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Why I Had To Get Rid of My Contactless Credit Card

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

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.