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Innovations and Payment Systems

Click to Pay: How it works, and why it exists

An explainer of the new one-click payment option recently launched by Amex, Visa, Mastercard and Discover

Summary

In October 2019, the four major credit card payment processors rolled out Click to Pay. It’s designed to simplify the online checkout process and further secure your personal information, whether it’s associated with a credit, debit or prepaid card. Here’s how it works.

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Goodbye to Amex Express Checkout, Masterpass and Visa Checkout.

Those online payment setups have gone away. Say hello to something with a simpler, unified name: Click to Pay.

In October 2019, the four major credit card payment processors – American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa – introduced Secure Remote Commerce in the U.S. It’s designed to simplify the online checkout process and further secure your personal information, whether it’s associated with a credit, debit or prepaid card.

Nine months later, in July 2020, Secure Remote Commerce got a new name: Click to Pay.

Furthermore, the four credit card payment processors revealed that Click to Pay is going global. The new checkout system, based on the EMV Secure Remote Commerce industry standard, is being rolled out in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom. Other countries will be added later.

“Our goal is to create a ‘virtual payment terminal,’ which offers the same level of familiarity and confidence across remote-commerce transactions as consumers enjoy today in the physical world,” Karteek Patel, chairman of EMVCo, which developed Secure Remote Commerce, said in a June 2019 news release.

Here, we answer some key questions about what Click to Pay is and how it works.

See related: How a cashless society is leaving some behind

What is Click to Pay?

Click to Pay refers to a one-click checkout option that you can use when you’re making a purchase on a website, mobile app or any other digital channel with an American Express, Discover, Mastercard or Visa credit, debit or prepaid card. It’s meant to work on laptops, smartphones, PCs, tablets and other electronic devices.

Where is Click to Pay available?

More than 10,000 U.S. merchants have signed up for Click to Pay, including Cinemark, Crate & Barrel, Expedia, Fresh Direct, Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts, JoS. A. Bank, Lowe’s, Marriott, Papa Johns, Rakuten, Saks Fifth Avenue and SHOP.com.

Outside the U.S., merchants that are adopting the technology include Emirates, Mitre 10, Noel Leeming, 1-day, Pizza Hut Australia, The Warehouse, Torpedo7, Ticketek and Warehouse Stationery.

How do you sign up for Click to Pay?

You create a Click to Pay payment profile or add a card to your profile when you visit a card issuer’s website or carry out a transaction on a merchant’s website.

A test of the sign-up process on the Mastercard website looked like this:

  • Enter your email address (which becomes your Click to Pay user ID).
  • Type in your mobile phone number.
  • Add your card number, expiration date and security code.
  • Put in your billing address.
  • Six-digit verification code is generated.
  • Profile is complete.

How do you shop with Click to Pay?

When you shop at a participating online merchant, you’ll see a single Click to Pay button rather than an array of checkout buttons. The button displays a Click to Pay logo paired with American Express, Discover, Mastercard or Visa logos, depending on which cards a merchant accepts.

“Often when customers shop online, they are presented with multiple payment buttons with different steps and information requirements, which can be confusing for customers and challenging for [merchants],” American Express explains on its website.

The Click to Pay icon features a pentagon design on its side with a stylized depiction of a fast-forward symbol on the right, formed by a continuous line. To the average consumer, it might look like a scrunched-up arrow.

To make a purchase, you don’t need to create an account or log into an account. Instead, you’ll simply enter your Click to Pay user ID (email address). In other words, you won’t be required to repeatedly enter your card number, expiration date, billing address, shipping address or other personal information.

“The idea behind this is to mirror the one, consistent checkout experience that exists in physical stores – with one terminal and one way to pay … The vision for the future of digital commerce is that the new button will replace the current guest checkout process,” American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa said when they announced Click to Pay.

See related: Real-time payments are taking off, and card users could benefit

What’s it like to do a Click to Pay transaction?

To test Click to Pay (then called Secure Remote Commerce) at an online merchant in November 2019, I visited the website of the Movember charity, which promotes men’s health, to donate $10. I paid with a Mastercard that I’d just added to my new Click to Pay profile. Here’s what happened:

  • Entered first name, last name and email address on Movember website.
  • Clicked on Movember website’s “click to pay” button.
  • Secure Click to Pay appeared. It displayed the Click to Pay icon, as well as the logos for American Express, Mastercard and Visa. (Movember doesn’t accept Discover cards.)
  • Clicked on Click to Pay button.
  • Clicked on Click to Pay “returning user” tab. (There’s also a tab for new users.)
  • Received six-digit verification code by email.
  • Entered verification code on Click to Pay screen.
  • Prompted to type in three-digit security code for Mastercard that I’d stored in my Click to Pay profile.
  • Reviewed $10 Movember transaction.
  • Clicked “Donate” button, thereby finishing the Movember transaction.

John Egan

How does Click to Pay protect your data?

A one-of-a-kind digital identifier known as a token replaces your data, including your credit card account number, meaning this data isn’t floating around on the internet. Mastercard says this technology relies on analytics and biometrics to identify legitimate cardholders.

This process eliminates the need for merchants to store your card information – information that cybercrooks can easily swipe if one-click payment capabilities aren’t in place.

“Improved online payments security is a benefit of Click to Pay. EMV (chip) cards have become commonplace in recent years. They do a very good job deterring in-person fraud, so most of the bad guys have shifted their efforts online,” says Ted Rossman, industry analyst for CreditCards.com.

“I’m glad to see that Visa, Mastercard, American Express and other EMVco participants are deepening their online security,” he adds. “It’s also a good reminder that credit cards offer better fraud protections than debit cards.”

See related: What you need to know about common identity theft techniques

Why did credit card companies launch Click to Pay?

The answer boils down to one word: competition. Amazon, Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal already enabled one-click checkout. With Click to Pay, the credit card payment processors are trying to catch up to these rivals.

A pre-Click to Pay survey by PYMNTS.com, a news website that covers the payments industry, found that 70% of online merchants accepted one-click payments through PayPal versus less than 5% for the individual options from American Express, Mastercard and Visa.

Amazon’s patent for one-click online ordering expired in September 2017, paving the way for Click to Pay and other one-click payment methods.

“While there are already payment buttons available for use today,” American Express said in 2018, “each relies on different technical requirements and protocols, and involves vastly different steps that can lead to confusion for consumers and integration challenges for merchants.”

“Many merchants have ‘button fatigue,’ and want a single solution that enables consumers to breeze through a checkout page in a way that ensures their payment card number and other billing information is secure,” American Express added, “but doesn’t require extra steps that can slow down a transaction or lead to lost sales.”

Are there any downsides to Click to Pay?

Rossman worries that the ease of using Click to Pay might encourage consumers to overspend.

“I generally advise people against saving their payment info online to prevent impulse purchases,” he says. “Because Click to Pay relies on a single login that works across sites, it will be harder to adhere to that advice moving forward.”

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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