UK Post Office Announces Large Rollout of Contactless Terminals
The UK Post Office has announced it will start equipping more than 11,500 branches nationwide with contactless terminals next month, which would make it the biggest single merchant accepting contactless payment in Europe.
The rollout, scheduled to be completed by the end of October, will add 30,000 contactless point-of-sale terminals to the UK’s contactless deployment, which now has an estimated 110,000 POS terminals, the largest number in Europe.
The Post Office's launch could add momentum to the UK contactless rollout, which still has weak takeup among consumers. The Post Office's deployment will also help to spread acceptance points geographically. Most contactless POS terminals in the UK now are in London.
As NFC Times first reported last June, the Post Office has to change its point-of-sale terminals and wants to be ready to accept contactless as banks roll out more contactless credit, debit and prepaid cards, according to a Post Office payment product manager.
The faster transactions that contactless technology offers would cut queues in branches, with an estimated 60% of the agency’s transactions valued at less than £15, Michael Birchall, payment product manager for the Post Office said at the time.
Like the existing contactless terminals, the Post Office terminals will be able to accept contactless payment from both cards and applications on NFC phones.
UK officials recently increased the limit for contactless purchases from £15 (US$23.26) to £20. Above that, consumers have to insert their chip-and-PIN cards into terminals and enter their PINs to complete a purchase.
Besides selling postage, envelopes and other mailing products, the Post Office offers a range of financial services, including bill payment, insurance, money changing and banking, though it is not a bank, itself. Its sister organization, the Royal Mail, delivers letters in the UK.
The Post Office also has considered issuing its own contactless prepaid card, NFC Times has reported, either with an issuing partner or by itself after receiving an e-money license. The card would be targeted at the Post Office’s unbanked or underbanked.
But a spokesman told NFC Times the Post Office is not currently planning to issue a contactless card.
In its announcement of the contactless rollout Wednesday, the Post Office said it would equip nearly 200 branches around Olympics venues in and around London first, which would make them available before the start of the games in late July.
Contactless backers in the UK have been hoping to make the event a “contactless Olympics,” though that idea suffered a blow when transit authority Transport for London acknowledged it would miss the deadline for equipping 8,500 buses in London to accept contactless credit and debit cards.
Shashi Verma, director of customer experience for Transport for London, told NFC Times the transit authority would finish its deployment on the London buses later this year and plans to introduce open-loop payment of fares with contactless bank cards to the London Underground by the end of next year.
These deployments, along with equipping fare-collection terminals to handle contactless bank cards for train and trams, also under Transport for London supervision, could rival the number of contactless terminals the Post Office is rolling out.