Apr 24, 2006

What drives people to put their contactless cards in the microwave?

An article in the Wall Street Journal reports on concerns that some people have concerning contactless cards.

“Mr. [Brendan] Walker, a 37-year-old software engineer in Canton, Ohio, is one of a growing number of computer and technology experts who are becoming anxious about possible abuses of the technology,” writes the author. “Mr. Walker fears that thieves will be able to eavesdrop on the radio transmission and buy gas at his expense. He also figures that he himself could walk past the pump and accidentally pay for somebody else's gas.”

Everyone in this industry knows that is ridiculous. Still, some people believe this. The article goes on to describe metal wallet inserts to protect cards from eavesdropping and the use of electromagnetic devices that destroy RFID chips. Unfortunately, this just fans the fears.

Clearly, some consumers are deeply concerned about carrying around a card that is designed to broadcast its data relatively freely. For these people, the article suggests another option: “Customers who don't want RFID in their PayPass payment cards can ask to be issued an old-fashioned chipless card”. The associations are now waiving signature requirements when traditional magnetic stripe cards are used for small purchases, so customers can keep their old fashioned cards if they like, and still enjoy fast transactions. In fact, Visa's recent "No Signature Required" program which makes magnetic stripe cards as fast as contactless, could seriously slow contactless deployments everywhere.

Related articles:
RFID: Legitimate fear or fear-mongering?
Some Consumers Disabling RFID Contactless Chips In Cards
Visa Waives Signature Requirement on Purchases Under $25

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