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Then you’ve already heard about the new contactless debit payment cards being released by some of the major banks like HSBC and Barclays in the UK recently.

What you might not know are the details of how these cards work and what they can be used for.

Contactless is an alternative to chip-and-pin, incorporated into your normal debit payment card, and allows you to complete a transaction without swiping or inserting your card in a payment terminal. It employs a form of technology called Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, which is similar in principle to barcodes. The RFID tags contain information that is transmitted when activated by a scanning antenna in proximity to the tag. A transceiver connected to the antenna then decodes the data so that it can be interpreted.

Most tags are passive, meaning they are entirely dependent on an antenna signal to be activated, whereas some more expensive RFID tags are active and have their own power source.

Passive RFID tags are smaller than active tags, often around the size of a grain of rice. The world’s smallest and thinnest chip ever produced was by Hitachi, measuring 0.15mm by 0.15mm. If you’re finding that hard to visualise, think of a grain of fine sand – they’re roughly the same size.

RFID technology is not especially new – it was previously used to identify aircraft during the Second World War – but was considered too expensive to be used on a commercial scale. Thanks to recent advances in both production and security, the uses of RFID have multiplied.

Common uses of RFID other than in debit cards include:

1.      Animal tracking, where a tiny chip is inserted beneath the skin so the animal can be identified if lost or abandoned

2.      Instead of barcodes on merchandise in shops

3.      Keyless car unlock and ignition in cars like Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Audi amongst many others

4.      New biometric passports issued in the European Union and the United States


FZ Fonerize are pleased to publish further articles on Contactless Payment Cards readable by just clicking on the links below:

Problems with Contactless Payment or Debit Cards

Using a Contactless Payment or Debit Cards

Advantages of Contactless Payment or Debit Cards