[Dave Birch] The Mu$eum of American Finance at 48 Wall Street makes for a pleasant diversion if you’re out and about in the financial district. I pottered around the various displays and wandered, drawn by an invisible force, into the “History of Money” gallery. At the very end of the gallery, in the final section dedicated to the future, was a picture of a Japanese mobile phone being used as a Suica card (Suica just announced that they now have a million users) and a Vivotech contactless POS terminal (see picture).

American Museum of Finance

The label said something about contactless payments replacing money. Well, not in New York. Whereas my Barclaycard OnePulse Visa card (with PayWave) worked perfectly in Singapore, it hasn’t worked once in New York. At the Duane Reade drugstore, the attendant knew all about “Blink” cards and I happily tapped my card on the reader: nothing. My guess is that it’s an MSD-only reader, ignorant of worldwide contactless EMV standards. But I suppose it may just have been not working. That was the case at the AMC movie theatre where all of the contactless readers were turned sideways (the guy there said that they don’t work but he doesn’t know why). You can’t use contactless in the subway machines either.

I can’t pretend I’m not a little disappointed.

Is America heading in a different direction, I wonder? After all, in the Old World, Barclaycard has said that it wants to issue a million contactless cards and that it is ramping up on acceptance points:

The roll out [of contactless terminals[ has been extended outside of the capital and there are now over 4000 retail outlets live with the technology across the country. Barclaycard says it wants to increase this to 20,000 stores by the end of the year.

[From Finextra: Barclaycard steps up contactless card roll out]

This is great, but still baby steps compared to the Land of the Rising Phone Bill, partly (I surmise) because the competition to provide simple, easy to use contactless payments extends beyond banks. Not only mobile operators but retailers are advancing the cause. In the case of Seven-Eleven, who introduced their “nanoco” contactless purse last year,

The retailer-run electronic purse accounts for 10% of sales in Seven-Eleven’s nearly 12,000 stores in Japan… [customers] spend about 10% more when they tap their cards or nanaco applications in Japan’s contactless wallet phones to pay than with cash,. The company has signed up 5.5 million users. While transaction numbers appear to have flattened or declined slightly for nanaco the past several months, the numbers still surpass those of more-established contactless prepaid brands such as Edy from bitWallet Inc. and Suica e-money, run by East Japan Railway Co.

“You know where you can use it. That is one of the most important things for the customer,” says consultant Masayuki Yamamoto, formerly head of emerging technologies for Visa Inc.’s Japan office..


This, I think, is a very important point and a significant advantage to a retailer scheme. Consumers want certainty of tender: when they walk into a Seven-Eleven they know that they can use nanoco. When I walk into a shop in London or New York, I have no idea whether I can use my contactless card or not. Oh wait, did I say card? Let’s remember that

About 13% of nanaco users tap to pay with wallet phones.


This suggests that when it comes to delivering better ways to pay, retailers can compete not only with banks but also with mobile operators own payment schemes.

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


  1. I think you are giving the museum a bad rap. If you had seen the closetlike, basement space they occupied for several years prior, you would have been more impressed with what they have on display. Also, as I am sure you understand from what is shown, the museum is about “financial history” more than it is about “payments history.” Or the future of payments. There is so much missing on the financial history side, I would rather see them expand that, or have special exhibitions about that, than payments. Indeed, they have been having interesting book/author programs every couple of months that NY’ers ought to consider for education & entertainment. Check out their website.

  2. Hey! I didn’t give the museum a bad rap! I had a really nice time there and I was really upset to miss by one day the book signing by Stephen Mihm, author of “A Nation of Counterfeiters”.

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