Visa, headquartered in San Francisco, CA, chose to use the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to showcase its latest credit card payment technologies. You may wonder why the company doesn't permanently show off the innovations of which it's so proud somewhere closer to home, but that would be difficult, given that, here in the U.S., some such technologies are lagging behind those in most other first world countries.
The good news is that America's sprinting to catch up, and stands a good chance of leapfrogging the competition soon. Leapfrogging while sprinting? Now there's a new Olympic event that would be well worth watching.
Wave of the future
So what's being showcased in London? Arguably the most important innovation is so-called "wave-and-pay" technology, which allows you to complete a transaction simply by waving your enabled credit card or smartphone close to a point-of-sale (POS) terminal that is compliant with near-field communications (NFC) standards. For small purchases (in London up to £20, or about $31), you don't have to key in a PIN or sign your name to authorize the payment.
This technology already exists in the United States, mostly in the form of Visa's payWave or MasterCard's PayPass services, and is currently being rolled out across the nation. However, Visa says that it alone already has 37 million wave-and-pay cards in circulation in Europe, and 140,000 compliant terminals just in the UK. Of the latter, 5,000 are installed in London taxis, which sounds like a smart idea.