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Barclaycard's PayTag aims to sidestep NFC handsets

Barclaycard has launched an NFC tag that will allow its credit-card customers to make micro-payments without the need to upgrade to a high-end handset with the technology built in
By Ben Woods, Contributor on
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1 of 2 Ben Woods/ZDNet UK

Barclaycard's PayTag

Barclaycard has introduced PayTag, a small contactless payment card that can be stuck to a phone or any other object and then used to carry out small transactions.

The PayTag, launched on Thursday, is designed as an alternative to using smartphones with built-in near-field communication (NFC) technology for mobile payments. About one-third of the size of a normal credit card, it uses NFC technology in conjunction with point-of-sale readers for contactless payments.

The card has adhesive on the back, meaning it can be stuck to any convenient object. Barclaycard expects customers will put the PayTag on their mobile phone, as it is something many people never leave the house without.

"PayTag is a product that makes it possible for millions of our customers to immediately choose to pay with their mobile without needing to change their handset," David Chan, chief executive of Barclaycard Consumer Europe, said at a PayTag launch event on Wednesday. "It turns any phone into a contactless way to pay."

The system links the PayTag to a Barclaycard credit card account, at no additional cost to the customer, according to the company. It lets holders carry out transactions worth up to £15 right now, although this will be extended to £20 in June. Barclaycard could not say whether the scheme will be extended to current accounts, saying it depends in part on the success of the PayTag rollout.

While mobile payments are unlikely to spell the end of cash transactions, they look set to become as much a part of daily life as online payments, Chan told ZDNet UK.

"I used to use my watch to tell the time, but now I just use my mobile," he said. "I expect the same thing to happen to my wallet."

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2 of 2 Ben Woods/ZDNet UK

Barclaycard's PayTag and reader

UK retailers already equipped to receive contactless payments include Tesco, Waitrose, McDonald's and Boots. Before the end of 2012, London buses are expected to begin accepting NFC-based transactions, to be followed in 2013 by the rest of London's public transport network.

In our hands-on test, making a payment using the PayTag was a painless experience and simply required tapping the tag on the card reader. Additionally, sticking the tag onto the back of a phone several times and then removing it again did not leave any residue on the handset.

Chan said he had sent out invitations to try the service to the first set of customers, who should receive their PayTags in the next six to eight weeks.

The guidelines that apply to Barclaycard credit cards also cover the PayTag. If a handset with a tag attached is lost or stolen, people should call the company to cancel the tag to prevent fraud, the company said. If the tag has already been misused, customers will get a refund, Chan said.

Barclaycard said it introduced its first contactless cards and terminals in the UK in 2007, and there are now around 100,000 contactless terminals in the country. However, the company hopes that this total will increase to around 150,000 by the end of 2012.

The introduction of PayTag follows the Barclays Bank's launch of PingIt in February. PingIt allows anyone with an Android, iOS or BlackBerry smartphone to send or receive payments of up to £300 in a single payment, using just the app and without sharing bank account details.

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