Payment Initiation Services

Payment Pointers resolve to HTTP endpoints for Payment Initiation Services.

In the context of Payment Pointers, a payment initiation service is defined very generically as a service for exchanging payment information between a sender and receiver before executing the payment.


  • In Europe the new Payment Services Directive II (PSD2) explicitly defines it as an online service which accesses a user’s payment account to initiate the transfer of funds on their behalf with the user’s consent and authentication.

  • In the Interledger community an example of a payment initiation service is a server that implements the Simple Payment Setup Protocol used to setup an Interledger payment.

  • Many proprietary payment initiation services exist that operate closed-loop payment networks and have Web-based payment initiation pages. These are only usable if the payer and payee are both participants in the network:

Payment Methods

Different payment initiation services will support different payment methods and have different levels of support by counter-parties.

For Payment Pointers to be usable as a universal pointer to a payment initiation service that is guaranteed to be usable by the counter-party it is necessary to define some minimum requirements of payment initiation services and some mechanisms for payment method discovery and negotiation.


Payment Pointers resolve to URLs so it is possible to leverage standard features of the Web and HTTP to discover the available payment methods at a payment initiation service endpoint location.

As described in the flow, clients specify the methods they support through the list of accepted content types they supply in the Accept header sent in their initial request to the URL.

The payment initiation service can provide URLs for any alternative protocols it supports through Link headers in the response.


The payment methods are identified using Content Types and the following payment methods are know to support initiation via a Payment Pointer:

Protocol Content Type Reference
Simple Payment Setup Protocol application/spsp4+json


Payment Pointers MUST resolve to an https URL as defined in RFC7230. It MUST accept HTTP GET requests to initiate the payment.

To be compatible with Payment Pointers a payment initiation service needs to define a unique MIME type that differentiates it from other services. This allows the client to discover available payment methods and initiate the payment using a method that it supports.

Generic types like text/html as returned by services like and Square’s don’t provide sufficient differentiating data for the client to determine if the method is supported.

Clients MAY use a combination of the origin of the service and the content type to infer the payment method.

Clients MUST support HTTP redirects as a result of 3XX responses per RFC 7231.