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September 2, 2008

Nine out of ten cats prefer NFC

LONDON, England – I got pretty excited when the London-based NFC trial kicked off a while back. Sure, I was a bit gutted not to be a triallist, but knowing a few people who were, made it interesting enough. Quick recap – Nokia, O2, Barclaycard, Visa Europe, TranSys, AEG and Transport for London got together to try out contactless payments across London.

The trial lasted six months during late 2007 and early 2008 and involved 500 participants. The results, announced today, are more than encouraging. Nine out of every ten of those NFC triallists were happy using the system, with almost 80 per cent saying they’d be interested in using the service full time if it was available.

The report showed users as increasing their use of public transport as a result of having the cashless travel payment system, Oyster, embedded on the test devices. This has to be a surprise as I wouldn’t have seen that one coming. A lot of respondents reckoned it was actually more convenient than a standard Oyster card, which is good.

I hate paying for parking. Not the principle (which I also hate) but the searching for coins AFTER I’ve found a space. Sure, if I didn’t drive in the first place, I wouldn’t have the problem, but I do, and I all too frequently do (have the coin problem). Which is where cashless payments come in – sub-£5 purchases are prime candidates for cash and cardless payment. The trial didn’t include any car parks, but it did include a selection of coffee houses and small shops. Purchases up to £10 could be made with the Visa payWAVE system embedded on the phone and two thirds of the triallists reckoned cashless payments were a good thing. Too right!

More often than not I’m paying for stuff with a credit card. I get irritated when minimum charges run at over £8 for a card – Starbucks has it right when it’ll take your card for pretty much anything, I think I’ve even paid for a Latte on my Amex. That’s how it should be. Now, let me do the same thing with my phone and I can see why almost half of the triallists said cashless payments would influence their choice of handset in the future.

I don’t see the results of this trial as a victory, but vindication for the future. My phone is more likely to be with me than my wallet (something I noticed when on holiday recently, when I was more likely to have my phone, than I was to have my wallet). The days of the wallet are numbered.

Interestingly, the other day when filling up my car I noticed a sign on a petrol pump which said “cheques are no longer accepted as payment”. I can’t remember the last time I used a cheque, but I hadn’t noticed their demise at retail. Given my increasingly less frequent use of cash, I wonder how long will it be before cash is no longer accepted?

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