Category Archives: cashless

Barclaycard have made Wireless… wireless!

Huzzah! Huzzah, I cry!

The time has come! The time has come in which I can go to a festival (albeit in Hyde Park surrounded by one of the biggest cities in the world) and enjoy the liberty of consumption.

I have just heard that Wireless, now sponsored by Barclaycard (the guys that made the card that stopped me ever having to walk home at 3am again), has installed contactless payment terminals across 50 vendors within the site!

Me with my contactless Barclaycard... card waaay back when.

I’ve spent over two years in a quandary, not permanently mind, just pretty much every summer; I love music and have always been quite a festival goer – since starting Losing Face, I have been pretty much incapacitated by the cash-centric campsite culture.

After starting this thing back in November 2007, I’ve only been to one festival, Glastonbury 2009, because of my in ability to spend money whilst I am there – it is all too easy to end up not having such a good time because of hunger, thirst… soberness.

Glasto was incredible, absolutely incredible, but I took everything I would need for 3 days with me… two loaves of bread, a chorizo, big bag of crisps, some breakfast bars, 3 massive bottles of water and a fair few bottles of varying types of alcohol – all because I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend so much as a penny whilst I was there.

I lasted out, and in good form too, we even ate the remaining crisps on the coach back to London on Sunday night. However, it was far more of a triumph over diversity rather than a triumph over cash – not spending anything isn’t living without cash, it is living without money!

So, where am I off to this weekend? Wireless… and what an apt name that is.

It means if I get hungry whilst I am there, I can eat! If I get thirsty, I can drink – hell, if I want to do anything that costs money I ruddy well can and I ruddy well will!

To be honest, it feels a bit odd; I spent 2 and a bit years basically struggling to live without cash, especially right back at the beginning. Now I am off to a three-day festival with nothing more than my wallet in my pocket… and my phone.

I really believe we are at a shift-point in payment rituals – it won’t be long before NFC is an every day commodity, replacing the change in people’s pockets.

Here is hoping anyway!


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More Numbers = More Safety / More Confusion + More Effort

When I woke up this morning, waiting in my email inbox from a dear friend and long-time-loyal to Losing Face, was a link to an article from the BBC News website. The only other text was, “Get on this quick…”

It is about the new Emue card technology, aimed at tackling the growing level of internet and phone card fraud or, as the pros refer to it, ‘Card Not Present Fraud’ (CNP for short). The Emue technology isn’t all that new, Australia has already had a trial run (complete with prop-destitute trailer) last year and Visa have been talking about it for a good 18 months, still this is its first real public break in the UK.

Reading it within minutes of waking up was more than a little tricky but, two or three attempts later, it made sense and I’m left with mixed feelings toward the proposed technology.

The card has a built in 4 digit code generator which will be needed whenever making a transaction online or over the phone, therefore eliminating [or at least reducing] the ability to thieve a card, go to an internet café and blow a couple of grand on bits and bobs from Amazon.

As a concept, that is grand; I, myself, have fallen victim to CNP fraud only this year and it is quite a horrible ordeal. Whilst your money is still ensured by your bank, the lack of an actual event makes the entire experience quite murky and uncertain. At least having your card stolen in person provides an awareness of what is happening and what might then happen!

With CNP, you might be utterly unaware of any ill behaviour until a voice at the end of a phone line casually informs you that someone has pretty much drained your entire account from the other side of the world whilst you slept soundly and unaware.

But, whilst the concept is bang on, and there is a clear and present cause for concern surrounding CNP fraud, is this the right mechanic to solve the problem?

Assuming everything works, and Visa are confident that the battery life on the card will outlive the valid dates, I am sure this really is will dramatically reduce CNP fraud following a worldwide roll out.

But, what happens when it doesn’t? Buttons that need to be pinched rather than pressed, a little LCD screen that could crack… operationally, a number of new things could go wrong that would result in needing a new card more frequently than our current system.

