With all the talk of new technology and how it will change the way we manage our money, it’s easy to roll your eyes and give in to innovation-fatigue. But should we embrace the future?
At the end of last year I found myself battling both innovation-fatigue and regular fatigue – tired and hungry at an event hosted by Barclays to show off its latest gadgetry.
Sometimes it seems as if technology is used for the sake of it to reinvent a process that worked perfectly well in the first place. Nevertheless, the ideas with the potential to make our lives easier inevitably outlive the passing fads.
And at the Barclays event I was introduced to one gizmo that snapped me out of my lethargy. The bank has developed a biometric reader that scans the vein patterns in your index finger.
Such patterns are unique, and Barclays believes they are more reliable and harder to spoof than fingerprints – offering a secure way to access online banking without the need for card readers and complex combinations of passwords.
There’s also voice recognition tech. The tech is capable of cross-checking over 100 identifiers that are unique to you and will apparently work even if you have a cough or cold.
As someone who struggles to recall passwords I’ve reset only a few days previously, I would jump at the chance to go biometric with Barclays. Alas, the readers are only on offer to corporate customers at present, although the bank assures me they’ll be available to us regular punters in the future.
Vein scanning may be a little too futuristic for now. But there are some more mainstream alternatives, such as Apple Pay and Barclays’ own bPay.
I wanted to bring Which? Money readers an article rooted in real-world experience, rather than a technology fest. So I asked our resident technophobe, Chiara Cavaglieri, to get to grips with the latest payment methods – with the help of some curious Which? members. Here’s how they got on.
Thumb prints and baffled newsagents
Chiara Cavaglieri: I trialled Apple Pay and, I have to say that, even as an Android user setting up Apple Pay on a borrowed iPhone 6 was largely stress-free… aside from difficulty registering my index fingerprint (I used my thumb instead).
When I tried returning goods, helpful cashiers in Boots and Marks & Spencer asked me simply to show my receipt and tap the iPhone to verify a refund with Touch ID – exactly as I did when I paid for the item.
But, when using it on London transport, Apple Pay is both the payment method and proof of payment, so I was aware of making sure the device was fully charged to avoid being hit with a fine.
And when I visited my local shop the newsagent was baffled when I presented the iPhone to pay for a paper. He insisted on a minimum payment of £5, which is annoying as I would specifically use Apple Pay for cheap purchases.
Overall, Apple Pay was quick and simple so I was sorry to hand the iPhone back. I can see myself using the equivalent when it becomes available.
Trying out bPay
Then we asked Which? member, Gloucester-based Sarah Beall to trial the bPay wristband and, although it was initially tricky to fasten, setting it up was simple. However, a visit to Marks & Spencer caused something of a stir for the cashier:
‘It was decided to place it over the payment machine and it worked immediately. The cashier then called over several other members of staff to look at the bPay bracelet.’
After giving it a go for a few days, Sarah found it quick and easy to use and now prefers it to her contactless card:
‘The fact you can wear it on your wrist, and don’t have to fumble around in your bag looking for your purse to get out your card, made it much easier to use. I will carry on using it especially as I am disabled and have problems with both my hands.’
So are you a fan of this new payment tech at all? Or do you think it’s a step too far?