May 26, 2005 in Business

Wave-and-go credit cards allow purchases without a touch

Susan Tompor Knight Ridder Newspapers
 

DETROIT — Soon, all we’ll have to do is blink, and we’ll have bought something.

Coming our way is a new type of credit card that allows you to spend your money by just waving it at a modified cash register.

Paying will be so easy that you’ll spend even more money than you do now — the credit card companies have the data to prove it. Chase Bank, a division of JPMorgan Chase & Co., will be the first to roll out what the industry calls contactless credit cards using what Chase has dubbed blink technology.

Credit card customers won’t have to hand blink cards to the cashier. They won’t have to swipe the card through a terminal. They’ll simply pass those cards in front of a special reader attached to the cash register. And then to speed things up, they might not even have to sign a receipt.

American Express is also cooking up a version of the contactless cards. American Express will include the wave-and-go technology on its Blue from American Express revolving credit cards, beginning June 1. Cards embedded with ExpressPay, powered by radio frequency technology, will be issued to new customers and then existing customers when their old Blue cards expire.

Industry experts say this stuff is going to be very big, very soon.

By the end of next year, they’ve predicted that there will be tens of millions of these things accepted at thousands of locations. Think drugstores, gas stations, 7-Eleven, movie theaters, fast-food chains.

Retailers like it because this quick-pay method lets people easily pull out the plastic and buy a little bit more than they would if they had to dig for cash.

“Consumers tend to spend more when they’re paying with plastic, instead of cash,” said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director for the Smart Card Alliance, an industry coalition of credit card companies, payment processors and others in Princeton Junction, N.J.

His group suggests that consumers who spend an average of $5 a visit with other methods of payment would end up spending an average of $5.75 with these contactless cards.

Another pilot program quoted by Chase showed that consumer spending was up 20 percent to 30 percent at some retailers when consumers used the contactless cards, compared with cash.

Chase, the nation’s largest credit card issuer, will roll out its blink cards in two cities next month. Chase wouldn’t confirm the markets. But the Wall Street Journal reported that Atlanta and Denver are first. Chase will reissue credit cards on a market-by-market basis nationwide, as retailers get readers.

Tom O’Donnell, senior vice president for Chase, said consumers consistently say they want to get in and out quickly when they shop.

7-Eleven Inc. — which plans to install the readers at most U.S. stores by early next year — said tests show that paying with contactless cards is 25 percent faster than paying with cash.

To jazz things up, Chase commissioned a telephone survey of 1,000 adults to discover what we hate about lines. The boiling point: One-third of Americans get frustrated after waiting 10 minutes or less.


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