New tech: Contactless payments

We may be able to leave our wallets and purses in our pockets from this year. Here is everything you need to know about contactless payments.
New tech: Contactless payments


Contactless payments are popular in the UK already, but they’re mostly made by swiping a credit or debit card at a terminal. You still have to get your card from your wallet or purse, so it doesn’t really save you much time. This is all going to change though – major manufacturers have got some exciting products lined up to give us lucky consumers the choice to pay via our favourite smartphone, smartwatch or wearable device.


Can’t quite see the attraction of using a mobile device for payments?

Then think about visiting a festival or amusement park and being given a bracelet that lets you automatically pay for your food, drink and merchandise. You’re free to enjoy yourself without worrying about carrying your cash or cards around with you.

And if you’re a regular commuter, you won’t need much persuading that waving a wristband at the ticket barrier as you walk through is going to save you some precious time and effort every time you travel.


NFC (Near Field Communications) is the technology that enables contactless payments. There are now over 300,000 NFC-enabled terminals throughout the UK, and the latest smartphones from the likes of Samsung, Sony and Nokia now come with a built-in NFC chip.

The UK mobile network operator, EE, is also taking advantage of NFC with ‘Cash on Tap’, the contactless payment service it made available on selected EE smartphones.

And in September 2014, TfL (Transport for London) announced that it would be accepting contactless payments from NFC-enabled devices, allowing travellers to use eligible smartphones on the tube and overground rail services.


Over in the US, Apple recently launched its contactless payment system Apple Pay, which allows owners of the newest iPhones to complete purchases by simply pressing the fingerprint sensor on their phone. Although a UK release date for Apple Pay hasn’t been confirmed, we should expect to see it sometime in 2015.

Samsung could also be launching a mobile payments system in the US next year, and this could also take advantage of fingerprint recognition as it’s already a feature in their latest phones. These plans are still in the early stages though.


There’s a lot of debate around which contactless payment method will be the most popular. Will it be smartphones, or is it more likely to be wearables?

We think wearables might just have the edge. The idea of hitting shiny new smartphones against payment readers might not be too popular with a lot of careful owners. And wearables could be less prone to theft – a sneak thief is more likely to be attracted to a £300 smartphone than a £50 bracelet.

What’s more, waving your wrist at a card reader is surely a lot easier than going through the hassle of:

  1. Getting your smartphone out of your bag or pocket.
  2. Entering your password.
  3. Selecting the correct app.
  4. Making your payment.
  5. Putting your smartphone back in its place.


Consumers may still need some convincing that mobile payments are safe and secure – especially with a number of high profile data breaches hitting the headlines in 2014 – but features like fingerprint recognition should go some way to reassure them. In fact, devices that take advantage of fingerprint recognition could become accepted as a more secure way of paying than ever before, as customers won’t have to reveal any of their card details anymore.

If one or two big names enter the UK market with contactless payment devices in 2015, who knows? Our shopping habits this time next year could be very different…

So what do you think? Will you be happy to pay with your smartphone? Are you waiting for any exciting wearables to hit these shores from the US? Feel free to share your comments below.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

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