Plastic cards could be set to go the way of cheques and become virtually obsolete as customers take up mobile and biometric systems to pay for purchases, according to Barclaycard which is ramping up its investment in contactless payment technology.
Antony Jenkins, CEO of Barclaycard - which launched the UK's first credit card in 1966 - says contactless chips have huge untapped capability, but the plastic around the chip limits its potential.
"Take the plastic away and the possibilities are endless, allowing the customer to pay by using something that they are already carrying, be it a mobile, key fob or even via biometrics," says Jenkins.
Barclaycard launched its combined contactless Oyster travel and debit card, OnePulse, in London last September. By the end of the year it will have issued over one million contactless cards, with thousands of retailers accepting them.
But Barclaycard is already looking beyond cards and is reported to be investing a seven-figure sum in contactless payment technology.
Last year the company teamed with phone network O2, Transport for London, Nokia, Visa and TranSys, the consortium which currently runs the Oyster card system, on a six month trial of NFC mobile payments.
The pilot concluded earlier this month, with nine out of ten participants saying they were happy using NFC technology on a mobile phone and 78% saying they would be interested in using contactless services if available.
Barclaycard says it is also developing other 'paperless' ticketing applications that could be used in cinemas or for train journeys.
Longer-term, Jenkins has outlined scenarios where customers are alerted to special offers in local stores nearby on their mobiles. Other scenarios include enabling customers to use their mobile to scan an on-shelf price label and add items to their "virtual shopping basket". They would then be able to confirm their purchase and take it away without having to go to a checkout or get a receipt
"In time you won't have to carry a plastic credit card around with you if you don't want to, although some people will chose to for nostalgic reasons," says Jenkins.