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Forget your phone, Visa just put a ring on mobile payments

Anyone who has watched TV or an Apple or Google keynote event within the past year knows that paying for things with anything but your credit card is all the rage. Visa, not to be left out being a leader in all things money, is experimenting with a new device.

Meet the Visa payment ring. Set to launch at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil for the firm’s 45 athletes repping Team Visa, a prototype of the device was shown off at an event in New York City.

You’ve seen something – seemingly thinner and lighter, at that – like this before in the Kerv ring earlier this year. However, Visa does have a first to tout with its own payment ring: tokenization.

Ringing in payments for Rio

Using its Visa Token service, which replaces the attached card’s sensitive payment information with a unique digital identifier, the ring can be used to process payments without exposing any account details in the transaction. And, the process is stupid easy.

When an NFC-ready payment terminal is prepared to accept a card, just make a fist and gently “fist bump” the terminal. Your payment is accepted automatically from there, as if you had just swiped your card.

However, save for a secure microchip made by Gemalto and a tiny, NFC-enabled antenna, there’s nothing else inside this waterproof ring (to a depth of 50 meters) designed by McLear & Co. That means there’s no need to charge this device, as any payment terminal picks up the hard work once it reads Visa’s unique token from the ring’s otherwise dormant microchip.

All said, there are two catches when it comes to Visa’s payment ring. First, it’s a tied to a prepaid, contactless debit card (seen above) supplied by Visa. Athletes will have to load up their card – err, ring – with cash via an online portal before gently punching the nearest point of sale.

Second is that I was told several times by several Visa representatives that this is very much a test for Visa. (I was also told that the ring will be shaved down a bit before the big event.) Should things go well down in Rio, the firm will consider a wider release of the device.

Once the ring gets the Olympian seal of approval, perhaps we’ll see an official Visa Payment Ring tied straight to our debit cards. Honestly, I just want an excuse to coin the term “Punch Payments.”


Osborne, J. (2016) Forget your phone, visa just put a ring on mobile payments. Available at: (Accessed: 1 July 2016).
In-text citations:

  • (Osborne, 2016)

Sweden leads the race to become cashless society

In 1661, Stockholms Banco, the precursor to the Swedish central bank, issued Europe’s first banknotes, on thick watermarked paper bearing the bank’s seal and eight handwritten signatures.

Last year – as Britain did last week – Sweden launched a new series of notes, cheery affairs featuring 20th-century Swedish cultural giants such as Astrid Lindgren, the creator of Pippi Longstocking, Greta Garbo and filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. But like its Nordic neighbours Norway, Denmark and Finland, Sweden is fast becoming an almost entirely cashless society.

“I don’t use cash any more, for anything,” said Louise Henriksson, 26, a teaching assistant. “You just don’t need it. Shops don’t want it; lots of banks don’t even have it. Even for a candy bar or a paper, you use a card or phone.”

Swedish buses have not taken cash for years, it is impossible to buy a ticket on the Stockholm metro with cash, retailers are legally entitled to refuse coins and notes, and street vendors – and even churches – increasingly prefer card or phone payments.

According to central bank the Riksbank, cash transactions made up barely 2% of the value of all payments made in Sweden last year – a figure some see dropping to 0.5% by 2020. In shops, cash is now used for barely 20% of transactions, half the number five years ago, and way below the global average of 75%.

And astonishingly, about 900 of Sweden’s 1,600 bank branches no longer keep cash on hand or take cash deposits – and many, especially in rural areas, no longer have ATMs. Circulation of Swedish krona has fallen from around 106bn in 2009 to 80bn last year.

“I think, in practice, Sweden will pretty much be a cashless society within about five years,” said Niklas Arvidsson, an associate professor specialising in payment systems innovation at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH).

A shopping mall in Stockholm. Cash is used for only about a fifth of all transactions in shops. Photograph: Frank Chmura/Alamy

Arvidsson argues that the country’s head start in the field began in the 1960s, when banks persuaded employers and workers to use digital bank transfers for wages as a matter of course, with credit and debit cards receiving a boost in the 1990s when Sweden’s banks started charging for cheques.

Cards are now the main form of payment: according to Visa, Swedes use them more than three times as often as the average European, making an average of 207 payments per card in 2015.

More recently, mobile phone apps have also taken off in spectacular fashion. Swish, a hugely popular app developed jointly with the major banks including Nordea, Handelsbanken, SEB, Danske Bank and Swedbank, uses phone numbers to allow anyone with a smartphone to transfer money from one bank account to another in real time.

“Swish has pretty much killed cash for most people, as far as person-to-person payments are concerned,” said Arvidsson. “It has the same features as a cash payment – real-time clearing, the same as handing over a banknote. And it’s now making inroads into payments to businesses, too.”

Adopted by nearly half the Swedish population, Swish is now used to make more than 9 million payments a month. (A similar Danish app, MobilePay, was used by over 3 million Danes – in a country of 5.6 million – to make some 90 million transactions last year.)

Street salesmen, from hotdog vendors to homeless magazine sellers, have enthusiastically adopted iZettle, a cheap and easy Swedish system designed to allow sole traders and small businesses take card payments via an app and mini card-reader plugged into their phones, with many reporting sales increases of up to 30%.

Even Swedish churches have adapted, displaying their phone numbers at the end of each service and asking parishioners to use Swish to drop their contribution into the virtual Sunday collection. One Stockholm church said last year only 15% of its donations were in cash; the remainder were all by phone.

There are, obviously, concerns: cases of electronic fraud have more than doubled in the past decade and several critics – including the inventor of iZettle, Jacob de Greer – have asked whether an entirely electronic system in which every single payment is recorded is not a threat to privacy.

