Michael Back is the Founder and CEO of HONK, a cloud-based unattended payments company. A seasoned electronic payments entrepreneur, he is now obsessed with reshaping payments for the parking and mobility industries.


For too long, paying for parking has been a hassle for everyone involved. Drivers have had it with trekking across parking lots to buy a ticket from a payment terminal, only to have to return to the car to display it. Plus, who wants to touch equipment that has been handled countless times? From the operator side, the frustration has been just as real—with capital expenditures, maintenance costs and downtime translating to lost revenue. Let’s face facts. We all just want a simple secure way to pay and get paid. 


The parking industry has travelled a long way since 2013 when our mighty little startup first set out to disrupt the status quo. As it turns out, though, replacing tried and trusted hardware with new innovative software takes time. At HONK, it has been an exciting decade of identifying problems and finding solutions to pave the way for a faster, better, stronger payment system. Along the way, the road to digital transformation has sometimes felt like one big game of whac-a-mole where for each problem solved, another pops up. 


Over the course of my years in payments, I have learned a few things about systems. One is that we are all looking for the simplest route to where we are going. So if a system is not simple, and it’s not saving us time and money, we are not likely to use it. And if it is not being used, nobody wins. 


Take parking apps for instance. They work really well for repeat parkers (HonkAPP power users!). On their own, though, apps don’t always speed up the parking process. For the transient, one-time parker, there are so many steps, from registering an account to inputting card details at each location to hoping the payment method is accepted. That’s why we saw many drivers continue using outdated terminals—which unfortunately forced continued reliance on outdated payment systems. 


Our goal at HONK has always been to streamline digital payment with easy-to-use software so that everyone in the parking system benefits. The invention of HonkTAP—the first app-free, guest checkout parking payment solution on the market—was a game changer. After its world debut as a brand new payment channel, competitors were quick to follow its lead and roll out similar solutions. We get it. HonkTAP is helpful from every angle. Drivers can pay with a contactless tap of the phone and operators can get paid without antiquated hardware. Next up: developing a secure payment processing solution that is just as simple.


Enter HONK’s new partnership with J.P. Morgan, where together, we recently set the standard for mobile payment processing for parking lot operators across North America. Now that we have incorporated Chase and J.P. Morgan’s embedded banking and end-to-end e-commerce solution into the HONK platform, we can retire payment hardware (and its capital and operating costs, problematic payment acceptance and slow processing times) for good. 


HONK’s upgraded platform puts parking lot owners and operators in the driver’s seat, with complete control over payment acceptance and quick secure payment processing with guaranteed next business day settlement. As a bonus, merchant accounts come with the operator’s branding on cardholder statements, daily deposits, and uniform acceptance capabilities. And all payments are accepted through one token vault, regardless of where users park or how they pay. Talk about simplicity. 


Best of all, month after month, many more people keep turning to HONK, which means there are many more satisfied customers and much more profit for us all. If that’s not a sign of a system that’s working, I don’t know what is. 

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