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There are some things that Woking station can do better than anyone else in the world. It’s a shame they are nothing to do with trains but, hey, you can’t have everything.

The latest figures show a steady rise in the use of contactless payments in the UK. Slowly and surely, consumers are starting to tap. Contactless is becoming mainstream. As a benchmark, note that now you can use your contactless bank card to ride the bus in London, TfL have decided to give up on cash altogether.

Transport for London (TfL) has today announced that it is to stop accepting cash fares on London buses from summer this year.

[From London buses to go cashless from mid 2014 | Transport for London]

But as yet we are nowhere near, say, Australia. Down under, they have 175,000+ contactless POS terminals and the contactless limit is already $100 (it’s still £20 back in Blighty). The biggest mobile operator (Telstra) already has more than a million NFC handsets on its network and the numbers are still going up. So we’re not at Oz levels yet, or possibly even Canadian levels, where the contactless “no PIN” limit has also been raised to $100 without apparent ill effect and there are contactless terminals in all of the main retailers.

In Australia, six in ten Visa and MasterCard supermarket transactions is contactless. Some retailers there want to install contactless-only terminals (this is currently against scheme rules AFAIK). We are nowhere near that in the UK. Visa’s top contactless market in Europe is Poland. I’m convinced that one of the reasons that our contactless take up has been slower is that retailers don’t really seem to know what to do with it. It baffles me that some retailers ban you from paying with cards for transactions below £10 when it would be more logical for them to say that transactions below £10 must be contactless.

At least Subway have a sign which allows you to pay by contactless for any value but has a minimum spend for [chip and PIN] credit and debit.

[From You searched for greggs – Tomorrow’s Transactions]

This came up again when I went to Brighton recently. I went to a very trendy coffee shop with a guest and ordered a couple of coffees and a cake. It came to a fiver or so. Naturally, I didn’t have any cash so I opened my no.2 wallet (the domestic travel wallet) and took out a contactless payment card. The lady behind the counter took the card from me, told me it was an extra 60p for card payments (if it had said that on the door I would have gone somewhere else) and put it in the slot, but I could see that the terminal she was using had a contactless interface. So I explained to her that the coincidence of my having one of the 36+ million contactless cards in the UK and her having one of the 164,000+ contactless terminals meant that it would save her money by using contactless. So I got her to cancel the transaction and then rekey it so that I could tap. Which I did. And having made my contactless payment with a theatrical flourish and tap, I told her that one of the additional advantages of contactless was that it saves time. She fixed me with a steely glare and said “it hasn’t so far”. I am stranger in a strange land.

Ian Cranna, VP Marketing and Category at Starbucks UK… “The introduction of contactless has had a real benefit for all our customers, whether they pay with contactless or not, as it cuts waiting time in the line.

[From Saving time with contactless | /review – Gemalto]

Contrast this experience with the Platform 2 coffee chap at Woking station. Most days, I have a coffee at home before I amble off to catch the 7.59 Flying Glacier to Waterloo via all points beyond mobile coverage between West Byfleet and Vauxhall. But maybe once a week I’ll be doing stuff or be running late and I’ll grab a coffee at the station. When I do, I prefer to go to the Platform 2 coffee chap as I think his coffee is slightly nicer than the Starbucks on Platform 1 or the store on Platform 2. But I also love the raisin danish that he does. But I never have any money. So in the old days, that meant no sale because I would go to Starbucks and use my mobile app instead (and not get the raisin danish that I want). Then they got a POS terminal so you could pay with chip and PIN, which works fine, but obviously there can be a bit of a line at peak times. Last week I went to the coffee chap and asked for a latte and a raisin danish and sleepily handed over a contactless Visa card. He tapped it on his contactless terminal and gave it back to me.

Wow. Better for him, better for me and better for everyone else in the queue behind me. The only thing that would make it even better would be to take the contactless antenna off of his POS terminal and put it on the counter so that I don’t have to hand him my card or my phone or my watch in order to pay. Nevertheless, I thought this excellent payment experience could not go unremarked.

I was so shocked I didn’t recover until the trackside fire at Wandsworth.


  1. Last time I was in Woking Station Starbucks the barista refused to allow a gentleman to use contact and insisted he used contactless.

  2. I had a last minute dash onto the earlier this week, so no coffee in hand, and only £20 in my wallet.
    I ordered my coffee & shortbread from the trolley service, and sheepishly handed over my £20, apologising profusely. The bloke on the trolley looked at me and asked if I had a contactless card. Brilliant, I handed my card over, he pulled a contactless terminal out of his cash drawer hey presto payment made, and no pocket full of coins to boot.
    Can’t believe I had a nice experience on South West Trains. Someone out there is bucking the trend and training their staff (no pun intended).

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