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What is ISIS?

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Mobile Payment Transaction

If your techie friends have been name-dropping ISIS lately, they probably aren’t referring to the ancient Egyptian goddess (or Sterling Archer’s employer). ISIS is a new venture aimed at making mobile payments more secure.

You  never thought you’d live to see the day three mobile powerhouses–AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless–came together for one purpose and one unique product. Neither did I. That day is here and that product is ISIS. ISIS is the newest in a line of mobile payment systems or mobile wallets. ISIS is not only a collaboration amongst mobile providers, it is also a collaboration between banks, brands and merchants on a national scale.

How does ISIS work?

ISIS uses Near Field Communication (NFC), the same technology that propelled Bump to fame and makes Android users stare slack-jawed when their phones do cool things. NFC lets your phone transmit data to the payment terminal at checkout. Users input virtual versions of their debit and credit cards, and can also upload loyalty program offers and other participating offers.

Any AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon customer needs only two things:

  1. A compatible phone

Right now only Android phones can use ISIS. Since iOS, the iPhone’s operating system, uses AirDrop instead of NFC, in the near future iPhone users can look forward to an ISIS iPhone case that will have an embedded NFC antenna. Blackberry and Windows users will be able to use ISIS once their respective mobile apps are created.

  1. An Enhanced SIM Card from their mobile provider

The Enhanced SIM Card provides users with the Secure Element feature. The Secure Element is a chip that works independent of your phone’s hardware and only allows authorized apps access to your financial credentials with the use of your PIN. This is also where your financial information is stored.

Users then must download the ISIS Mobile Wallet app and input their information. When it’s time to purchase something, open the app, enter your PIN, select your form of payment and hold the back of your phone to the contactless payment device at checkout.

» MORE: Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay Offer Speed and Security at Checkout

Advantages & disadvantages of ISIS

ISIS has many advantages; the best is that ISIS is free. Who can resist free things? It uses your phone’s data or WIFI, so you can minimize any potential data charges, if any at all.

Being a mobile payment product is the most inherent advantage ISIS has to offer. It condenses the contents of your wallet into one place–your phone. No need to carry currency or cards, everything is on your phone virtually. Fellas, no more overgrown and worn out wallets. Ladies, trust me, I feel your excitement.

But wait, is having all of your financial information in one place safe? What if your phone gets stolen? Advantage ISIS. Arguably, ISIS is safer than your physical wallet thanks to the Secure Element and PIN-protection, which provide several layers of security for your financial information. If your device is lost or stolen, your ISIS Wallet can be remotely deactivated with one call or click and reactivated just as quickly–much less hassle than if your physical wallet gets stolen.

ISIS has its limitations. For example, iPhone, Blackberry and Windows smartphones cannot use ISIS. For iPhone users this is because the Apple smartphone does not have an NFC chip. For Blackberry and Windows phones, ISIS mobile apps are still in the development stage. Another limitation is merchant availability. ISIS is currently available in the U.S., but only where there are contactless payment devices. ISIS says it accepts payments at 20,000 locations nationwide, and that the number of payment devices is growing.

ISIS vs competitors

ISIS has the potential to be better than its competitors. It’s already got a leg up because it takes advantage of widely available technology. NFC is used by millions of Android users and contactless payment locations are steadily growing. By collaborating with the merchants and brands that we use everyday, ISIS won’t become self-limiting like other online wallets or mobile payment companies. ISIS also provides savings and discount opportunities. With ISIS Mobile Wallet users can get three free soft drinks at Coca-Cola vending machines, free smoothies at Jamba Juice and 20 percent back on purchases made with American Express Serve until the end of January.

ISIS is the newest in a steadily growing mobile wallet industry. It uses the technology, brands and merchants that most Americans already use and love. While you may worry about your financial security, ISIS addresses this with several layers of security. If you’ve wanted to give an online wallet a shot, ISIS is definitely worth a try.

Mobile payment image via Shutterstock