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Contactless cards test in NYC, LA

By Leslie McFadden · Bankrate.com
Friday, September 24, 2010
Posted: 11 am ET

Visa has joined MasterCard in a pilot program in New York that lets consumers pay for subway fare by tapping their credit card or smart phone at the turnstile, Reuters reported earlier this week. A separate test involving contactless transit payments in Los Angeles began this month.

"In New York, Visa is allowing riders to pay using Visa payWave-enabled cards and mobile phones, while commuters in Los Angeles can use a special Visa prepaid card to ride the LA metro system," Visa said in a release on its website. Visa payWave is also accepted at some New Jersey rail stations and bus lines.

To pay, customers hold their Visa payWave-enabled prepaid, debit, or credit card or mobile phone closely to the electronic reader, instead of having to buy a ticket separately with cash or cards. Watch this YouTube video to see how it works. Cards and terminals compatible with payWave will bear the payWave logo.

In addition to select subway stops, train stations and bus lines, Visa reports that more than 10,000 NYC cabs have Visa payWave terminals installed. Riders can still swipe their debit or credit card through the card reader if they don't have one of the payWave cards.

Visa isn't alone in testing out contactless payments with mass transit systems in large cities. MasterCard said in June it would work with public transit agencies in New York and New Jersey on a six-month pilot program for certain routes, Reuters said.

PayPass, MasterCard's contactless card brand, is also accepted at other locations, including some pharmacies, fast food restaurants and retail stores.

MasterCard and Visa offer more details on their websites, including answers to frequently asked questions and a database of participating merchants.

Tapping out
Personally, I think contactless payments make the most sense at transit centers. Tapping or waving a card at the subway turnstile would save a few minutes of standing in line to buy a ticket. When I briefly owned a debit MasterCard with PayPass, I found that tapping it at the register wasn't that much faster than swiping my card. I still had to enter my PIN.

Talk back: If you have made a "contactless" payment with your phone or card before, what did you think of the process? If not, do contactless payments seem to you unnecessary or more convenient?

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