Personally, I’d rather have to order a new card every 6 months than have to go through the uncertainty and rigmarole of losing a load of savings to some faceless arse-hole hiding away somewhere in the world but I can’t help thinking that this creates a new set of user-facing problems whilst resolving a worldwide concern.

Isn’t there a way of securing online payments that doesn’t rely on additional, physical processes? And why does the resolution usually boil down to numbers and codes?

If a bank card is personal, the money that that card represents is personal and the purchases made with that card are personal, surely there is an opportunity to do away with adding more identity that will inevitably be copied and relying on physical ambiguity and personal recollection?

What if the online (CNP) access to my current account had nothing to do with my day to day electronic access (whether that is a card, phone, sticker – anything) and instead was simply something I had engrained in me?

If I was to purchase a CD from a website and, when settling my order, I had to submit utterly unique and personal anecdotal information plus one bank-issued serial?

The bank serial could be different from my actual account number thus reducing the online/offline data cross over, the personal information or passwords could be three tiers deep, and all of which would never need to be written down or stored because it is all already deeply engrained in my personal memory. Hell, one of the references could be a favorite quote or sentence from a favorite book or film or song!

As an example, below are four variables that could, literally be anything. Even the people that know me inside out wouldn’t know what to write if there weren’t any prompts next to the input boxes.

  • Account Reference: 12345678
  • Personal ID #1: “I heard that!”
  • Personal ID #2: “I’ll love you forever, if I ever love at all.”
  • Personal ID #3: Sunbeam S7 Deluxe

Written like this, it is more like playing Jeopardy than a secure way of buying something from the comfort of your home but if, when registering for CNP authenticated transactions with your bank in the first instance, the user was given a choice of 10, maybe even 20 prompting questions in which they choose 3, the answers could be anything as long as they mean something to that one unique user.

No need for pressing extra buttons on a card, or another random 4 digit pin, just memories.

Unfortunately, whilst this is all well and good [albeit utterly unfounded and non-academic opinion] but I have had the great fortune in meeting some of the industry’s leading innovators and developers – I’m positive, anything they are putting forward to trial is the most logical and appropriate solution for a worldwide market… In short, I hope I get to play with an Emue card sometime soon!

I’d still like to pay for things whilst remembering some of the most funny and monumental moments from my own personal history though. If I’m shelling out savings for yet another steep electricity bill; I’d rather do it with a smile on my face.

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The Cost of Cash on a Community

This morning I read, utterly aghast, about the police inWanstead and Snaresbrook in East London offering locals an escort service from cash machines to their homes.

I’ve been banging on about the safety issues surround cash handling and carrying for a while, in fact my recent piece in the Telegraph included a highlighted snippet quoting me as saying, “mugging me is pointless”. Whilst, although I do agree I am less of a target than some, my lack of cash does not rule me out of the running for a good mugging – far from it. I still have phones and gift cards and often a camera of some sort or another.

None the less, whatever I choose to carry on my person is my own personal decision and, before leaving the house, I will apply the same level of foresight as to where I am going and at what time to what I carry about with me.

I won’t take my DSLR for a stroll around the nearest estate after sunset, nor will sit using my laptop on a quiet bus at any time of the day – it is just logical to presume I stand a good chance of not coming home with my possessions in either case and, whilst it is utterly depressing that our communities harbour such a need for caution and inhibition, it is the community I choose to live in for all its benefits and I am begrudgingly OK with the situation.

I would not, for example, expect a cop to make sure I got home in one piece if I had chosen to go out with my camera.


Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA


Understanding that some people use only cash to live their lives still, I am not questioning the need for better safety surrounding cash points and known trouble spots; but are personal police escorts necessary? Could the money spent on walking vulnerable people home not be spent more effectively on tackling petty violent crime? On educating the more stubborn of our communities about the dangers and perils of predominantly using cash over the security of card transactions and carrying pieces of plastic with nominal actual value?

Maybe this campaign will do exactly that! Maybe those that suffer the laboriousness of booking a police escort or witness the paid effort to maintain the service will put 2 + 2 together and turn to cards all by themselves!


Read the Guardian Article Here.

