weekly roundup Credit card giant Visa has declared that by 2012 credit and debit cards would become cheaper and more convenient than cash, and boldly anticipated that retailers could start making customers pay a surcharge if they paid with cash.
I think Visa got it half right. Yes, cash may indeed be on its way out. But, I think the same can be said for credit and debit cards. Instead, what's coming up is--your finger.
Citibank Singapore has been driving a marketing campaign to encourage customers to use its new biometric payment service, dubbed Pay By Touch. Officially launched late last year, consumers can swipe their finger to pay for their beverage at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or booze at Zouk. According to Citibank, millions in the U.S. already use Pay By Touch.
I'm a sucker for credit, and other forms of plastic cards, because each offers rebates and discounts at various dining and shopping outlets that I frequent. I use a different one each time to get additional discounts at the petrol kiosk Caltex, department store Robinsons and phone accessories at M1 outlets, and to earn rebates when I get my groceries at Carrefour.
That's four credit cards already, and I haven't listed the other discount cards that I have crammed into my wallet--or "the brick", as some of my friends call it. If I could leave all the plastic at home, it'll be a load off my shoulder, literally, because they do feel heavier in my bag after a long day.
But, for biometrics to take off as a viable payment option in Singapore, or anywhere else in Asia for that matter, it cannot be supported only by a handful of merchants. You can't exactly leave your cash and credit cards behind if your neighborhood corner shop doesn't accept your fingerprint as a form of payment.
With identity theft and fraud on the rise, biometric security tools may just be the answer--though you could very well end up with a blistered finger at the end of the day.
So, where does that leave credit card companies if we no longer need plastic in future? They still have a role to play as a payment processing facility, but more importantly, they need to continue to focus on providing better customer service. Time to waive all annual subscription fees, permanently? In addition, banks and other financial players will need to beef up their security infrastructure to ensure all the data that's collected to facilitate biometric transactions are well protected.
Now, if only IT products have fingerprints, too.
Would you pay by finger?
In other headlines this week, check out a new wireless R&D facility in Singapore and find out why Microsoft says Google is mad. Indian services giant TCS finds a new friend in Singapore, while Intel looks toward China.