Developing Mobile Payments Capability in Canada

Last modified: 29 September 2015

Canadians continue to embrace mobile technology and demand for mobile payments capability continues to grow. As a result, the banking industry has created both a Mobile Reference Model and a Payments Security White Paper to support the development and adoption of mobile payments in Canada.  

Mobile Reference Model

In May 2012, the banking industry and credit union system announced a set of voluntary, secure, open guidelines for the development of mobile payments at the point-of-sale in Canada.

The voluntary guidelines, technically known as the Mobile Reference Model,  serve as a blueprint for how mobile payment capabilities can be offered in the Canadian market, including guidelines around how information is exchanged among parties to a transaction such as financial institutions, payment card companies, telecommunications companies and merchants. While voluntary, the financial institutions that developed the guidelines are committed to these principles in the mobile market, and these guidelines are intended to create a path to help all market participants move forward in developing mobile payment solutions.

The guidelines are designed to provide clarity to the marketplace as various participants consider how they will meet the growing demand for mobile payments in Canada. These guidelines were developed as an outcome of the federal government’s Task Force for the Payments System Review in 2011, and provide definition for a fair, transparent, and competitive Canadian market for emerging payment options with mobile devices. By developing a set of guidelines that all participants in the payments marketplace can work within, the goal is to ensure safety, security and ease of use for merchants and consumers while allowing for innovation and competition among market participants.

The Mobile Reference Model (Guidelines) can be found here and a summary of the Mobile Payments Reference Model is also available. Questions about the Model can be directed to

Payments Security White Paper

In July 2015, banking industry published a Payments Security White Paper highlighting the need to maintain the highest level of payment security, promote competition and support innovation for the benefit of Canadian consumers and retailers based on the following principles:

• Security – Maintain the level of security that consumers and retailers have come to expect from payment service providers in Canada, equivalent to that provided by EMV chip and PIN.  Identify and protect consumers and retailers against technological and operational risks;

• Openness – Create and support an open mobile payments environment that allows consumers to pay for goods and services using any mobile wallet on any mobile device, leveraging the contactless payment terminals that many retailers already have;

• Innovation – Support innovation in mobile payments by creating an environment that promotes consumer choice and is conducive to the development, evaluation and introduction of new products and services.

These principles are intended to encourage the introduction and adoption of new and innovative mobile payments products and services in Canada, without compromising the integrity of the Canadian payments infrastructure.

Developed by BMO Bank of Montreal, CIBC, National Bank of Canada, RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank and TD Bank Group, the white paper is not a set of standards, but guidelines that can be used and discussed by all mobile payments participants.  It raises some of the potential security concerns and questions that could arise in an open marketplace and lists possible ways to address them.