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From London to your local parish: the new contactless communities

Wed Nov 08 07:00:00 EST 2017

‘Touch and go’ payments have become the norm for small purchases in recent years, with one in three card transactions now made using contactless[1]. Entering your PIN for that lunchtime panini on the run is less common than not – an inconvenience even. In days where time is our most precious commodity, contactless has been speeding up our day-to-day routines.

When Barclaycard launched contactless in the UK in 2007, it was available in only seven London postcodes, prior to a UK-wide roll-out in 2009. More recently, the majority of pubs, eateries, shops and entertainment venues have offered contactless payments both inside and out of the M25 border; grabbing a coffee using contactless is now just as easy in the suburbs as it is in the city.

We take a look at how communities great and small across the UK are catching up with contactless, and how ‘touch and go’ has travelled all the way from London to your local parish and beyond.  

Parish philanthropy boost

As ‘touch and go’ becomes ever more popular both inside and outside the capital – it makes sense to think about using it for fundraising. In June this year, the Church of England announced plans to do just that.

Over the summer, 60 churches were equipped with handheld terminals to process contactless donations – ahead of a roll-out to every diocese next year. The trial is intended to extend to a cross-section of churches in the UK, spanning parishes big and small – from rural village locations to towns and metropolitans. 

The Church of England (CofE) recognises that people everywhere are carrying less cash these days, as contactless and mobile payments become increasingly frequent. It has recently  been revealed that charities could miss out on more than £80 million in donations by only accepting cash[2].

Previously, charities taking the plunge into contactless have seen very positive outcomes. For example, in March this year, Barclaycard led a trial of 100 portable donation boxes. This trial focused on national charities, including NSPCC, Oxfam, and Barnado’s. However, the lightweight, portable design of the boxes meant they could easily be used anywhere, making mobile payments a possibility for smaller charity events. The Royal British Legion also benefitted in 2014, when it set up 150 contactless card terminals in 70 Tube stations, to support its Poppy Appeal.

Hopefully these successes instil confidence within the CofE, and indeed any community or charity who want to join the contactless donation phenomenon .

Contactless users unite!

The Church has explained that its adoption of ‘touch and go’ is to ensure that younger people (and those who may not have loose change) don’t miss out on the opportunity to donate to worthy causes. But with the number of users over 60 up by 116 per cent, which is more than any other age group, it’s clear the older generation are also using contactless - and that this up-to-date way to pay appeals to all ages.

Facilitating more choice for everyone when it comes to donations certainly cultivates a more inclusive environment. For those attending church on a regular basis, this is yet another example of contactless becoming further ingrained in our routines – spanning a variety of communities and cultures. 

The Church of England sets a great example for other community events too. Ever had to skip that stick of candy floss at the fair, leave the farmer’s market empty-handed, or guiltily refuse a raffle ticket at the school assembly – all due to a lack of coins? With Brits saying they would love to see all of these things and more go contactless, could ‘touch and go’ help to reunite communities in these time-poor times? Hopefully. The downside? You might actually win that already-opened bottle of bubble bath at the next Christmas carol concert.

Paddington to Penzance (and everywhere in between)

The introduction of ‘touch and go’ to Transport for London (TfL) changed the way people travel in the city forever. It began with London’s iconic red buses in December 2012, with the Tube, trams, DLR and overground services catching up in 2014, and black cabs in 2016. Today, weary commuters skip Oyster top-up queues, whilst tourists shun pink tickets to glide through once-crowded ticket barriers. Quite simply – it works.

With 1.37 billion people now using the Tube annually[3] – plus over two billion bus journeys[4] made each year – it’s not surprising that the development was a key driver of growth for contactless payments. Recently, the number of contactless journeys made exceeded 1.1 billion.

But isn’t it about time everyone else was able to benefit from easy payments when travelling too?

Bus and coach operators think so. In October 2016, five of the UK’s biggest bus companies unveiled plans to ensure that each of their 32,000 buses outside of London is contactless-enabled by 2022. Bringing First Bus, Stagecoach, Go-Ahead, Arriva, and National Express together, the initiative is well underway; contactless payments are already being taken on many buses around the country.

With buses going contactless, surely ‘touch and go’ isn’t too far down the track for rail and taxi journeys. Soon enough, commuters, tourists and everyone else will be able to complete their journeys without having to root around in wallets for stray 20 pence pieces.

Contactless gains momentum

Recent developments in contactless payments outside of London show a willingness from establishments to become more metropolitan with their payment options – even in previously cash-oriented environments. This has been greatly welcomed by consumers, to whom flexibility and saving time is so important.

Continued innovation and experimentation will help companies, charities and communities to stay current. Transport providers are on the right course too, as many strive to push payments in a new direction fit for their modern consumers; for others, the journey has just begun. Though ‘touch and go’ may have come far in the last few years, we are confident that the next few will bring yet more exciting opportunities.   

[1] https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/UK-FINANCE_Contactless-10-year-report-September-2017.pdf

[2] https://www.charitydigitalnews.co.uk/2017/01/31/charities-miss-out-on-more-than-80m-a-year-by-only-accepting-cash-donations/

[3] https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/what-we-do/london-underground/facts-and-figures

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bus-statistics

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