Wireless-enabled bank cards tested in London this month will pave the way for a new system of cashless payments, enabling small purchases to be made in pharmacies, newsagents, and snack bars without providing a PIN number or a signature.
The system is to be tested by around 1,000 retailers located in and around rail and bus stations across the capital. For items costing up to 10 pounds, users will pay by simply touching a reader device located at the cash till with new credit and debit cards issued by Barclaycard, Visa, or Mastercard. The cards use a short-range wireless technology known as Near Field Communication to exchange data with the reader device, which emits an audible “beep” when the transaction is completed.
By the end of 2007 it is hoped that 2,000 outlets will be involved in the scheme, Barclaycard told E-Access Bulletin. “At this stage it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. We need interest from consumers before retailers will take an interest. That’s the reason we’re concentrating on London to start with. In the long term – and it’s difficult to say how long this will take – we expect most retailers will move over to the new system,” said the spokesperson.
In future, this way of making purchases will also be available from vending machines located in places such as pubs or in the street, and also from devices such as parking meters, said Barclaycard. “The big retailers such as high street supermarkets will almost certainly take a longer time, because their existing till systems are a significant investment which has to be recouped before they think about new technology,” said Barclaycard.
Fear of fraud shouldn’t deter people from using the new cards, said Barclaycard. “Most card fraud is organised and involves larger sums. But if a bank notices a pattern of unusual transactions it can request a PIN number or signature before a transaction is processed,” said Barclaycard. The trial in London is part of much wider plans for the technology, Visa told E-Access Bulletin. “This is also being tested by Visa in France, Turkey, and Switzerland,” said a spokesperson.