The Ques­tion

Is cash so last year?

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW - KEVIN COURT­NEY

Credit and debit cards are handy for avoid­ing hav­ing to han­dle filthy lu­cre. But we of­ten still have to do fid­dly stuff like in­sert­ing cards into ma­chines and key­ing in num­bers.

If you dis­like hud­dling pro­tec­tively over the key­pad when mak­ing a pay­ment, there was good news this week: con­tact­less pay­ments are fi­nally tak­ing off in Ire­land.

Bank of Ire­land has an­nounced that con­tact­less pay­ments by their cus­tomers rose 140 per cent year on year, with 4.25 mil­lion con­tact­less pay­ments in Fe­bru­ary, up from 1.7 mil­lion a year ear­lier.

The bank has given it­self a big tap on the back, but is it re­ally ahead of the con­tact­less curve? Hardly. When it comes to pay­ment meth­ods, they may as well be in the age of grain bar­ter­ing, be­cause con­tact­less tech­nol­ogy has al­ready surged ahead into smart­phones and smart­watches.

When An­droid Pay was in­tro­duced in De­cem­ber 2016, al­low­ing shop­pers to pay for goods and ser­vices by tap­ping their mo­bile phone in­stead of a debit card, AIB and KBC were quick to of­fer this new pay­ment method to their cus­tomers. Ul­ster Bank fol­lowed soon af­ter.

An­droid Pay is more se­cure than debit cards, as the cus­tomer doesn’t have to give their card num­ber to the ven­dor – the pay­ment in­for­ma­tion is en­crypted and con­stantly mon­i­tored for mal­ware and fraud. Be­cause of the added lev­els of se­cu­rity, users are not re­stricted to pay­ments be­low ¤30. Last month, Ap­ple Pay ar­rived in Ire­land, and was swiftly taken up by Ul­ster Bank and KBC. Ap­ple Pay works on the same prin­ci­ple as An­droid Pay, but with a choice of us­ing a code or fin­ger­print recog­ni­tion. Just tap your iPhone on any con­tact­less ter­mi­nal to make pur­chases.

Sam­sung Pay is ex­pected to roll out in the UK dur­ing the sum­mer, and in Ire­land shortly af­ter. Sam­sung hopes it will fuel sales of the com­pany’s smart­watches, as cus­tomers will just have to wave their wrists over a card reader.

Mo­bile prox­im­ity tech­nol­ogy needs both the sup­port of fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and cus­tomer adop­tion for it to take off, and many of its providers feel it is still mov­ing at a snail’s pace. Per­haps we aren’t quite ready to let go of our dog-eared debit cards – and we’re still keep­ing a few bob tucked away in the mat­tress, just in case.

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