Old people’s organisations also fear that those who prefer cash, out of a reluctance to use new technology or simply because they find it easier to keep track of their spending, will be disadvantaged, while educators worry that young people will be tempted to spend money they do not have.

For these and other social reasons, Arvidsson said, cash is not dead quite yet. “Even if, in the next few years, Swedes use almost no cash at all, going 100% cashless needs a political decision,” he said.“The idea of cash, even in Sweden, remains very strong.”


Henley, J. (2016) Sweden leads the race to become cashless society. Available at: (Accessed: 17 June 2016).

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MasterCard – The UK Really Loves Contactless Payments

Number of contactless cards in the UK increases 188 percent in 2015 as payments increase 375 percent

The UK is leading the way when it comes to adopting contactless payments, according to new figures from MasterCard which show a huge rise in using the technology.

The amount spent using contactless transactions in the country increased by 375 percent during 2015, compared to the previous year, as the total European figure topped one billion contactless transactions for the first time.

Overall, the number of contactless MasterCard debit and credit cards in the UK increased 188 percent during 2015, the company said, as users became more and more comfortable using their contactless cards.


However it seems that the UK is hardly a nation of big spenders when it comes to contactless, as MasterCard discovered that the average size of a contactless transaction was just £8.80.

Outside of retail, transport and travel appear to be the most popular uses for contactless, particularly in London, where the TfL network has been leading the way for the technology.

Recent figures from Visa Europe found that contactless now represents 25 percent of all pay-as-you-go payment transactions made on the TfL network, helping to support calls for a nationwide expansion of contactless payment services across the UK’s travel network.

MasterCard has also been helping encourage this usage by offering free TfL travel to users equipped with Apple Pay on several days in a bid to popularise the technology.

“The rise of contactless usage and acceptance is certainly encouraging, but so are the opportunities for retailers to capitalise on this trend,” said Scott Abrahams, group head of acceptance and emerging payments at MasterCard UK and Ireland.
“New research shows that in the UK, 59 percent of daily purchases are below £20, and therefore typically within the contactless limit. With the majority of transactions falling within the contactless price band, retailers are in the ideal position to take action and reap the benefits with so many consumers embracing this technology.”

Moore, M. (2016) MasterCard – the UK really loves Contactless payments. Available at: (Accessed: 16 June 2016).

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Contactless cards went mainstream in 2015, UK Cards report shows

More consumers chose to pay with contactless cards last year than ever before, as the way of paying embedded itself firmly into everyday spending, figures from a new report show.

During 2015, contactless cards became the way to pay for millions of consumers who value the method’s speed and flexibility, The UK Cards Association’s report UK Card Payments 2016 shows.

In 2015, £7.75 billion was spent using contactless cards, compared to £2.32 billion in 2014, reflecting the increase in the payment limit to £30 and the growth of contactless transport ticketing. The growth in spend increased more than the growth in the number of contactless cards, with 49 per cent of the cards in issue having contactless functionality by December 2015, The UK Cards Association, which represents banks andcards issuers, says.

Transport operators and local authorities across the country are now seeking to emulate London’s experience of accepting contactless cards as a method of paying for travel, while charities are also working on contactlessgiving initiatives.

Consumers began to make card payments without their physical cards, as devices such as enabled smartphones and smartwatches allowed contactless payments.

Meanwhile, similar innovation within retail saw an increasing number of businesses begin to use mobile point-of-sale devices, giving them scope to adapt the way they serve customers and accept payments.

As of 2015 there are more than one million businesses accepting card payments, reflecting both retailers’ increasing recognition of the benefit of accepting card payments and the demand for flexibility and convenience from consumers.

As a result, consumers can now choose to use their cards at any of 1.2 million individual outlets in the UK.

In total, consumers spent £660 billion on debit and credit card purchases in 2015, an increase of 10 per cent from 2014, the publication shows.

Graham Peacop, Chief Executive of The UK Cards Association, said:

“With the amount spent using contactless cards almost trebling between 2014 and 2015 and the payment limit increasing to £30, it is clear 2015 was the year contactless went mainstream. Whether buying a sandwich on the go, or paying for a round of drinks or a tube journey, contactless has become the default way people choose to pay for every day shopping.

“A wide range of retailers are moving away from simply offering a traditional high street experience to embrace e-commerce and innovative ways of taking payments. At the same time, consumers are increasingly using their cards, and especially their contactless cards, for smaller and smaller purchases. With such convenience and flexibility, payment cards will continue to play a central role in the future.”

Card spending online was up 20 per cent, to £210 billion from £175 billion in 2014. By the end of 2015 half of online spending took place on tablets and smartphones, up from 37 per cent in 2014.

It means almost a third of card spending now takes place via the internet.

Supermarkets were the most popular destination for shoppers, which saw spending of £102 billion, equivalent to one in every seven pounds spent on cards. The average supermarket shop on a card is now £24.55, down from £26.11 in 2014, reflecting changing habits which sees consumers shopping little and often, and the migration of low-value purchases from cash to card.

Food and drink was the most common category for card payments, representing a third of all card purchases. The entertainment sector accounted for 15 per cent of purchases and saw a 20 per cent growth in the number of payments, with 26 per cent more card payments in restaurants.

UK Card Payments 2016 predicts debit cards will be used for 21 billion payments in the UK, worth £856 billion, by 2025. The next generation of account holders are expected to be a major factor in the predicted growth ofcard payments, with younger people more likely to embrace new technologies such as contactless cards and mobile payments, and to contribute to the growth of e-commerce.


