Barclays Bank has launched a stick-on PayTag Visa credit card that is a quarter of the size of normal cards and can be adhered to its 12 million customers’ mobile phones if they so choose. The relatively low-tech sticker device enables contactless payments to be made worth up to £15 across coffee bars, Boots pharmacy, McDonalds and other participating UK stores that have agreed to host the Point-of-Sale (PoS) terminal readers that interact with the Near Field Communication (NFC) cards. The London public transport network is also due to accept contactless payments for fares next year.
The ‘wave and pay’ PoS readers are already widespread across the UK, although actual uptake figures are still quite low. Barclays' own card operation, Barclaycard, also launched a stored value mobile payment scheme called Quick Tap last year, which involved the rival MasterCard card scheme instead and relies on the same NFC technology, plus a Secure Element (SE) embedded in the chip.
It appears Barclays is merely offering yet another way for customers and consumers to do without cash, which is of course expensive to handle, protect and distribute for banks. The fact that major UK supermarkets such as Waitrose and the Wal-mart owned Asda are now accepting contactless PoS payments can only help to encourage consumer uptake and help banks and card schemes to achieve their ambitious 'cashless society' vision. Of course, cash will never disappear but any reduction will be welcomed by the retail financial services industry.
The evolving mobile channel is clearly a key strategic target for Barclays and other banks with PayTag following on from Barclays' launch earlier this year of its Pingit peer-to-peer (P2P) mobile payments application, which somewhat controversially launched just ahead of the unveiling of the UK’s own cooperative country-wide P2P mobile payments platform. More developments can be expected ahead of what is being billed as the first 'contactless Olympics' in London this summer, with even the taxis accepting contactless payments. Killing off cash is never easy, however, so just how much 'market share' these solutions grab remains to be seen.