Traveling: London calling

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There’s nothing like an international trip to make you appreciate modern travel. I’m in London this week, so I’ve had planes, trains, and automobiles—the last due to tube maintenance.

There’s always something different when I come for a visit here. This time, it’s the spread of contactless payment. Since the last time I was here, I notice many more Londoners using contactless credit cards to pay at restaurants, pubs, and shops. The technology is the same as that used by Apple Pay, Android Pay and others, but the RFID chip is embedded into a credit card rather than a smart device. Regardless of the reason, it’s nice because it means that most of the places I’m visiting have readers that work with Apple Pay.

It got me thinking about what factors influence the spread of technology. There’s clearly a benefit to end users for widely adopted contactless payment—no swiping or signature. There’s a benefit to issuers as well, given that the contactless payment transmission is harder to intercept than a magstrip swipe, and does not actually transmit the credit card number. Retailers are the long pole in the tent, but the threat of being held liable for credit card losses is convincing them to update the technology.

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