invisible” when the payment process is completely automatic. In the future, this payment method will play an increasingly important role in both in-store and online shopping. As an innovation driver in payment transactions, PostFinance is addressing this trending theme. David Kauer, an expert in the field, answers the most important questions about invisible payments, also known as “seamless payments”.
Invisible payments: the future of shopping
Paying has become convenient: instead of having to count coins and notes, it’s now becoming increasingly commonplace to simply hold your card or smartphone up to the terminal. But there’s an even more comfortable way. Invisible payments will ensure the payment process takes a back seat in the future, and in the best case scenario, will even see it becoming completely automated. David Kauer explains why this is an exciting topic for PostFinance and what’s behind the trend.
Interview with an expert: what you should know about invisible payments as the payment method of the future
Are we already paying invisibly today?
David Kauer: Various forms of invisible payments exist on the market. In Switzerland, PubliBike is a good example of this. To rent a bike, users check in via One Touch in the PubliBike App and check out via the bike lock. The amount due for the rental period is automatically debited from the payment medium they’ve stored in their customer account. Shops such as Amazon Go in the US are playing a pioneering role in invisible payments. Customers check in when they enter the shop using the Amazon app or biometrically with the palm of their hand, take the products they want with them and leave the shop without having to queue at the checkout. The receipt is sent to the customer digitally in the Amazon Go app. Amazon uses cameras and a combination of different sensors that interact with a learning algorithm (explained on The link will open in a new window wikipedia.org). They recognize which products customers take off the shelf or put back.
David Kauer has worked at PostFinance since 2000. He was responsible for projects such as the introduction of the new TWINT solution at PostFinance and is now the Customer Journey Owner for payments.
What are invisible payments and what advantages do they offer customers?
Invisible payments allow the payment process to be fully integrated into the purchase of products or services. This means that the payment process runs automatically, invisibly and seamlessly in the background. Customers no longer have to carry out the payment process as a stand-alone or separate step, which makes payment processes much more convenient. Invisible payment becomes an integral part of a purchase or an order.
What is needed to enable invisible payments in-store or online?
There are generally four elements that make invisible payment possible:
- Firstly, customers need a customer account with the retailer, where they can store their customer data and preferred payment method.
- Secondly, customers need a payment medium that they can register with the retailer and use for recurring payments. The retailer in turn needs an interface to a digital checkout solution, plus a contract with the payment medium provider so that payments can be initiated. The retailer is assigned a unique reference number via the interface in the form of a token.
- Thirdly, the retailer must be able to uniquely identify the customer, e.g. via a login, biometric data or another method.
- Fourthly, the retailer must have technology such as sensors and cameras that feed an algorithm and can recognize, quantify and allocate the purchased goods. This requires programming.
As a payment provider, PostFinance can have a direct influence on the second element. How far has PostFinance come with this?
We laid the necessary foundations for processing invisible payments around 12 years ago with PostFinance’s e-payment methods, and are now reaching another milestone with the PostFinance Pay payment method, which we are launching during the summer.
What challenges still need to be addressed in this area?
The biggest challenge is in retail and industry: for example, in order to pay invisibly in a shop, at a car wash or in a car park, very individual solutions have to be devised and implemented. This may lead to large investments for the providers. And last but not least, it’s also important to win customers over to invisible payments and convince them that invisible payments – and related customer data – are secure and transparent.
PostFinance Pay arriving
With PostFinance Pay, we’ll gradually be introducing a new payment method for online shops from summer 2023, replacing the two previous payment methods, “PostFinance Card” and “PostFinance E-Finance”. As a customer, you can process the transactions easily and conveniently via your PostFinance App and benefit from an even better and more convenient payment process. This payment method is also laying the foundations that will make it possible to offer invisible payments even more fully in the future.
Why are invisible payments important for PostFinance?
As an innovation driver in payment transactions, we see huge potential in invisible payments. They allow us to offer our private customers a particularly convenient payment option, and for our business customers, a solution that will boost sales. In doing so, we’re taking advantage of our position as the only bank in Switzerland that has direct customer relationships with both private and business customers.
How will PostFinance continue to drive invisible payments forward?
In the sectors where we see potential, we want to actively approach retailers and show them what opportunities invisible payments offer. To do this, we have to work together to find the low hanging fruit, i.e. use cases that allow us to achieve the greatest benefit for our customers in relation to the effort involved and that offer huge potential. We also want to create the greatest possible transparency for our customers: with PostFinance Pay, for instance, we’re introducing an e-finance cockpit that allows customers to see the retailers with which they’ve saved PostFinance Pay as a payment method. This means that our customers always have an overview of the shops where they make invisible payments and can change this at any time.
Invisible payments in use – three examples from Switzerland
Instead of buying a ticket in advance, SBB passengers can use “EasyRide” in the SBB app. They check in with the slide bar before they depart, travel from A to B and check out again with the slide bar. EasyRide automatically debits the amount for the distance travelled using the payment method stored in the app.
When customers rent a bike from PubliBike via the app and then return it, the amount based on the usage time is debited in the background via the app. The same applies to PubliBike subscriptions. The debit is made automatically, without the customer being involved in the payment process.
In Switzerland, there are already parking solutions in use where drivers don’t have to pay when they arrive or leave a car park. Invoicing is handled automatically via an app. This is enabled by sensors that identify the vehicles by means of their vehicle ID.