Notes to editors:

  1. In 2015, £660,406 million was spent on payment cards in the UK, compared to £602,337 million in 2014 (a 9.6 per cent increase).
  2. There were 175 million cards in issue: 98.8 million debit cards, 59.0 million creditcards; 5.7 million charge cards and 12.2 million ATM-only cards.
  3. One million businesses in the UK accept payment cards through UK merchantacquirers, compared to 0.9 million in 2014. These businesses have 1.2 million outlets in the UK. Merchants are businesses, retailers and other organisations including the public sector.
  4. The average transaction value for all card payments at UK businesses continued to decline and reached £45.42, after falling by £2.06 during 2015.
  5. The food and drink sub-sector continued to dominate as the most popular category forcard payments recording growth of 7.7 per cent to 4.5 billion purchases and represented 34 per cent of all card purchases. The corresponding value accounted for 18 per cent of total card spending after growing by 0.8 per cent to £110 billion, likely subdued by a fall in grocery prices in 2015.
  6. In 2015, 84 per cent of all card transactions were purchases, with 16 per cent being cash withdrawals. By comparison, in 2005 70 per cent of all card transactions were purchases, with 30 per cent cash withdrawals.
  7. Total card payment volumes in the UK are forecast to increase from 13 billion in 2015 to 21 billion in 2025. The value of card payments in 2015 was £596 billion and is forecast to increase to £856 billion in 2025.
  8. By 2025 the volume of debit card purchases in the UK is forecast to surpass 17 billion, up by 70 per cent on 2015. The total value of debit card purchases in 2025 is expected to reach £672 billion.
  9. Online spending now represents 32 per cent of all card payments.
  10. Payments UK forecasts that in 2025 credit, debit and charge cards will account for more than half of all payments made (50.2 per cent), driven in large part by the increasing popularity of contactless.

News (2010) Available at: (Accessed: 15 June 2016).

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iZettle’s boss is on a mission to kill cash

iZettle’s black card terminals are letting Shoreditch coffee houses and sole traders ditch cash.

“Getting rid of hardware, I think that’s the future of payments.”

That’s a bold claim, especially from a man whose business has, until recently, revolved around building the card readers favoured by quirky cafes and sole traders.

Jacob de Geer co-founded iZettle in Stockholm in 2010, at a time when card payments were exploding in popularity across Europe.

As we increasingly moved away from cash to card, small shops and retailers struggled to take card payments without signing long onerous contracts or paying huge fees to banks and payments companies more interested in serving large supermarkets.

“What we saw is that the need for taking cards was enormous, but what we realised is that many of the smaller merchants were reluctant to adopt this new technology, whether that was from a fear of the upfront costs or overheads on their business,” de Geer told The Memo.

Today if you’ve been into an independent coffee shop, bike store or had a handyman come out to your house, chances are you might have been handed one of iZettle’s card reader devices to pay with.

That’s because iZettle doesn’t charge monthly subscription fees or set-up costs for these small retailers to take card payments, it’s just a free (or cheap) iZettle terminal and then a small transaction fee.

A contactless country

It’s not just quirky coffee shops, in the UK with London’s black cabs being ordered to start accepting card payments by October, many cabbies are looking at iZettle as the quickest, easiest way to achieve this.

iZettle has even put together a TfL-approved contactless card payment bundle for drivers to take card payments.

De Geer says the UK is by far iZettle’s fastest-growing market, outstripping even the company’s home market.

“The UK is even more advanced than Sweden, especially when it comes to contactless. Still in Sweden you can’t find contactless cards being issued by banks.”

Indeed Brits have swarmed to using contactless. In March we spent a combined £1.5bn with contactless, an all-time record, just four months after we passed the previous monthly record of £1bn with contactless.

De Geer says Britain has now reached a contactless “inflection point” where the sheer momentum of contactless cards and shops accepting contactless are rapidly accelerating, part of the reason iZettle has grown so quickly in the UK.

But building new card readers and hardware isn’t de Geer’s ultimate goal, iZettle is on a mission to move beyond payments.

“Getting rid of hardware, I think that’s the future of payments.”

iZettle lets small businesses take card payments across 12 countries.

iZettle lets small businesses take card payments across 12 countries.

The next lenders

Last year de Geer raised €60m in funding and announced an expansion of iZettle to include cash advances for its customers.

Now your favourite small coffee shop can borrow against its sales history and use the money to invest in higher quality coffee beans, hiring new baristas or even a opening a new store.

Since the financial crisis it’s this kind of borrowing that traditional banks have been reluctant to offer, leaving these small companies and sole traders in difficulty, now a host of new lenders are springing up to serve this market.

If small businesses borrowing against their sales history sounds familiar, it could be because PayPal, Amazon and Square (iZettle’s US rival) all began offering similar services over the past year.

But that’s not something that worries de Geer.

“There will be plenty of players in this space, SMEs have been painfully underserved.”

“I think we have one of the strongest merchant acquiring machines going in the offline space [with iZettle’s payment terminals attracting new retailers who might go on to borrow from iZettle], we’re much stronger than PayPal,” he says.

Still, PayPal and Amazon have both had long head-starts in lending to small businesses, and neither has claimed to have seen much success in the space.

Today de Geer is confident iZettle can do better.


IZettle’s boss is on a mission to kill cash (2016) Available at: (Accessed: 10 June 2016).

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Mobile contactless payments set for accelerated growth in UK

One in 20 people are already making mobile payments once a week or more.

A quarter (25%) of British consumers plan to make a contactless payment with their smartphone over the next 12 months, according to a research by MasterCard.

At present, one in 20 people are already making mobile payments once a week, or more. The research found that the majority of people (65%) are worried what would happen if their device falls into someone else’s hands.

