MasterCard Tests Contactless Card Program

PayPass program lets users wave their cards and pay for goods and services, cutting purchase time.
MasterCard International Inc. is in the second week of a regional test of its new "contactless" card payment program, PayPass, which works much like the SpeedPass program used at some gas stations. To use PayPass, which has an embedded chip and antenna, consumers tap or wave their payment cards on a specially equipped merchant terminal that then transmits payment details wirelessly, eliminating the need to swipe the card through a reader. However, the cards still carry a magnetic strip so customers can use them at places that don't have the wireless readers.

MasterCard is running trials in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with financial institutions such as Chase, Citibank, and MBNA, and merchants such as Boaters' World, Chevron, City of Orlando Parking, Friendly's, Loews Universal Cineplex, Ritz, and Wolf Camera. Fast-food restaurants and additional retailers will be added in January.

The Orlando trial is testing the operational reliability, interoperability, and cardholder and merchant experiences of PayPass. Yet MasterCard officials say they already know what will happen, thanks to a recent employee test at the company's Purchase, N.Y., headquarters. The test showed that purchase transaction time using the PayPass was reduced by as much as 64%. In addition, the average transaction amount increased by 10% when using a payment card in lieu of cash, says MasterCard, which should inspire retailers to jump on board with the program. Chase, Citibank, and MBNA will reissue cards that feature the enhanced payment technology to a sampling of their Orlando-area cardholders. Plans are already in the works to broaden the program nationally, assuming the pilot is successful.

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