Bar tabs are one of those conveniences that can sometimes feel like they’re more trouble than they’re worth. In theory, it’s super convenient to hand over your card at the beginning of the evening, allow anyone in a group to order by quoting a tab number or waving a bar card, then settle up at the end of the night.
In practice, though, there are drawbacks – not least, security. You are leaving your card unattended and out of sight for what may be hours. It would take just seconds for any of the bar staff to slip it out of its slot, photograph both sides and then have all your card details, including the three-digit security number.
There’s also the hassle factor of paying at the end of the evening – usually at the same time everyone else is trying to do the same thing. Mastercard has come up with an interesting solution to both problems through an app, and it’s an approach I’d love to see offered in Apple Pay …
With Mastercard’s Qkr, you just show the bartender a four-digit code in the app, and all purchases are charged against that number. Whenever you’re ready to leave, just get up and go, and the app settles up without you ever having to hand over your card.
The same system could be employed in restaurants, eliminating that irritating wait to catch the eye of wait staff when you’re ready to leave, and the further delay while they track down the card machine and bring it to your table. Again, you’d be able to show them the code when you order, and just walk out when you’re done.
Mastercard’s system isn’t very practical. It requires the establishment to own a compatible payment terminal, and to have activated the feature – and it requires customers to download an app specific to that bar or restaurant.
But the concept is great. Imagine if you could open an Apple Pay tab at the beginning of the evening using your Apple Watch or iPhone. All purchases are then charged against it, with an alert each time a purchase is made. When you’re ready to go, just call up the total, add a service charge if appropriate, do any divvying-up you need to do among your friends, then simply wave thanks to the staff and walk out.
Even better would be if Apple Pay could also handle bill-splitting. Four friends dining together? Each of them does the Apple Pay thing at the table at the beginning of the evening, then the final bill is automatically split four ways, charging each person their share.
Is this a feature you’d like to see added to Apple Pay? Take our poll and share your thoughts in the comments. You can also check out our past feature requests.