MasterCard UK & Ireland digital payments head Elliott Goldenberg said: “We have built the secure foundations for these payments across our network.

“You can load your MasterCard onto your device through Android Pay, confident in the knowledge that it gives you all the benefits and consumer protection of a card transaction. Our research shows that one in three people intend to link to their credit card for that reason.”

One of the key differences between contactless and mobile payment is that mobile enables for purchases in excess of £30 with the help of verification methods like tokens. They make sure that user’s card’s details are not passed on to the retailer.

Goldenberg said: “As consumers increasingly recognise these benefits, mobile payments will begin to see the kind of growth that contactless has had over the last two years.”

MasterCard Digital Enablement Service (MDES) helps transform any connected device into a commerce device to make and receive payments.

In setting up a device for Android Pay, MasterCard will create a digital token, which differs from the user’s credit card number.

It will be stored on a secure server, and cannot transact through any other device. When a consumer wants to buy something, it is the token that gets provided, not the actual card number.

The new feature is available in several banks, including Bank of Scotland, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, MBNA and M&S Bank.

MasterCard said it continues to work with other UK banks to allow more consumers to take advantage of the new payments innovation.

Earlier this year, research from TNS revealed that people in London are seting the adoption pace when it comes to managing their finances using a smartphone.

The research found that 60% of Londoners use mobile devices to manage their accounts, the largest proportion of any region.


Writer, A.C.S. (2016) Mobile contactless payments set for accelerated growth in UK. Available at: (Accessed: 9 June 2016).

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Worldpay: SMBs Must Adopt New Payment Methods Or Face Extinction

Reluctance to introduce new systems could see up to 60,00 British small businesses could face the chop as consumers ditch cash for cards.

Britain’s small business are being put at risk by failing to introduce digital, consumer friendly-payment methods, new research from WorldPay has claimed.

As many as 60,000 UK SMBs could face losing valuable custom by not supporting any form of card payments, including contactless, or digital or mobile services such as Apple Pay or Android Pay.

This is the equivalent of one in ten of the country’s small and independent retailers, with a further 10 percent imposing a lower limit on non-cash payments.

Pay up


A number of studies recently have found that consumer attitudes to payment methods are changing rapidly, as more and more shoppers choose to pay by card rather than carrying around large amounts of cash.

A recent report from industry body The Payments Association predicted that card payments will overtake cash transactions by 2021, with the latter being used for just over one in four (27 percent) of payments by 2025.

Worldpay found that nearly two-thirds (60 percent) of 24-34 year olds say they would prefer not to have to carry cash, as a quarter of UK consumers claim they’ve started avoiding shops that don’t take cards, while a third (30 percent) say they only use cash if absolutely necessary.

Businesses are also failing to get the technology in place to expand online, with the research finding that just 20 percent of SMBs allow shoppers to order and pay for goods online as well as in-store.

“For today’s digitally driven shoppers, cash has become a relic,” noted Dave Hobday, WorldPay’s UK managing director. “It’s easy to see why that’s the case, as innovations like contactless and mobile payments continue to raise the bar in terms of speed, simplicity and convenience. For consumers, being able to pay by which ever method they choose is a minimum requirement of what it means to be a modern retailer.”

“Consumers take for granted the ability to flit between in-store and online channels – and they expect retailers to provide the same flexibility, regardless of their size.”


Moore, M. (2016) Worldpay: SMBs must adopt new payment methods or face extinction. Available at: (Accessed: 7 June 2016).

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A last hurrah for banknotes as UK switches to mobile and card payment

With the launch of the new plastic fiver, Patrick Collinson looks at changing payment methods and asks if Britain is ready to become a cashless society.

Winston Churchill gazes out from one side of the new £5 plastic note, the Queen from the other. But the chances of Prince William appearing on a banknote are looking slim. More than 300 years after the first Bank of England banknotes appeared, the new plastic ones could perhaps be the last.

Stop a young adult on a British high street and you will find that one in eight has not a penny in cash on them. Even the ones who do are likely to have no more than £20. For them, the cashless society is not tomorrow’s world, but today’s: a contactless card flashed to enter the tube; a smartphone tapped at Pret for a lunchtime sandwich; another card waved at a Tesco Express on the way home; the cab journey back from the pub processed by Uber.

Who needs banknotes? According to a survey by payments company Worldpay, six out of 10 young adults would prefer not to use cash at all.

When Transport for London banned cash on the buses in mid-2014, it was greeted with a backlash from some quarters; “passenger fury” said one headline, “ban hits the vulnerable” was another. Yet, two years on, behaviour has adjusted. TfL says it has saved £24m in cash-handling costs, and queues have improved.

The cashless society has been long mooted, but only now is it arriving. A 1996trial in Swindon to encourage the town’s 150,000-plus people to use “electronic purses” flopped through lack of interest. But contactless cards – there are now more than 36m in Britain’s wallets – and more recently Apple Pay and Android Pay, have dramatically accelerated the switch away from cash.

Crucially, it has been the readiness of big retailers to accept “tap-and-go” technology for small-value items, with Tesco and TfL at the forefront, that has spurred the revolution. Monthly spending on contactless cards is now running at around £1.5bn, or three times the level of just a year ago.

Technology experts see contactless payment as just a stepping stone to the cashless society, with smartphones becoming the main way to pay. Since the launch of Apple Pay in July last year, 8 million journeys on London Underground have been paid for by iPhone users tapping their handset at entry and exit points. Meanwhile, Google’s rival, Android Pay, was launched last month. Unlike contactless cards, where spending is capped at £30, Apple and Android users can spend more freely, although they may have to authenticate with a Pin or fingerprint.

