Contactless credit cards in four months

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British consumers could be paying for low-cost transactions with just a wave of their debit or credit cards in as little as four months.

Apacs, the country's payment association, says that 'contactless' plastic technology will be trialled in London in September, ahead of a national rollout in the new year led by Visa Europe and MasterCard.

Under the details revealed today, people in certain capital postcodes will be able to use their debit or credit cards in a similar way to London Underground Oyster travel cards by simply touching them on to or passing them over a reader.

Apacs says the contactless technology, to be used in conjunction with participating businesses and vending machines, is "fast, effective, easy to use", as well as being as secure as existing chip and pin services.

Transactions of £10 or under will be payable in this way during the London trial, which will run in seven postcodes between the City and Canary Wharf.

It is thought that five million contactless debit and credit cards will be in use in Britain by the end of 2008.

"Today we are giving Londoners a completely new way to pay for low-value items with the launch of contactless payments," said John Bushby, general manager at MasterCard for the UK, Republic of Ireland, Nordic and Baltic countries.

Visa UK's managing director Jose San Juan added that the cards and corresponding terminals will provide a "highly convenient and quick way to pay for low value items".

"By the autumn the first UK cardholders will be buying a coffee or a sandwich in a split second, and retailers will enjoy quicker transactions, the security of the payment guarantee and an end to the high costs associated with handling cash," he explained.

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