[Dave Birch] At the APACS briefing back in December, arranged through Vendorcom, there was an announcement about the roll-out of contactless payment cards in the UK. The deployment of terminals will begin in south east London in September 2007, and I thought it might be mildly useful to post a quick update on the roll-out including information and highlight one or two areas that have been touched on in recent posts, where I think some more work may be required by the industry in 2007 to make sure everything goes smoothly.

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The schemes are setting a limit of 10 pound sterling for contactless transactions so they are squarely targeting cash replacement. If the transaction is for more than ten pounds or if the card has been used in a contactless mode for than a certain number of times or for a certain total amount (for the technical, this is determined by the EMV extended risk management parameters set by the issuer) then the customer will be required to carry out a standard chip & PIN transaction. I have a feeling that this might begin to irritate customers over time, but I’m sure the marketing guys in the various banks have been over this in a lot of detail. I also expect the merchants to put pressure on the issuers to raise the limit in certain retail categories.

Barclays, for example, are targeting a transaction time of half a second, which will go down well with merchants and consumers alike. If the goal is to get people to use the cards instead of cash, then speed is critical. The only way to get real, consistent speed though is of course to take the transactions offline, otherwise consumers will get fed up flashing their wallet at the terminal in the coffee shop only to have to stand around and wait for it to go online and produce a receipt. Ah, receipts… that’s a whole other post to come.

Aneace has highlighted what may be the key issue and I also wonder what might happen when customers get annoyed because waving a wallet with a couple of cards in it won’t work? The current standards mean that if a terminal detects more than one card then no transaction should take place. But suppose I’m a customer who has been happily waving my wallet over terminals (much as people wave wallets with Oyster cards in) and then when I put my new (second) contactless card in the wallet, the transactions stop. I’d lay a pound to a penny that most people will ring up the second issuer and complain that the card isn’t working, but I’d be curious as to what other people think. Does anyone have an personal experience of this yet?

My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public. [posted with ecto]

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