Traditional Pin-entry debit spending is fast being dumped by the public in favour of tap-and-go. A Pret a Manger source says: “Sixty five per cent of all card transactions at Pret are made using contactless technology,” adding that it has a £250 limit for Android Pay, although that would pay for rather a lot of dolphin-friendly tuna baguettes.

“Smartphones are the final nail in the coffin for cash,” says Dave Birch, director of innovation at Consult Hyperion, which helped TfL launch contactless payments. “We all thought it was going to be cards, but it’s going to be phones that do for cash. With a mobile phone you can both pay and be paid – using Pingit and Paym. And, if you look at Uber, it’s not about tap and go, it all happens within your phone. Tapping is a bit of a sideshow. I’m not convinced that in a decade we’ll be tapping, anyway; we call it moving from ‘checkout’ to ‘check-in’. Your Waitrose app on your phone will know who you are as soon as you walk in the store, and you’ll use your fingerprint to buy as you go around.”

Worldpay, which handles 42% of payment processing in the UK, says the next more immediate step to cashlessness will be convincing every small independent shop and trader in the country to adopt contactless terminals. They don’t come free; a newsagent has to pay around £20 a month to rent a terminal, or upwards of £300-£500 to buy one, and more for software updates. The card companies will also take their cut, often 1% of every transaction.

Apple Pay has accelerated take-up of contactless payment technology. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

But Worldpay UK’s marketing director, James Frost, who is behind the company’s “high street to i-street” project, reckons take-up will be swift. “People forget there is a cost to businesses from using cash; you have to pay for security, insurance, making regular trips to the banks. Then there’s that thing euphemistically called ‘shrinkage’ – when money goes missing. You don’t have those sorts of headaches with contactless.”

He predicts that conventional cash tills, with their drawers for notes and coins and mini-printers for receipts, will soon disappear from shops, replaced by tablet-based terminals linked to contactless readers, with e-receipts sent to phones.

Around one in 10 small shops still refuse card payments for small purchases, usually below £5, but are expected to come in line as they are deserted by younger shoppers only prepared to use their phones.

Cashless enthusiasts argue the black economy will be hugely diminished, and tax evasion made far more difficult – though privacy campaigners worry about the harvesting of huge amounts of new data. Bond fund supremo Jim Leaviss – in charge of M&G’s £40bn in retail fixed-interest assets – reckons the move to a cashless society could even help end boom and bust in the economy.

Outside London’s South Kensington station stands an unlikely early adopter of the cashless revolution – Big Issue seller Simon Mott. Three years ago, he got an iZettle account to take card payments. Now he accepts Apple Pay and Android Pay.

Charities whose rattling boxes are falling silent as cashless pedestrians pass by are among those most urgently trying to find new ways to obtain donations.

Will cash machines on British high streets become as redundant as red phone boxes, a relic of yesterday’s technology? Peter McNamara, chief executive of NoteMachine, which runs 9,000 ATMs across Britain and Germany, might be expected to refute that, but he makes a good point: On the 2 May bank holiday in the UK, more cash was withdrawn from ATMs in Britain than at any other time in history – £1.72bn on the day, and 7% more than the same bank holiday the year before.

The death of cash has been exaggerated, he says. “Consumers still need and use cash – more so than ever before. The reason cash continues to prevail is because it gives us freedom. It will not be rejected by a third party, it is reliable and it enables us all to manage our personal finances with ease.

“There is a real danger that the UK is being railroaded towards a cashless society, with the agenda driven hard by technology giants and card issuers who are keen to capitalise on the digital age – yet the evidence to support this suggests hype rather than reality.”

A major milestone on the path to a cashless society was passed in 2015, the first year that consumers used cash for less than half of all payments, according to Payments UK, which represents the major banks, building societies and payment providers. But perhaps mindful of the outcry that greeted an early plan to ban cheques, Payments UK has no plans to follow Nordic countries down the path of banning cash. It predicts that cash usage will not be eclipsed by debit cards and contactless until 2021.

Meanwhile, even those who have declared war on cash warn about the losers. Birch says: “There’s a class issue here. A lot of middle-class people already go from one day to the next without using cash. About the only time they use lots of cash is to pay a builder to avoid VAT. Poorer people are far more trapped in cash and the costs that go with it. They are the ones withdrawing £10 from a machine and paying £1.50 for it. We don’t, as yet, have an equivalent to M-Pesa in Kenya, a mobile account for everyone.”

So it’s Kenya, not Scandinavia, that may have the key to a cashless future. Just remember to keep your phone charged; in future, your journey to work, lunch and popping into the shops will be at the mercy of your battery.


The Royal Mint produces coins for dozens of other countries. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

These days we think of cash as a means of putting food on the table, but there was a time when currency could have been used to eat it too.

Around 3,000 years ago, Chinese societies used small metal replicas of tools, such as knives and spades, as currency.

As time went on and people grew tired of skewering their hands every time they reached into their pocket to settle a bill, the metal currency became round and flat – the origin of today’s coinage.

It wasn’t until around 600BC in Lydia, in modern-day Turkey, that the first coins were minted en masse and stamped to denote different denominations.

The practice spread into Europe and today’s de facto global currency, the US dollar, has its roots in the “thaler”, a silver coin dating back to the mid-15th century. The name comes from the town of Joachimsthal in Bohemia, where silver mines were used to produce coins originally known as “Joachimsthaler”.

We also have China to thank for the advent of paper money, first used in the Tang dynasty, which lasted from AD618 to AD907.

The bills mostly took the form of letters of credit linked to specific transactions, but were a precursor to modern paper notes.

It took Europe about another 500 years to catch on, but lenders and banks eventually started issuing notes that could be taken to a branch and exchanged for silver and gold.