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How To Spend A Penny…

This is a tale of two airlines with an utterly upoosing opinion on cash/cashless existence.

 The first is RyanAir, the budget airline that we all love to hate to use, and their CEO announcing that they are seriously ‘contemplating’ charging their customers to use the facilities by installing a coin-operated system on the doors of the loos.

 Whilst this announcement has been met by obvious and expected public outcry and no doubt intentionally ensuring ‘RyanAir’ is the keyword of every household’s evening meal for a while; this is a bit of a concern for me.

 I am planning on venturing to Berlin for a weekend with friends toward the end of spring and now I’m not just looking out for the cheapest flights available, I’m looking out for flights that aren’t coin operated!

 RyanAir’s announcement might be hot air but the sheer thought of such a backward step seems so ridiculous to me. Why would an airliner actively encourage the use of cash aboard their fleet? Money is very much nationally regional (with exception of the Euro) whilst card and electronic transactions are very much international and (for the most part) generic.

 Whether the tight-fisted board of executives decide to run with this preposterous plan or not I, for one, might have to start planning my international travel according to how long I can ‘hold it in’ for. When I began this cashless adventure I never imagined I would encounter this hurdle.

 Thank you, RyanAir for keeping me on my toes… and my legs tightly crossed.

 The second airline on my radar is American Airlines – for purely good reasons! Although the news might be slightly dated, I am yet to report on the wonderful news that they have outlawed cash transactions onboard their domestic and Canadian flights.

 Lauri Curtis, American’s Vice President of Onboard Service says, “On these flights, American will only accept major credit cards or debit cards for onboard purchases such as headsets, fresh light meals, snacks and alcoholic beverages.”

“Moving to a cashless cabin allows us to streamline the inflight sales process for both our customers and flight attendants.”

 Their planned transition will be fully launched by the summer and following quickly on their heals is United Airlines who have announced the imminent arrival of their ‘EasyPay’ system, allowing passengers to pay for their purchases with all major plastic.

 Always one for light entertainment; I think this video of an American Airlines inflight attendant adding a little twist to the rigmarol of the preflight attendant highlights the stark difference between the American and British attitudes toward a lot of things… 

 Rules are there to be broken and cash is there to be forgotten.

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Across the Ether and the Airwaves

Two posts in three days! Personal New Years Resolution #4, “Start writing more, StumbleVideo less”, is off to a fine start!

This is only brief though, it is to point you all in the direction of the Contactless Intelligence website on which you will find a podcast conversation between myself and Steve Atkins. Throughout 2008 I involved in a number of different interviews with different media-people, this was certainly one of the more interesting for me – the conversation blissfully transcends the fascination with the fact that this started off as a bet into a far more indepth analysis of how I was surviving and what I was learning about our spending society.

Check it out at here! Thanks to CI for the interest and the exposure.

Another enjoyable interview was with David Birch from Digital Money Forum, an author of a blog that I regularly check up on and enjoy.

You can hear that one here. Although it involves a little bit of scrolling.

It was an absolute high to end my first year without cash with interest from such respectable groups of people working in digital commerce and transaction development… I know that sounds odd and potentially a little mundane to the average shopper but if you think about the Chip and Pin revolution only a few years ago and how much that has positively affected our lives, and what dizzy potential there is for new technology for paying for things it quickly becomes utterly enthralling and it is an honour to be a part of that thinking even in such a small capacity.

Amongst all this new technology and future design, hearing my own voice still makes my skin crawl though.

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Sharing Birthdays

Amazingly, the weekend I was set to finish my year without the Queen was also the weekend of three other notable events; National Spend Nothing Day, the design collective, Kith Kin’s ‘Kredit Krunch’ swap shop and my housemate’s birthday.

How lovely it was to share Losing Face’s first birthday with such suited and honourable company!

Although I failed miserably at not buying anything all day (due to severe wind-chill and freezing rain mist whilst biking about London; subsequently having to purchase a coffee to warm myself through) I did get down to the Swap Shop in Covent Garden to check out their delectable, cashless delights.

