Barclays offers contactless debit cards

Barclays Bank is to start offering its customers the chance to pay for goods and services with the wave of their card, making it the first bank in the UK to use contactless payment systems.

The bank said that it would issue cards containing the technology from March, and was expecting to see them hit as many as three million wallets and purses by the end of this year.

Payments using the technology will be limited to small purchases - Barclays said that it would set a maximum limit of 10 per item. It also explained that users would need to simply hold their card up to a reader to make a payment. Payment is confirmed by a beep along with a series of indicator lights, and a display message confirming a successful transaction. Funds are then be debited from the user's bank account.

Cards will still have Chip and PIN features, and indeed users will be occasionally be prompted to use their pin in order to verify their identity, for example, if they have made several contactless transactions in a row.

"This gives people a new way to pay for things that is quick, secure and convenient and we are confident that it is going to be really popular with customers," said Mark Parsons, managing director of current accounts at Barclays.

According to Visa payWave, which provides the technology, there are some 8,000 retailers with the necessary technology ready and waiting to accept contactless payments, including Books etc, Yo Sushi and the Threshers off licence chain. A trial was recently completed in Central London and Visa member banks in Turkey already offer the service.

Visa payWave expects to launch in many other countries including France, Spain and Switzerland shortly.