A shift towards governments printing their own bills gathered pace with the colonisation of North America. The long transatlantic journeys meant that colonists often ran out of cash, so paper IOUs became usable as currency, issued to soldiers and then spreading through the economy.

Many governments still don’t print their own money or mint their own coins, instead paying other countries and private companies – such as Basingstoke-based De La Rue – to do it for them.

Britain’s Royal Mint produces coins on behalf of dozens of other countries’ governments. However, it does not disclose the identities of these governments for fear that their decision to outsource money-printing will cause embarrassment back home.

Collinson, P. (2016) A last hurrah for banknotes as UK switches to mobile and card payment. Available at: (Accessed: 6 June 2016).

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Charities encouraged to embrace mobile payments

Charities are being urged to adopt contactless payment technology as its usage in the UK continues to grow.

Research from MasterCard has found that one in 20 people are using contactless technology via their smartphone, wearable or enabled payments card once a week or more.

And overall, one-quarter of British consumers said that they intend to use their mobile to make contactless payments in the next 12 months.

Android Pay

Following the launch of Android Pay in the UK, the card payment firm is predicting a rise in the adoption of mobile contactless technology in the UK, opening up the huge customer base that owns a device running on Google’s mobile operating system.

MasterCard points to the security and higher payment potential of mobile payments as key drivers of the increased uptake.

Elliott Goldenberg, head of digital payments, MasterCard UK & Ireland said: “Mobile phones offer people the means to make contactless payments over £30 because the user can be verified, for example by means of their fingerprint.

“The other key difference is the use of digital tokens – in short, your card details aren’t passed onto the retailer because they are not stored on the phone in the first place. As consumers increasingly recognise these benefits, mobile payments will begin to see the kind of growth that contactless has had over the last two years.”


Clark, A. (2016) Charities encouraged to embrace mobile payments. Available at: (Accessed: 2 June 2016).

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UK contactless transactions hit 60 per second

More than 60 contactless transactions took place every second across the UK during the month of February, The UK Cards Association reveals.

In total, there were 159.1m contactless transactions, with the average payment sitting at £8.28. “With more than 60 transactions taking place a second, it is clear contactless card payments are becoming ever more popular,” says the organisation’s head of policy Richard Koch.


Boden, R. (2016) UK contactless transactions hit 60 per second • NFC World+. Available at: (Accessed: 26 May 2016).

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Contactless payments in the UK have soared to £1.5 billion a month

People in Britain spent £1.5 billion tapping their bank cards and smartphones against payment terminals in March, breaking all previous records.

The UK Cards Association released the figures on Thursday, highlighting that the milestone comes just four months after contactless spending hit £1 billion, in November 2015.

Spending via contactless has trebled since this time last year, indicating the new payment method is being rapidly adopted across the nation.

The rise in contactless payments has been fuelled by an increasing willingness among cafes, restaurants, shops, and transportation organisations to adopt the new payment method. One of the first major organisations to start accepting contactless payments was Transport for London.

The rise has also been fuelled by a number of mobile payment services including ApplePay, which allows people to store a digital version of their bank cards on their iPhone and pay for things by tapping their device against a card reader, and iZettle, which allows traders to take payments with an app that connects to a card reader. Google launched its own mobile payment service in the UK this week.

Richard Koch, head of policy at the UK Cards Association, said: “It took almost eight years for monthly contactless spending to reach half a billion pounds — now it’s grown by the same amount in just four months. This dramatic rise shows that paying with contactless is now second nature for millions of consumers who see it as an alternative to cash.

“Contactless cards are already being used to pay for travel and to donate to charity and as the technology evolves, we will see even more environments where contactless will enable fast, easy and secure payments.”

Overall, total payment card spending for March (including chip and pin and swipe) came in at £51.9 billion, with 1.18 billion transactions in the month.

A total of 179.6 million contactless purchases were made during the month, equivalent to 67 every second. The FT reports that approximately 86.5 million cards in the UK have contactless technology, less than half the total in circulation.

The payment body’s report said one in seven card transactions in the UK are now contactless, compared to one in 16 a year ago.


Shead, S. (2016) Contactless payments in the UK have soared to £1.5 billion a month. Available at: (Accessed: 23 May 2016).

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Fitbit acquires “wearable payment assets” from startup Coin

Fitbit devices are known for being easy-to-use, fitness-first products, but now the company that makes them may be planning to tack on extra features. Fitbit released a statement today announcing that it has acquired “wearable payment assets” from the Silicon Valley company Coin.

According to the statement, Fitbit gains “key personnel and intellectual property” from Coin’s wearable-payments platform in the deal. However, it excludes smart-payment products such as Coin 2.0, a singular smart card meant to replace the many credit and debit cards stuffed in your wallet. Coin’s website shows that Coin 2.0 has sold out, and Coin’s own statement about the acquisition, the company says it will no longer continue to sell its smart payment products. Existing Coin users will be able to use their devices for the duration of their “lifetime”; the card itself can last two years without any recharging.

Fitbit also says in its statement that there are no plans to integrate Coin’s mobile payment technology into any 2016 products. Fitbit recently launched the Alta fitness tracker and the Blaze smartwatch a few months ago, and while the company could launch another product or two before the year is up, it likely won’t have time to thoughtfully integrate mobile payments into any of them. The statement did say, though, that the deal “accelerates Fitbit’s ability to develop an active NFC payment solution that could be embedded into future Fitbit devices, broadening its smart capabilities.”

