If you’re planning to visit London for the Olympic Games next year, you need to register now to book your tickets. But don’t worry about tickets for the famous London Underground transport system, because you might already have one in your wallet.
Banks are already rolling out next-generation contactless bank cards, which can be used to pay for stuff with a simple swipe, and Transport for London recently announced that its entire system will be upgraded to accept e-payments using these cards by the end of 2012.
Sadly only the city’s bus network will be ready before the Games start, but even so, such a large scale implementation of the technology makes London a global leader.
You can identify a contactless bank card – or a place that accepts them – by looking for this logo. Millions of these cards have been issued already, particularly by European banks.
They act like a direct link to your bank account. When you swipe them over a card reader or contact point, your account is instantly debited with the amount required.
That means there’s no PIN to type in, no ticket to print out, and no need for any hold-ups.
Security works just like normal credit card security. If your card gets stolen or goes missing, report it to your bank and the card will get cancelled.
Londoners are already accustomed to using a network-wide payment system called Oyster – but that requires a separate RFID card, which has to be kept topped up with credit. Using contactless bank cards effectively removes the need for a separate Oyster card. Many Londoners, their wallets already groaning with cards for dozens of different services, will probably be grateful for that.