Plans for the first nationwide roll out of contactless payment cards across the UK, starting in London, by the end of next year, has been confirmed by the Visa UK Board of Directors.

The decision, supported by all Visa UK member banks, will enable card holders to “wave and pay” for low-value everyday items, such as their morning coffee and newspapers, by simply waving a new secure contactless card over a card reader in participating shops.

Visa Contactless is described as a fast and convenient extension to the chip and PIN cards already in use in the UK. It extends the chip technology to enable a new way to pay that is faster, more convenient and more secure than cash. Transactions completed in less than a second create time savings for consumers and retailers, significantly reducing queue times at checkouts.

Sandra Alzetta, Visa Europe Senior Vice President Consumer Market Development, said: “With over 75% of all cash payments being less than £10, the introduction of contactless payments will play a major role in encouraging the use of cards over cash for low-value transactions. In addition, the decision to go live in less than a year supports our vision for a cashless Olympic Games in London in 2012.”

Contactless payments are particularly suited to retail environments such as fast food outlets, coffee shops, newsagents, off licences, bars, pubs, parking facilities and vending machines, all of which tend to have a high cash turnover and where rapid checkout times are desirable.

Research undertaken by Visa in the UK has apparently indicated that consumers are very likely to appreciate the convenience and speed that it offers as an alternative to cash.

As a next stage, Visa UK and many of its member banks are working closely with retailers to enlist their support in advance of the contactless roll-out. Further details of the precise launch plans are expected to be available by March 2007.