Barcelona in Spain is set to become the first European city with widespread support for contactless payments.
A partnership between Visa and Spanish bank La Caixa will see more than one million new cards that support contactless payments issued. 500 ATMs will be upgraded and 15,000 new point-of-sale terminals will be installed on local businesses’ premises. The technology will also support NFC (near-field communication) payments using mobile phones.
Using the system, payments of up to €20 can be made simply by waving the card close a contactless terminal. Above €20, a PIN is required. The roll-out will begin in the next few days, and La Caixa hopes to have 50% of its Barcelona customers equipped with the new cards by the end of February, with all the cards having been issued by the end of the second quarter of the year.
The Barcelona project follows a similar partnership between Visa and La Caixa in Spain’s Balearic Islands.
Contactless payments look set to take off in 2012. In the UK, McDonalds and Starbucks already accept this quick and painless payment method, whilst in the US initiatives like Google Wallet, which supports contactless payments from supported smartphones, are gaining traction. Google’s solution is already supported by a number of businesses and services around America, including New Jersey Transit.