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Updated 1/28/2019: Softcard (formerly known as ISIS) has been discontinued. The service is no longer available for download, and it will not receive any ongoing support.
Formerly known as Isis, Softcard (gosoftcard.com) is a digital wallet app from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon that is available for free to smartphone users who utilize one of these three wireless carriers. Like its competitor Google Wallet, Softcard allows users to store their credit and debit card information in their phones and make payments using “tap and pay” functionality through NFC technology.
Since iPhones do not currently include NFC capability, Softcard users on iPhones will need to acquire an accessory case containing an NFC antenna in order to use the service. Softcard also allows users to store and access loyalty programs. First Data provides the processing network for Softcard payments, but users will not directly interact with First Data at any point when using the service.
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The Softcard Mobile Wallet currently has three entries in the Google Play store, with one for each provider that offers it. The Verizon and AT&T versions have a score of 2.9 out of 5 stars, and the T-Mobile version has three out of five stars overall. Over 5,800 ratings and reviews have been posted regarding the app. Most negative Softcard Mobile Wallet reviews cite software malfunctions, no payment confirmation screen, the need for a Secure Element card, the need for an American Express Serve account, the fact that it doesn’t work on rooted phones, and excessive information collection by the app. Positive reviews cite the wide availability of Softcard locations like McDonald’s or CVS and access to special offers as desirable features.
In the iTunes App Store, there are listings for the Verizon and AT&T versions of the app, but not for the T-Mobile version. Softcard for Verizon is showing a 3.5/5 rating, while Softcard for AT&T is showing a 4/5 rating based on nearly 40 user reviews. Complaints mention poor customer service, limited availability, and the need to use American Express Serve. Positive reviewers cite the reliability of the the NFC-enabled accessory case and the widespread use of Softcard by merchants in their area.
We are unable to locate any negative Softcard Mobile app reviews from merchants, indicating that the service isn’t a ripoff for business owners. If you have had any experience providing Softcard acceptance to your customers, please describe it in the comment section below this review.
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The Better Business Bureau does not maintain a profile for Softcard at this time. We therefore will not factor a BBB rating into this review.
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The Softcard Mobile Wallet contrasts sharply with Google Wallet in that it maintains a narrow focus with its features. Softcard users can store most American Express, Chase, or Wells Fargo credit cards in their phones and make payments directly with those, or they can acquire an American Express Serve account, which can be loaded with other cards or bank accounts and used as a prepaid account. Softcard also enables merchants to store loyalty programs in their phones in order to make use of ongoing deals or new promotions.
The only other major user-oriented feature of Softcard is the ability to search for Softcard-compatible merchants on a map. This service (available here) shows a large number of locations, but many users complain that this map is inaccurate. The map’s disclaimer explains why: “Locations shown on the map are places where contactless payments may be accepted. Most locations are sourced from MasterCard®’s list of PayPass™ enabled merchants. Softcard does not assume responsibility for any merchant payment system or for the operability of any merchant terminals. No endorsement from listed merchants should be implied.”
User complaints describe occasions where they contact or visit one of the locations on the Softcard map only to learn that the merchant has never heard of Softcard or Isis. The fact that the map does not list an exact registry of Softcard-capable merchants diminishes its value as an application.
Merchants benefit from accepting mobile payments through Softcard primarily because of the opportunities it provides for customer outreach and marketing. The loyalty programs stored in the app create an easy way to incentivize purchases from new and repeat customers. The only cost for merchants to accept Softcard is an upfront investment in an NFC-enabled credit card terminal, since there are no transaction fees or monthly costs charged by the service.
As noted above, the in-app map appears to direct customers to locations that may or may not be able to accept Softcard payments. Merchants who don’t accept Softcard may therefore find customers at their locations who mistakenly expect to pay with the app, and merchants who do accept Softcard may not enjoy increased traffic from the map given its reputation for unreliability.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of the Softcard wallet is the fact that it is gaining a significant amount of traction in the fiercely competitive mobile wallet market. By offering touch-free payments to AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile customers and allowing them to make direct payments from Amex, Chase, and Wells Fargo cards, merchants will be servicing a larger portion of mobile wallet users than they would through Google Wallet or Square Wallet. This is critical in the current mobile wallet market, as it is unclear which service will become the dominant app over time. Merchants who encourage payments with Softcard will have the peace of mind of knowing that the service currently has the largest footprint of all mobile wallets, even if its long-term viability remains uncertain.
As with Google Wallet, Softcard requires entry of a PIN in order to login and make payments, and in the event of phone loss or theft, a customer can deactivate the account by telephone or over the Internet. As an additional component, Softcard users must obtain a SIM card with a Secure Element component built in. Secure Element is a chip that stores customers’ payment card information in the phone, and it does not come standard in most Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile phones at this time. Softcard users without Secure Element will need to go to a physical AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile location and have an employee swap out their SIM cards and transfer their information over to the new card. This has been a source of frustration for many users, and it’s unclear exactly how the Secure Element improves security for the device besides limiting how the NFC function can be used.
The Secure Element has posed a major issue in the past for non-Verizon/AT&T/T-Mobile Google Wallet users, as it appears that the three companies have made it necessary for their smartphones to have a Secure Element card in order to make NFC payments. Google has developed a workaround for this in the latest Android release, but issues may persist as the kinks get worked out. This information has been included in this review because the debate over NFC security is playing a major role in determining which digital wallets become widely accepted.
There are very few security concerns for merchants who accept Softcard payments since they don’t need to exchange sensitive information through NFC or store data in their smart devices. The only issue merchants need to be aware of is the potential that their NFC terminal could somehow be reprogrammed or infected, which could compromise customer information and open merchants up to liability for the data breach. However, the risk of this occurring is very low, and we are unable to locate any such cases at this time.
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