Does PayTag mean the end of cash in your pocket?
A new mobile phone device for small payments, PayTag, could kill off banknotes and coins. That’s bad news for our spending habits.
By Martin Vander Weyer
19 Apr 2012
‘Save the Pound” was the cry when we feared Tony Blair was about to sacrifice our ancient currency for membership of the new-minted euro. Having seen off that challenge, those who prefer their money in traditional form face an equally sinister threat from the forces of banking technology. “Save the Pound Note” might have been our slogan if that paper denomination had not been withdrawn from circulation as long ago as 1988: “Save the Tenner” will have to suffice.
The end of the cash economy is nigh. Millions of Barclaycard Visa cardholders are about to find they can make “contactless” payments of up to £15 (and from June, £20) by means of a sticker called a PayTag on the back of their mobile phones, which will merely have to be waved over a reader device without need of a signature or a PIN.
Hardly the end of civilisation, I hear you say: what’s so sinister? Like the Oyster Card and pay-by-phone parking, any electronic application that removes the need to carry a pocket full of change – or scuttle to find some when you’re in a hurry and it’s pouring with rain – is surely to be welcomed.
Technophobia can be irrational, and is overcome by familiarity: some of us resisted hole-in-the-wall cash dispensers long after they were introduced, on the grounds that PIN numbers were hard to remember, the machines were in exposed places and often out of order, and we preferred to be handed cash by a polite cashier who addressed us by name. But the technology became more reliable, PINs and passwords became basic tools of existence, and we realised that bank staff no longer knew or cared who we were. So the ATM became part of the furniture of life, with no accompanying sense of unease.