I took one of my less prized, but certainly not cheapest, film cameras from my collection of junk (a neat little Lomo Action Sampler in fact) in the hope of swapping it for something that my housemate might value as a token of my happiness and celebration that he has turned another year older again.

Met by a series of desks, rammed with bits and bobs, from DVDs to drum sticks, I was awash with options, all of which were far closer to pointless than anything. Therefore, I did what all good friends would do, resort to picking the most pointless, or at least bizarre, gift that I could see.


After a lot of ‘um’ing and ‘argh’ing, I left proud owner of an automated egg cracker, safe in the knowledge that my dear housemate-friend would look little confused, remember that I have done odder things in the time that he has known me, and move on with his birthday celebrations. I am, however, convinced that it is not worth the same value as a Lomo but that is entirely beside the point.

It is the thought that counts.

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So close but yet so far…

I haven’t posted anything in a while on Losing Face. Quietly I have been counting down the days until it is over, not so that I can start using cash again in particularly, but simply anticipating being able to function properly in my home environment again.

I cannot wait to be able to start using the markets again, paying myself to get into bars and clubs with cover charges (something that I still haven’t managed to achieve legitimately by card). I’m looking forward to being able catch a bus anywhere outside of the M25, pay for a cab when there are no other options and continue my collection of old, obsolete cameras.

I’m absolutely positive I will continue to live almost entirely by card, everything I have learnt and experienced over the last 12 months has had a profound and unfathomable effect on my perception of cash and what it means to us and how ridiculous our reliance on it is. But, it is just in those instances where there is no alternative, the situations where the world hasn’t caught up with the technological and sociological benefits of electronic transactions – that’s when I’m looking forward to being able give in and pay up in dirty, cumbersome coinage.

The end is in sight; the end is this Sunday.

With the finish line on the horizon, today I suffered a set back so frustrating and so paramount to the failure of all the [currently] futile efforts by the card company giants to convert our cash-loving ways.

My card was declined for no goddamn reason and subsequently remains declined or blocked or something… I would be able to use the right word if anyone from customer services were to pick up the bloody phone.

I’ve had this before, a chip fails or a magnetic strip is wiped – hell, I’ve even snapped a card in two when putting it in the PDQ machine! Somehow, probably because it is a physical problem (like opening a wallet to see you have nothing left), it is understandable and acceptable. This time, it wasn’t me, I didn’t manhandle it, I didn’t sit on it or leave my wallet onto of an amplifier; this time it was the system.

It wouldn’t be that bigger deal if HSBC had managed to actually replace the debit card they, so courteously, cancelled almost a month ago (see post below). Alas and true to form, they haven’t which made my guilt-ridden trip to Pret-a-Manger a horrifically embarrassing occasion ordeal.

All I wanted was a Mocha, I’d even put it off all afternoon because I knew the longer I waited for it, the more I’d enjoy it when I finally succumbed.

Instead, I created a backlog of able-to-pay customers behind me whilst a poor, undeserved trainee graciously put up with my demand for my card to be tried again… and again… and again.

I wanted that fucking chocolatey coffee like nothing else on earth and I wasn’t prepared for a glitch in the system to deprive me of such a treat. After all, I had convinced myself that I had worked really hard for it and thus, deserved every last drop.

Thankfully, after both the poor trainee and myself were equally red in the face with embarrassed awkwardness, a supervisor came over, saw the stalemate in hand and handed me a piping hot Mocha ‘on the house’ – no questions asked.

They might be owned by McDonalds, they might be a chain almost as wide spread as Starbucks, I don’t care. I love Pret as much as I love this caffeine high I’m writing this from.

Complimentary coffee aside, the wider picture of what is upon me is a little worrying. In the last few days of living without the Queen’s face, I now find myself living without any money.

No way of buying food, drinks, gig tickets… and all those other daily London life-essentials.

That is until either HSBC or VISA sort themselves out and give me back the access to my own money; I wonder which will arrive/work first?

In fact, we could put a wager on it… a fiver to the winner!

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