Coming soon, paying your tap tab without giving your credit card

By Ken Sweet, AP writer

It’s 1 a.m. You’ve had a few too many at a crowded bar and walk out without paying the tab. Your credit card and driver’s license sit behind the cash register, leaving your personal info widely accessible while you sleep off those vodka tonics.

There’s a new option that might lessen the pain.

Not the hangover pain — for that, you’ll need aspirin. But if you’ve ever left your credit card at a bar by mistake, or spent several minutes trying to flag down a harried bartender to close you out, there will soon be a new option.

An upgrade being rolled out this summer to MasterCard’s mobile payments service will let people open, manage and close their tabs at participating bars and taverns completely through their phones, without having to hand over a credit card.

The Open Tab feature will be an upgrade to MasterCard’s existing Qkr mobile payment service.

“We heard from so many bars and pubs who always have a number of credit cards left at the end of the evening, and we thought, ‘we know how to address this,’” said Betty DeVita, the business head of MasterCard’s Qkr platform. DeVita also cited MasterCard survey data that it takes on average 12 to 15 minutes to close out a bill, time that could be used to serve more tables and customers.

The service will be free to customers and cost the same for bars and restaurants as their normal credit card processing costs.

Mobile check-splitting

Popular apps like Venmo, Square Cash and bank-specific versions like Chase QuickPay already have changed the dynamic in how some people are paying for things. The payment services that let people send each other money for free via their phones mean you can quickly pay a friend back for a drink or divide the dinner check instead of just hoping the friend will take a turn.

Those have the benefit of working at any restaurant, but don’t have the ability to split bills until after the fact.