Forthcoming Cover App Allows Payments Without Cash, Cards, or Even Mobile Devices

cover_checkpleaseThe forthcoming app Cover promises a new kind of payment experience in which users can put away their cash, cards, and even smartphones, and just enjoy their meal. The waiter will never bother them with a check.

How’s that? We’re not exactly sure since there aren’t a lot of details out there, but it seems that users enter payment information and make a reservation with the Cover app. Then they show up, get seated, enjoy their meal, and leave when they’re done. The payment is handled behind the scenes and doesn’t need to intrude on the meal.

This is an intriguing concept that could easily be generalized to other payment situations. Perhaps a buyer wants to pick up a gift with the gift recipient. There’s no danger the recipient will see the price tag. Even better, the idea could be used with picking up rental cars and paying for hotels.

We’re speculating that Cover will carry little or no risk. A linked card or bank account will “cover” the transactions, and the restaurant will be able to settle up right away. Then users can look at their statements later and check out the damage.

Cover puts the value proposition this way:

Cover gives restaurants data to personalize service. Customers spend more when they don’t think about the check. Servers save time and turn tables faster. The result is better service and a better experience for everyone.

This is a kind of “premium” or “exclusive” experience that doesn’t need to be expensive. One of the founders of Cover is a former employee of the Consumer Financial Protections Bureau, so we imagine regulatory compliance is all taken care of. But we’re not sure how waiters will get diners out of the restaurant when things are busy!

Users can request more information about the app’s availability here.

Mobile payments will be discussed at Bank Innovation 2013 next week. Request your invitation here

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7 Comments

  1. Interesting concept here. However, I see opportunities for fraud. Consumers/users need to be able to verify charges to overcome potential trust issues.

    • Philip Ryan says:

      Possibly. I would imagine itemized receipts will be available, which would allow customers to look over and verify charges..

      • Yep, I’m sure verifying charges is a key feature. However, it seems that the window to fraud could be wide open for a fraudster to make a charge for a higher amount in the first place.

        Cover, I struggle from a customer perception issue with this. I’d never pay a bill without knowing what the total charge is first. I’d be putting in far too much trust in the vendor that they charged me for the right items…and I received what I paid for (think about how many times you’ve been charged for things at a restaurant that you did not order). How do you address this concern?

  2. Checking that your bill is correct and matches what you ordered is just one issue. When I have a great experience, I tip better than when I have a merely decent one. Even if there was a way to follow up and increase whatever base gratuity the Cover system imposes, I’m unlikely to do so every time. I also might not agree with whatever base tip the app (or restaurant) sets. At best, some servers could lose out on a great tip when they do their job well. At worst, their incentive to make guests feel welcome and cared for is reduced.

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