/ Money, Shopping

Contactless cards – are they the future of supermarkets?

Robot with shopping trolley

Imagine a trip to the supermarket where you can whizz through the checkouts without queuing or even getting your wallet out. It might not be as far away as you think…

Head into a Co-operative supermarket next year and you could be saved the hassle of getting your cash out or punching your PIN into the card reader. Instead, a single touch of your card will be all that’s needed to pay for your shopping.

Good news if you’re a fan of London Underground’s Oyster cards. Bad news if you don’t have a Visa or Barclaycard, as they’ll be the companies issuing cards on the scheme.

Creating a cashless society?

So, it’s one more baby step towards a cashless society. Cynics say it’ll make it harder for people to budget their spending. For me, any less time spent in supermarkets can only be a good thing. What’s not to like about speeding up supermarket shopping?

Still, we’ve got a long way to go until we catch up with other futuristic supermarkets around the world.

Supermarkets go futuristic

Germany’s been leading the way for a while with its ‘Future store‘. Just zip round the shop scanning items with your mobile phone before they go in your trolley. Then one scan of your phone at the checkout to pay and you’re out. No queues, no loading your goods on and off a conveyor belt. No worries.

With that kind of scheme you’d be able to see how much money you’re spending as you go, which puts pay to any concerns about money management.

Push the theme a little bit further and you’ll discover IBM’s futuristic world, where Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is used to scan shoppers as they leave the store. Yes, that’s right – human chips. Now maybe that’s one step too far in the name of convenience.

Would you use a contactless card in a supermarket?

Yes, if it saved time (50%, 52 Votes)

No I prefer good old-fashioned service (30%, 32 Votes)

Only if the scheme is rolled-out further (20%, 21 Votes)

Total Voters: 105

Loading ... Loading ...
Peter Wilson-Neasom says:
22 July 2010

Chip and Pin already increases fraud since the payee no longer even has to check the sex of the purchaser.Aanyone who can clone a card and obtain the PIN by fraudulant means can use the card easier than when they had to sign. This just makes it even easier and gives the banking industry more power over its customers. Debit cards are already being used to debit accounts the next day instead of the same clearing time that cheques used to have as the banks originally promised. Cheques will be withdrawn in spite of what customers want so let's protest before the bloodless revolution leaves the banks in total charge of our lives.


I disagree with the previous person that eveyone wants to keep cheques. That’s obviously not true as they’re hardly ever used by the majority. There’s just no need for cheques these days so we should move with the times and chop down a few less forests to make them.


I've had an RBS Maestro ******* (contactless) debit card since 2007 which was issued as part of an internal trial, and quite frankly, the time saving achieved on a transaction was infinitesimal! It could only be used for transactions up to £10 which did not require authorisation. For higher values, authorisation will be required, which will negate the time saving of not having to enter your PIN.
Oyster cards are prepaid, so there is no problem in taking the cash – the real problem for contactless cards which are not prepaid is preventing the cardholder going overdrawn, and this can only be achieved by authorising every transaction with the card issuer.
The mobile phone application sounds more promising than a plastic card since it is less likely to be stolen and can itself be protected by a user PIN.


I don't know what all the fuss is about! 3000 years ago we probably exchanged 3 chickens for a bucket of milk. The milk may have been off, the chickens past their sell-by-date. Then we got cash and bought the bucket of milk for a groat or two. Milk still may be off, money dull. Then plastic replaced the cash. Standards replaced arbitary quality. Have the cheats, the thieves, gone away? The dilemma of Mankind's natural endeavour to progress will forever be blunted by individual greed. Just be careful and use the time saved wisely.

Paul W Sullivan says:
23 July 2010

There is a major problem with Oyster; apart from forgetting to swipe.

If you touch in and find your train is very late or cancelled and decide to go by bus there is no way to 'unswipe'.

If the swipe machine at your small station is not working you cannot swipe out at the other end.

Any errors (which you have to log on and check to find out) result in a long wait on the phone to get resolved.

Having said that the 'auto-top-up' facility is very good – I have suggested to Orange and Virgin PAYG mobile companies that they should do the same – to no avail.

Paul Bishop says:
23 July 2010

Safeway used to have a similar scheme, although they provided handheld scanners. They withdrew it because the system often broke down and shoppers had to go through the checkout anyway despite having spent much time scanning. Whether the extra time scanning was less than the time saved going through the checkout when it did work is questionable. They also imposed random checks (by sending shoppers through the checkout anyway to check whether shoppers were scanning everything).

Helen says:
23 July 2010

Wouldn't this mean that anyone who got hold of someone's credit card would be able to swipe it with no identity checks at all? Sounds dangerous.


Bring it on! I thought of this idea a few years ago as I hate waiting in long queues at the check out. I enjoy using the self service checkout but found the time factor was not a lot different from the cashiered checkout if I had a lot of items.


I want to know exactly when I pay for goods.
Contact less cards are for Train queues etc.

If I could insert my card into a slot and withdraw it with a pin, that might be better – at least I can’t be scanned from a distance.