Considering that the Fitbit Blaze was the most smartwatch-like device Fitbit has ever released, it’s not surprising that the company wants to integrate mobile payments into future products. One of the biggest differences between standalone fitness trackers and all-purpose smartwatches is mobile payment support: the Apple Watch has Apple Pay, and Google has Android Pay for its smartphones while Android Wear users eagerly await its inclusion on their wearable devices.

Most fitness trackers can’t make mobile payments at all, and very few have partnerships that would embrace such features. Jawbone was the first big fitness tracker company to integrate mobile payments into its Up4 wristband, but that feature is in partnership with American Express, so only AmEx cardmembers can use it. Earlier this year, MasterCard and Coin announced a partnership to bring mobile payments to a bunch of fitness-related wearables, including the Atlas wristband, but there’s no word on whether that plan will continue now that Fitbit essentially owns that technology.

Neither Fitbit nor Coin disclosed the financial details of the acquisition. We reached out to Fitbit, but the company did not have any additional comment.


Palladino, V. (2016) Fitbit acquires ‘wearable payment assets’ from startup coin. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2016).

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Android Pay UK release date: Officially launched ahead of Google I/O but users have problems

Google mobile payments has been live in the US for a while, and it will hit the UK this week, with an announcement expected at Google I/O. Here’s what you need to know about Android Pay in the UK, and which banks and shops are supported.

Google mobile payments has been live in the US for a while, and it will hit the UK this week, with an announcement expected at Google I/O. Here’s what you need to know about Android Pay in the UK, and which banks and shops are supported.

Update 17 May: Google has supposedly launched Android Pay in the UK, going by the Tweet sent out via the Android account. However, users are so far unable to download the app from the Google Play store with a message stating ‘This item is not available in your country’. This is the situation at the time of writing so keep trying as things could change any minute.

It seems Google jumped the gun a bit even though it’s working for some users (at least the download). The following tweet was sent out after plenty of backlash.

Google I/O kicks off today (18 May) at 6pm in the UK. It’s here that we are most likely to get an announcement from Google regarding Android Pay in the UK.

At its I/O conference in June 2015 Google announced a series of exciting new innovations, including the latest version of its mobile operating system (Android Marshmallow),Google Photos, and Android Pay. The service replaced Google Wallet and allows Android users to pay for a variety of products and services using just their NFC equipped phones.

It’s obviously the search giant’s version of the already announced Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, the former of which has been avaialble in the UK in July 2015. So far the details of when Android Pay will finally be available in the UK are somewhat sketchy, but we will breakdown the most up to date information for you here and add any news as it appears.

Android Pay UK release date: When will the UK get Android Pay?

Google announced on 10 September 2015 that Android Pay would begin rolling out in the US the same day, but in its blog post there was no mention of the service being available anywhere other than the US.

It appears an Android Pay UK release date is very close as The Telegraph reports that the service will reach British shores in March 2016.  “Google will announce that Android Pay will be available in Britain from the end of next month, industry sources said,” claimed the report in February.

We now know that information is a bit off as Google has confirmed, via a blog post, that Android Pay will be available in the UK ‘in the next few months’.

Update 16 May: Now the Telegraph has another note on Android Pay. It appears coffee shop, Pret, put out signs on its card payment machines with the message “We now accept Android Pay…” in one of its London stores.

Since Android Pay hasn’t officially launched this seems to be a mistake but it suggests that Android Pay will launch in the UK any day now. With Google I/O happening this week we could hear from Google on the matter to settle it finally.

Android Pay UK Pret

“Android smartphones will become even more useful with the launch of Android Pay. We’re bringing together payment networks, banks and retailers to help you pay simply and securely,” said Google.

Mobile payments are seen as a potentially huge market by the main technology firms, and with Apple Pay already rolled out in the UK the battle is on between Google and Samsung for a rival. As is stands, it looks like Android Pay will launch before Samsung Pay in the UK.

Android Pay UK supported banks and cards

Google has now provided details on which cards and banks in the UK will support Android Pay.

In the same blog post as mentioned above, Google said: “Android Pay will support MasterCard and Visa credit and debit cards from many of the UK’s major financial institutions — including Bank of Scotland, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA and Nationwide Building Society — with new banks being added all the time.”

Android Pay UK banks

Those who have followed the release of Apple Pay will know that Barclays was one of the last banks to join, so it comes as little surprise to learn it will be snubbing Android Pay. The bank is going to focus on its own mobile payments service, and a new version of its mobile app will roll out with ‘Contactless Mobile’ in June.

Customers will be notified when the service is available, and will then be able to make mobile payments of up to £30 by tapping their phone on the scanner at supported outlets. Contactless Mobile will also allow payments up to £100, but customers will need to tap their phone on the terminal, enter a PIN, then tap their phone again.

Android Pay UK shops: Where can I use Android Pay in the UK?

In the UK you’ll be able to use Android Pay anywhere contactless payments are accepted, including Boots, Costa, KFC, Starbucks Waitrose and other retailers.

“Android Pay will help you speed through checkout within your favorite apps including JD Sports, Deliveroo, YPlan, and more. Say goodbye to entering your payment or address details every time you want to shop,” added Google.

You can also use Android Pay to travel around London on the Tube, buses and trains with Transport for London (TfL).

Android Pay UK shops

Google also has an Android Pay API which developers can use to enable payments in stores and apps so you can look out for the option.

Android Pay requirements: Does my phone support Android Pay?

If you’re wondering whether you can use Android Pay or not, there’s a couple of things you need to check.

Firstly, you’ll need a smartphone running Android 4.4 or above and you’ll also need an NFC chip (near field communications). This covers a large amount of Android phones but even recent devices like the OnePlus 2 don’t have an NFC chip.

