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Bank Extends RFID Payment Pilot

Bank of America will continue to test its QuickWave RFID payment card for another three months.
Jan 23, 2003Jan. 23, 2003 - Bank of America was the first financial institution in the United States to test an RFID bankcard, when it launched a three-month trial in Charlotte, NC, in October. The bank has decided to extend the pilot for another three months.

For the test, 10,000 bank employees have been given the QuickWave card, which uses an RFID transponder to send data to a point-of-sale reader. The card is tied to the user's credit or check card, so they can be charged for the transaction. Some 15 fast-food restaurants, convenience stores and bookstores in Charlotte are participating.

Lisa Gagnon, a spokesperson for Bank of America, says the test is going well and was extended to help the bank gather more data. "We use the research and the feedback we get to gauge customer interest and usage," Gagnon says. "Then, we will make a decision about whether this is something we want to test somewhere else and eventually roll out across the franchise."

The bank's aim is to get customers to use QuickWave for transactions of less than $20, for which they normally use cash. MasterCard International revealed last month that it plans to launch a similar pilot in Orlando, Florida. Its card is called PayPass (see MasterCard to Test RFID Card).

The QuickWave card is a bank-branded card that is smaller than a credit card, so it can be hung on a key chain. The technology behind it belongs to a company called FreedomPay of Wayne, Penn. FreedomPay provides the infrastructure that allows the bank to process the payment. It also has software that enables merchants to run loyalty programs.

"We have many applications that marry value to the payment," said Don Welsh, FreedomPay's COO. "What Bank of America implemented was loyalty. If you are a cardholder and you have one of these RFID devices, you have the ability to earn loyalty and rewards based on usage."

The RFID transaction is faster than paying with cash, so merchants benefit by being able to handle more people during peak periods. And studies show that people spend more when they don’t have to pay with cash. Welsh also claims the loyalty programs are extremely effective.

"We're seeing double digit sales increases for the merchants, and loyalty redemption rates in excess of 30 percent, which is unheard of," he says. "The merchants get increased usage and sales lift, so there is a double effect."

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