Visa plans trial of contactless debit cards

And shoppers may soon be able to pay using mobile phones
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

Visa is to trial contactless debit cards in London this autumn that will allow shoppers to pay for low-value goods by simply touching their card against an electronic reader.

The technology will be used in a variety of retail outlets in London, including fast-food restaurants and newsagents, according to a report in The Observer.

Visa is planning on using RFID-enabled dual-use debit cards for the trial, based on its Visa Contactless payment technology, but is also understood to be in talks with mobile manufacturers to use near field communications (NFC) technology that will enable the phone to be used instead of a card.

MasterCard and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) have already announced their own plans to trial contactless debit cards for 1,000 of the high-street bank's staff at the retail outlets at RBS' Edinburgh campus HQ. The pilot will use MasterCard's PayPass technology.

Both trials will be for low-value transactions under £10 and consumers will be able to pay by tapping their cards against a reader without needing to sign a receipt or enter a PIN. A security check asking the card-holder to enter their PIN will be done only after a certain number of transactions.

The Visa technology is already being used in Asia and the US and the company is looking to establish the contactless payment technology in the UK ahead of the London Olympics in 2012, according to the newspaper report.

A Visa spokesman declined to give any more details of the plans except to confirm there will be a trial of the contactless payment technology in London later this year.

Transport for London put its own plans to add contactless payment functionality to Oyster travel cards on hold earlier this year, citing difficulties in sorting out the commercial arrangements, despite interest from retail outlets such as Pret A Manger.

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