I have been a long-time critic of electronic money. We’ve been hearing about how we’ll all be ditching our banknotes and coins within “the next two years” since 1998. Similarly, we’ve had a regulatory response to the subject which has been particularly inadequate, as it was drafted with specific technologies in mind, while the market has moved towards account-based systems such as PayPal.
Now UK banks have charted the roll-out of a payment system to be included in new debit and credit cards that will allow electronic payment for amounts under ten pounds. The new system is a “contact-less” or swipe-through system similar to that used by London Transport in their Oyster Card scheme. An RFID system will be placed in the cards, which can make payment as easy as flashing out your card. The scheme has been piloted here in Edinburgh, in 11 shops surrounding the Royal Bank of Scotland. The scheme will then be tested in London, and then, as film villains like to say, the world (cue maniacal laughter).
I must admit that this seems like the real deal. It will be convenient, and it is set to reduce the cost of handling cash for businesses, so there is a strong incentive for adoption by intermediaries. It’s also added to existing payment systems, so there will be no need to get extra cards to our already bulging wallets.
This feels strangely un-climactic. I cannot be curmudgeonly about new technologies! I must be losing my edge.