Banks Confirm Plans for Contactless Credit Cards

The idea of contactless credit cards has been in the pipeline for some time now, but on Tuesday 8 May, the UK banking industry finally confirmed plans for the introduction of contactless technology on UK credit and debit cards. From September 2007, contactless credit and debit cards will be introduced by many financial providers. Through contactless technology, customers will be able to make transactions of £10 or under by simply holding up their upgraded card to a secure reader to make their payment in any participating retail outlet.

The initial launch of this contactless card technology will be rolled out in London in September of this year in an initiative led by both MasterCard and Visa Europe, and will be followed by a nation-wide upgrade in 2008. Cardholders will not need to take any action themselves – instead, depending on your card issuer, debit and credit card holders will have the option of adding contactless technology to their existing credit or debit card, or alternatively they’ll be offered a new contactless card.

Among the organisations that plan to take part in the first phase of the contactless card rollout are Bank of Scotland, Barclaycard, Halifax, the Royal Bank of Scotland group, Lloyds TSB, HSBC, Euroconex Technologies Ltd and Citi. Industry experts estimate that by the end of 2008, over five million contactless debit or credit cards will have been issued, and these will be accepted by a minimum of 100,000 merchants.

John Bushby, MasterCard Europe’s General Manager of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Nordic and Baltic Countries, commented:

“We are confident that consumers in the United Kingdom will be quick to adopt contactless payments as they are faster and more convenient than cash, increasing both the number of cards in issue and, as retailers benefit too, places where they can be used.”

Jose San Juan, Visa’s UK Managing Director, further stated:

“By the autumn, the first UK cardholders will be buying a coffee or a sandwich in a split second, and retailers will enjoy quicker transactions, the security of payment guarantee and an end to the high costs associated with handling cash.”

At the moment, an estimated 20 billion payments under £10 are made in the UK annually, with an approximate value of £200 billion every year. Contactless technology is now being seen as providing a fast and effective alternative to the already highly secure chip-and-pin technology that was introduced in the UK over two years ago. In the future, it is thought that contactless card technology will increase the likelihood of credit cards being used for small value transactions in a variety of retail outlets, including coffee shops, newsagents and taxis.

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