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Italy's PayPass Prepaid Payment-Card Pilot

Wed, 09/26/2007 - 7:09am
For several years, Italians have purchased goods and services using prepaid Postepay cards, sold at the Banco Posta unit of Italy's postal service. The cards contain a magnetic stripe encoded with the cardholder's permanent account number, used to access account payment data, and can be either renewed or discarded once funds are depleted. Now, Banco Posta and MasterCard plan to incorporate PayPass technology into the cards for a pilot in Milan and Rome.

The eight-month trial (the first European pilot involving RFID-enabled prepaid payment cards) will commence in late 2007, and use prepaid cards embedded with passive 13.56 MHz RFID chips. Other PayPass pilots are underway, or have recently concluded, in the United Kingdom, Turkey, Spain and Switzerland. Participating restaurants, supermarkets, cinemas and convenience stores will have a choice of either combining an interrogator with their existing equipment, or purchasing a PayPass terminal incorporating both RFID and mag-stripe readers.

When a user taps the card near the terminal, the interrogator will read the cardholder's account number, encoded to the tag. The automation afforded by such RFID-enabled prepaid cards should enable European customers to pay for purchases in about half a second, reducing register traffic and speeding up the point-of-sale process.

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