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Contactless is not only quicker and easier than chip and PIN, it’s quicker and easier than notes and coins. It’s taking us one step closer to cashlessness. Hurrah!

There are currently more than 38 million contactless cards in circulation across the UK, making up a quarter of all the credit, and debit and charge cards out there.

Take up of contactless has been greatest in London with one in five (17%) using contactless cards, closely followed by Manchester and Leeds (12%). However, in Bristol contactless has failed to catch on with only 4% people using it.

[From News & updates from WorldPay, the fast & secure credit card payment system]

I can’t think of any obvious reason why the natives in my old stomping ground of the West Country should be so suspicious of the apparent witchcraft evident in a “tap and go” transactions, but on my next visit I will ask and see what we can do to reach out to them. Meanwhile, while the spread of contactless in the UK has yet to reach Australian levels, the usage levels show steady increase,

Contactless card payments grew more than three-fold during 2013 thanks to accelerated rollout by retailers and growing acceptance on public transport, according to Visa Europe.

[From Visa: UK contactless payments more than triple in last 12 months – ComputerworldUK.com]

My experience,s based our involvement in a wide variety of contactless experiments, pilots, trials and roll-outs going back several years, is that once you can get people to use contactless, then they really like it. And this, I think, has an interesting knock-on effect on how people see the relationship between cash and cards. Contactless is not just better than chip and PIN, it’s better than notes and coins, and I speculate that this is causing a shift in opinion.

Eighteen percent of U.K. Internet users say they would prefer to be able to stop using cash altogether. Support for a cashless society is strongest in London, with 30 percent prepared to stop using cash.

[From UK non-bank payments more trusted than contactless and mobile card payments | MobilePaymentsToday.com]

Now, of course, I pay no attention what the public say they do or do no want, since they haven’t got a clue, but I do think that if you glance around Gibson-style you will begin to see some weak signals for change. Indeed, I saw one at Woking station recently…

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.

[From Retailers could exploit contactless payments more effectively]

My colleague Gary Munro relates a similar tale, again using the prosaic benchmark of South West Trains to illustrate the magnitude of the change underway!

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).

No pun intended? It jolly well should have been, since it was an excellent one.

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