MasterCard has launched its contactless payment technology in the UK.
The MasterCard PayPass and Maestro PayPass contactless cards allow consumers to buy items costing less than £10 simply by waving their debit or credit card in front of a reader.
The rollout of contactless card readers has started in London, in several areas including Canary Wharf, with participating retailers in the rest of the UK set to get the technology over the course of next year.
In a similar vein to London Underground's Oyster Card, contactless cards transmit payment details wirelessly between the PayPass card and a retailer's terminal. The transaction is then processed through the MasterCard network for clearing and settlement.
The so-called "tap and go" payment feature can be added to any MasterCard credit, debit or prepaid card or Maestro debit card and HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland have already signed up to use the technology. Retailers participating in the scheme include Books Etc, Coffee Republic, Eat, McDonalds and the Science Museum.
Payments industry body Apacs estimates that more than five million contactless cards will be issued by the end of 2008 in the UK, and that they will be accepted by at least 100,000 retailers.
Around one-third of UK consumers said theft (34 percent) and loss (33 percent) are the two main reasons they do not want to carry cash on their person, according to research from YouGov on behalf of MasterCard.
But only one in six of those surveyed said they decide "often" or "very often" against making everyday purchases such as newspapers, sweets or sandwiches, because they don't have the change and don't want to break a note.