Why I Had To Get Rid of My Contactless Credit Card

Why I Had To Get Rid of My Contactless Credit Card

Summary: I liked my contactless credit card. It worked well. But a technology “improvement” forced me to make a choice between convenience and value.

TOPICS: ÜberTech

I used to have a contactless credit card. I used it to pay for my early morning coffee, lunch and other regular small purchases. I liked it. It worked well. But I had to get rid of it.

Why? Because of a conflict with my Oyster card.

The Oyster card is the contactless payment system for the London Underground (and other public transportation in and around Greater London). I’ve had one for years and am a huge fan. I no longer need to talk to anyone or wait in a queue to get a ticket. I just walk through the turnstile, which scans the card and deducts the fare from my prepaid account. I don’t even have to take my wallet of my coat pocket, so I zoom through the Underground. Oyster users automatically get discounted tickets, and a guaranteed daily cap on total fares paid as well. What’s not to like?

Back to the conflict: the “Wave and Pay” card readers on (initially) London Buses, and then the Tube and trains will also accept payment from contactless credit cards (but without the guaranteed daily cap on total fares paid). And just like that, the convenience factor has left the station.

On the surface, it might seem like an improvement. Consumers will have more payment options. However, if you have both a contactless credit card and an Oyster card in your wallet, the Wave and Pay readers can’t tell which one to use and return an error. To get one or the other to work, you have to take the wallet out of your pocket, and the card you want to use out of your wallet, before you scan it while holding the other one well away. Awkward. And dodgy, if it’s late at night.

So I had to choose. It was a battle of convenience vs. value. Oyster won.

Yes, the contactless card saved me from having to deal with loose change and type in a PIN with my debit card. But the Oyster card saves me time and money.

My point is this: Don’t fall in love with the technology and lose your customer focus. Start by thinking through the usefulness and value your solution offers to end-users. As a consumer, I don’t care that my credit card can now be used in place of my Oyster card—for a higher price. I don’t care about the technology bells and whistles. For me, the only difference is that before, I never had to take the card out of my wallet. After the “improvement,” I will. That, or get rid of one card.

For me, the choice is clear. My wallet is a little lighter in 2013.

Topic: ÜberTech


Diarmuid Mallon is the Director, Global Marketing Solutions & Programs – Mobile, which includes the SAP Mobile Services division and SAP Mobile solutions. He has worked in the mobile industry since 1996. Follow him here at ÜberTech and @diarmuidmallon.

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  • Really?

    Saving 5 seconds twice a day on the tube, vs a minute every single time you buy something is more convenient?
    I do understand your annoyance, we have the same problem with our Myki system, but no way i'd give up my contactless cards.
  • Barclaycard OnePulse

    I contacted Oyster / Tfl about this and it doesn't affect these cards, which have Oyster and Wave Pay in one but they are no longer available from Barclaycard.

    Otherwise I'd just keep my oyster in a small separate sleeve with a bit of cash instead of whipping out my whole wallet. I can't really see it a major crushing defeat, just a minor behaviour modification which is probably safer anyway.
  • solution?

    how about lining a separate holder with foil? (making sure the inside is insulated!)

    I dunno the range of the wave pay detectors, would putting the card in a distant pocket help??
    • found

      I also had such problem. However I solved it by buying RFID sleeve from koruma.co.uk . It works well. Contactless debit card sit in sleeve and are secured. Oyster card is the only one readable in my pocket. Have not found better solution till now.

      Proximity cards sucks!!!
  • They can do that but I guess they won't

    So far I learned, contactless reader should be able to detect multiple contactless smartcards and determine card type based on ATS (Answer to select) and SAK , in your case the turnstile should be able detect and choose to communicates only with the oyster card and ignore the rest. It requires some efforts but why would tfl pay for this?
    I encountered this similar issue few years ago as well but there's no incentive to improve the code. This is going to make many people's life easier if you can somehow push tfl to do it. Trust me.
    • Funny

      To funny.. push TflL to do it! That will never happen and it's a very complex issue to solve. Contactless collision is a real issue .
  • Reader shall read user's mind (doable)

    Actually it has multiple aspects.

    The primitive or naive solution would be as already mentioned, use RF shielding like the one from 3M [ http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/ElectricalOEM/Home/Products/DataProtectionSleeves/ ].

    More sophisticated solution could be to use application rather then card, something like Wallets. These apps usually claim that they can manage contact-less activation state of each "virtual-card".

    Even smarter solution could be to make vendors co-operate at technical level. Well this could make it kind of smart to let the devices exchange preferences and then decide what to do. Such preferences shall be configurable inside card or emulated card side (mobile phone). Unfortunately such dialog has to fit into 120-500 ms in order to make gate passing or payment fluent. That sounds like a challenge but could bring true user satisfaction. One could imagine that as let the computers "really-really" be helpful.
    • enable/disable payment chip

      The described problem could be solved by using Smartdisplayer's CGD card:
      The payment chip is disbaled as default. By entering a PIN, the chip could be enabled for use.
  • Daily Cap

    There is a guaranteed daily cap on the use of contactless card (assuming you use the same card each time for payment) as the back-office has been designed to manage this. Additionally. Oyster will be phased out once it goes live on the tube and then you will have to use your bank card of payment. I wonder just how many bus journeys you make in day!
  • Thanks for the suggestions

    Thanks for the all the suggestions.

