Tuesday, October 05, 2010

London transport to take contactless credit cards from 2012

Transport for London (TfL) has shelved the idea of letting commuters use NFC-enabled mobile phones to pay for travel on the capital's public transport network - but it's got its eye on using the technology in contactless debit and credit cards instead.

NFC is a short-range wireless technology that allows users to pay for goods or services by swiping their credit card or mobile phone over a reader. The payment is made without the need for contact between the device and the reader, making it a quicker and easier alternative to paying with cash.

TfL said it is in discussions with American Express, MasterCard and Visa with the aim of letting commuters use contactless debit and credit cards to pay for travel as early as 2012.

Such contactless cards would not replace the existing Oyster smartcard system but would stand alongside it as an alternative payment method for visitors to London who might not be familiar with TfL's contactless ticketing system or don't have an Oyster card of their own.

The number of contactless credit and debit cards has been ramping up in recent years, with some nine million now in circulation in the UK, according to TfL.

Barclays bank has been issuing replacement debit cards with contactless functionality as standard since March last year and estimates its entire debit card estate will be contactless by the end of next year. Retailers have also been getting on the contactless bandwagon, with food retailers including Co-op, Eat, Little Chef, Pret-A-Manger and Yo Sushi all having rolled out contactless payment terminals.

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