It’s also worth pointing out that you don’t need a fingerprint scanner on your phone in order to use Android Pay. While it’s a more secure method of authorisation, you can still use Android Pay without one.

Why should we be excited about Android Pay?

While it isn’t exactly a huge hardship to have to produce our bank cards when we want to pay for a product, the convenience of using a smartphone is something that will quickly become apparent. At the Google I/O presentation the service was shown to be a simple case of placing your phone on a till point and unlocking it to pay.

No numbers to enter, no apps to launch, just unlocking the handset. Adding new bank cards was also a case of tapping one option, although of course the issuing bank will need to support the service for it to be this simple in real life. Due to the way the Android Pay service is built – allowing for an API that can be coded into supported apps – the service can also access loyalty card information and include it in each transaction, thus further reducing the need to carry around a purse or wallet.


Martin, C. (2016) Android pay. Available at: (Accessed: 18 May 2016).



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UK developing digital driving licence

He says it will be an “add-on” to the plastic card rather than a replacement.

Wallet already stores boarding passes and credit, debit, gift and discount cards. Payment information is encrypted end-to-end and authorised with the user’s fingerprint or passcode.

CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood said: “Security has taken a significant step forward to support digital payments on phones, so the framework is in place for other secure applications, such as a digital driving licence.

“There are not many people in the UK that do not carry a smartphone with them every day, so it is a logical next step.”

Chris Green, technology analyst at the business consultancy Lewis, said digital wallets were “a massively underrated and under-exploited resource”.

“People are getting more and more used to the technology because of e-ticketing,” he said.

“People are far more comfortable with the concept of keeping key information on their smartphone.”

Paperless passes

DeLaRue, which prints British banknotes and passports, has already said it is working on a paperless passport.

And the NHS has announced a £4bn plan to move to a “paperless” platform.

British passport

Morpho Trust, a US security company that provides driver’s licences, has been piloting a digital licence product in Iowa since August 2015.

It says it:

  • allows users to change their address, details, and whether or not they are an organ donor without visiting the state’s motor vehicle agency
  • makes it easier for residents to have their licence updated when they reach the legal drinking age of 21

And in Australia, the New South Wales government has announced the introduction of digital licences, which it says will eliminate the need for a physical card.

The first licences issued under the new system are for fishing, the purchase of alcohol, and responsible gambling.

A driver’s licence is due to be available in digital format by 2018.


BBC (2016) UK developing digital driving licence. Available at: (Accessed: 17 May 2016).

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Apple Pay vs Android Pay: What’s the difference?

Barclays beats Android Pay to UK with its own ‘wave and pay’ system

Android Pay, Google’s new mobile payments system announced at theGoogle I/O 2015 developer conference, will be making its way to smartphones later this year as part of Android Marshmallow.

Despite a leaked message (via Android Police) claiming the service, which offers a way for users to pay for goods online and in store using their mobile device, would go live in the US on 26 August, it is yet to make an appearance. Therefore expectations have once again turned to a release alongside the new Android Marshmallow mobile OS, which is expected to start rolling out to consumers in October or November.

For in-the-flesh purchases, Android Pay uses NFC technology, allowing users to simply unlock their phone and hold it next to a special reader, much like a contactless credit or debit card.

For in-app or online purchases, users will be presented with a “Buy with [Android] Pay” option, which they can make use of with a single tap.

Latest News

12/05/2016: Barclays has released its own mobile payment app before Android Pay has landed in the UK, with the bank adding that it will not support Google’s own offering.

Barclays’ nameless Android-based payments system will go live next month, reports 9to5Google, while Android Pay has yet to crossover to the UK following its launch in the US

From June, the bank’s customers will be able to use their smartphone to ‘wave and pay’ in shops and restraurants with contactless terminals.

The service can also be used across London’s transport network, and generally operates in the same way as a contactless bank card.

Customers will need to install the Barclays mobile banking app to make use of the service, though the app only supports the latest NFC-equipped devices.

Is Android Pay the same as Apple Pay?

In a word, yes. Both use NFC technology in real-world scenarios and both offer one-tap online payments. Fundamentally, the only real difference is the operating system it is running on – if you have an iOS device, you will have to use Apple Pay and if you have an Android device you will have to use Android Pay (or Samsung Pay, if you have a Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge).

Apple Pay does have one feature that Android Pay does not, however: it works on smartwatches (specifically Apple Watch), whereas Android Pay so far only appears to work on Android proper and not Android Wear.

Is Android Pay the same as Samsung Pay?

Not really, no. Samsung Pay only works with the newest Samsung devices and also does not use NFC. Instead, it uses proprietary “Magnetic Secure Transmission” technology, which means it is compatible with card machines that only have a magentic strip reader.

Samsung Pay also only works in-store, not online.

Is Android Pay safe?

According to Google, “security is at the centre of Android Pay” and the technology uses “industry standard security tokenisation”, which it developed in conjunction with the likes of American Express, MasterCard and Visa.

“When you shop at a store, Android Pay won’t send your actual credit or debit card number with your payment,” said Google in a blog post. “Instead we’ll use a virtual account number to represent your account information – providing you with an extra layer of security.”

“And if your phone is ever lost or stolen, simply use Android Device Manager to instantly lock your device from anywhere, secure it with a new password or even wipe it clean of your personal information,” Google added.

However, it is impossible for IT Pro to independently validate these claims.

Is Android Pay available in the UK?

Android Pay is not officially available anywhere currently, although Google claims it “will soon be accepted in over 700,000 store locations … across the US”. The official roll-out is expected to commence in October or November.


McCallion, J. and Preece, C. (2016) Apple pay vs Android pay: What’s the difference? Available at: (Accessed: 13 May 2016).