    I was at the Mobey Forum when this was announced, and did a straw-poll at the time. Going to two wallets was the most common response, with a few people already doing it for contactless credit cards at the time. Personally I have enough problems remembering to bring the one wallet, so a second would be too much of a challenge for me :-)

    RF-shielding, whilst no one at the forum suggested that, I know a number of people who have gone that route, but having to remove the card from my wallet to use it, well, seems a retro-grade step.

    Pricing - I've just checked the TFL site, and the daily price capping mechanism is still not in place for non-Oyster cards. For me that cap is one of the killer features of the service. I live and work in London, and so use a lot of public transport.

    As Orb pointed out, the BarclayCard Pulse cards avoid this issue, but looking at Barclay's site, they don't look to be issued anymore.

    And finally to gr1f's point - and perhaps the heart of this issue for me, is that using contactless cards in London is still very hot and miss. I guess my most common purchases are coffee and lunch. For coffee I use Apple's Passbook. For other coffee/sandwich places even if they do have a contactless reader, when you offer use it they cashier has a look of panic, and either informs you it isn't turned on or I need to wait whilst they work out what to do.

    If more places smoothly took contactless payments, then that might outweigh the the fuss of the contactless vs Oyster cards.
    Diarmuid Mallon
  • Capping for contactless payment cards

    According to the TfL website:

    "In late 2013, you'll be able to use your contactless payment card on:
    - Tube - Docklands Light Railway (DLR) - Trams - London Overground
    Once the system has been rolled out across all our services, fares will be capped like Oyster."
  • Need to apply benefit resolution rules!

    Something I just posted on the Near Field Communications Group Linked-in Blog in response to a discussion focused on the ZD Net article "Why I had to get Rid of My Contactless Credit Cards"

    I’ve faced a similar problem in resolving conflict of benefits as the ZD Net article by Diarmuid Mallon of ÜberMobile posted that exposes the problem encountered at readers accepting NFC payment. Back in 1998 when we were creating a cashless system for DisneyQuest, a guest could purchase credentials that could carry admission, timed access to attractions, pre-paid value for payment, comped value and bonus value. In addition, the ID’s provided a reference to Disney's art-server that could access guest-specific artistic creations.

    The point in mentioning this 15-year-old deployment was that we introduced a multi-purposed ID into an environment and had to establish a configurable set of business rules that set a pecking-order of use. These rules were set at each ID reader, as we utilized a distributed authority approach to meet the broad needs of the guests, the attractions, and the limited back office processing available at the time.

    We set up these pecking-order rules along the lines of what my team euphemistically called "Disney Rules." The essence of which was to provide the guest with the best possible experience while treating the guest with a fairness doctrine of picking the best payment item from the ecosystem that would also maximize the guest’s financial benefit. Each reader on the network was assigned to an attraction, ride, game, or entry device and had a separate pecking-order profile for payment and a hierarchy of entitlements. Each device knew if and when it could accept payment with Comp (non-revenue), Bonus (added value resulting from collateral revenue), and Paid Value (revenue) as well as specific entitlements sold as part of a package.

    Many of our NFC issues today track back to the same problems of benefit resolution. We must establish a pecking-order of payment and access that benefits the guest/customer over the service provider. Automated payment ecosystems that don't provide a beneficial process for the guest/customer are simply doomed to be discarded as Peter's referenced article points out. Put another way, if the ecosystem does not correctly provide the best benefit to the user, the user will find a way to overcome the system or abandon it.

    Expanding CRM and loyalty systems add another benefit dimension, the customers’ preferences add another layer of complex benefits. Customers will always figure out when they have "been had" by a bad system, and they will act to prevent being impacted again by not using whatever the creators of technology think is cool. Until we focus on benefit resolution by either P2P or other methods, and apply a few old-school “Disney Rules,” we will continue to have technology hoping for mass adoption.
  • Aw my heart bleeds

    I do really feel sorry for Londonders, massive transport network ever increasing in size with massive overground rail network, biggest underground in the world, huge bus and tram and river networks. And now cross rail.

    Come and try living in the North East of England (Teesside/East Durham areas specifically) where there is barely a bus network, its unreliable, the few trains we do have are old and dirty, late and expensive. Oyster, whats that?, no chance! and there are few places that accept contactless payment.

    There is massive over-investment by central Government in London (especially around transport) and this is leading to over-population of the South East/London and strain on resources. If the Govt. invested similar amounts across the UK you would find people moving out of the capital and spread the burden on resources around the UK benefiting everyone. This Government and Londoners need to realise that they have a responsibility to the whole of the UK and must stop being so London centric.

    I wish the big thing I had to worry about all day was can I carry and Oyster card and contactless credit card.