The mobile payment space continues to grab a lot of interest, particularly as mobile operators envision being able to take a cut of every transaction their subscribers make with their phones. While these sorts of applications have found some success in Asia, they haven't seen a lot of interest among Western consumers. The problem is that many of these contactless payment systems are simply seeking to replace credit cards and pitch themselves as having added convenience for the user -- but that added convenience is minimal, making this a solution in search of a problem. Over at the Digital Money Forum, a blog about contactless payments and other new technologies in the banking and financial-services industry, a post talks about how a contactless payment system would have helped in a particular scenario the author witnessed. He then follows with an anecdote about some colleagues of his that went to Paris with the goal of not using any cash during their trip. They were successful, with the only problem they faced apparently nearly being stymied by a restaurant toilet that required 20 cents' payment. This would seem to undermine the claim that contactless payments are somehow necessary, or even desirable, since it's already somewhat easy in the west to largely get by without cash. Credit and debit cards already offer a convenient payment method for consumers, while retailers will be loathe to shell out for new point-of-sale equipment to handle contactless payments -- particularly when they're trying to push people away from using credit cards and their high processing fees. Until a contactless mobile platform can offer some additional benefits beyond credit-card replacement, they're not going to get very far in the West.
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