We have seen the contactless functionality pop up in many stores over the last few years. You have probably seen the popular commercial where people are walking in an efficient circle, taping their card onto a contactless device, until one guy pulls out cash and the whole line comes to a screeching halt. Contactless payment systems are credit cards that have a device using a Radio Frequency Identifier (RFID) to make a secure payment. The consumer is able to wave their card over a reader at the consumer location to make their purchase. There is typically no signature required for purchases under $25.00.
Although many large retail chains such as Regal Cinemas and McDonalds have the technology available, the process has been put under a great deal of scrutiny because it is said to be more susceptible to identity theft and other types of fraudulent activity. The devices are easily hacked using a wireless frequency. Regardless of the security risks, all the major credit card companies were ready to get their piece of the action. In July of 2005, AMEX launched ExpressPay, which was quickly ditched because of a lack of response by consumers. The Discover Network released its Zip technology, Visa Inc released payWave, and MasterCard has PayPass.
In 1730, the first advertisement for credit was placed allowing furniture to be purchased over time. Almost 200 years later, Western Union issued a metal plate to their employees instead of a paycheck. Of course this card was only good in company owned stores. It was not until the 1950s that Bank of America issued the first revolving credit card.
Technology in the payment card industry has grown tremendously in just the last 5 years. Merchants are able to accept payment using any java enabled cell phone, and can even turn their laptop into a credit card terminal. But the best is yet to come.