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Contactless Confusion

Akadake: touch and, er, go

A feature of contactless cards is the ability to authenticate (pass through ticket barriers/make payments/…) without removing the card from the wallet or purse.

Except that as the cards become more prevalent, and the features of one card start to trump another people end up carrying multiple cards with overlapping functions. The only way for the user to know which card to use? Gosh – to remove the card from the wallet. Convenience indeed.

It’s easy to remove out of date cards from a wallet – so why aren’t they? Users imagine that the old cards contain some kind of residual value but at the time when the wallet is being cleared out they are nowhere near a machine that could communicate it’s current status/credit, many are carried in-finitum.

Just because the cards are read differently by the system don’t assume that the user will always remember which card is used for which purpose. The TASPO contactless card used to authenticate that the person buying cigarettes from a vending machine is in fact over 18, is frequently mistaken for the PASMO card used to travel on the subway – requiring user-education in the form of signs at the subway entrance. This is only the beginning – at this rate we’re going to see contactless cards with some form of ticketing/service access/monetary credit handed out for free – with the service provider making money either from the advertising on the card, leveraging insights from tracking usage, or merely as an encouragement for users to switch to a newer system, with more profitable features naturally. The number of contactless cards in the wallet competing for your attention will only increase.

One card to rule them all?

Wishful thinking.