The Contactless Payment Choice Challenge

Much of today’s technology inventions seem to be geared around allowing us to pay for items using anything other than the traditional wallet. Our phones, our clothes, and especially our jewellery are now being designed to have NFC (Near Field Communications) built into them so that we can become walking talking cash machines.

Working in London means I use the Tube as my main mode of transportation. Last week my trusted Oyster card failed me (there was no beep and a ‘seek assistance’ warning came up at the Liverpool Street barriers). The ticket machine didn’t acknowledge it either – I’m still not sure what the problem was but it might have been a combination of mobile phone and card interference which finally fried my travelling buddy.

Luckily for me these days, every credit and debit card in my wallet is enabled for contactless payment, so with a quick wave of my debit card near the reader I was back on my merry way without too much delay.

I did however find it a little unnerving fumbling about to pull a debit card out of my wallet at such a busy place, whilst surrounded by so many other commuters scrambling to work around me. I also didn’t want to risk waving my wallet and getting charged to all my cards – I could hear those ‘be careful to avoid card clash’ announcements in my head!

Whilst I was on the Tube, I got thinking about alternative ways to pay and how technology could help me out if I ever encounter the classic modern day first world problem faced by us commuters again.

Firstly I wanted to be more comfortable by keeping my wallet in my pocket and using another method. I thought about wearable tech like the Apple Watch (using Apple Pay) or the Microsoft Band (only a few retailers are signed up for this at the moment but this is set to expand).

Or, I could use my mobile phone. So when I got home later that day I decided to set up Apple Pay, after all I’ve many an Apple ‘I’ device in my life so thought I’d give it a try.

Fast forward a couple of days and another Tube trip across London was on the agenda. As I approached the barriers I took out my mobile, tapped my thumb on the fingerprint reader and through the barriers I went.

Nice and easy and I didn’t need to open up my wallet this time, coupled with the ‘wow he used his phone’ comment I got from a couple of tourists I thought I was finally living the public transport dream.

Alas this feeling wasn’t meant to last as a moment of cack-handedness meant I had a phone with a broken screen; an iPhone always seems to lose its battle with the floor!

So where does this leave me now? Despite the cracked screen I can still use my mobile to touch in and out and I can still use my debit card…unfortunately I don’t’ feel this is enough of an excuse I can pass with the wife to purchase an Apple Watch, yet…although maybe the coat with a contactless payment chip in the arm that Hazel blogged about last month should be on my Christmas list.

My choices potentially are:

  • Get a replacement Oyster card – a bit boring and of no technical advancement to me but it will do the job.
  • A magnetic sticker – also boring like the Oyster card and I’ll probably end up sticking it to my phone and no doubt crack the screen again.
  • A wristband – nice and easy I guess but I’m one of those guys who loath to wear anything other than a watch on my wrist.
  • Key fob – I didn’t realise these were options until I started reading up about bPay from Barclaycard. Now this seems more like it, and I can simply attach the fob to my already big bunch of keys, yep that’s the problem the big bunch will soon only fit in my rucksack.
  • A ‘smart’ ring – like a wristband this is probably not for me but the ‘Kerv’ ring does look a great idea and they are promised to be available next April, I could be tempted…
  • Micro chip under your skin – surely not just for the movies, maybe in a few years right??

For now I think I’m going to settle for the boring option and organise a new Oyster card in the hope that Father Christmas brings me an Apple Watch or a new coat!

Here is the link to Hazel’s blog about the coat, I certainly feel there will be a lot more of these options available in the coming year as the wearable tech market hots up.

Thanks for reading my blog, I’ll update you all again early next year on my progress to overcome this first world problem I face of transport tech choice!