Concertgoers test MasterCard's futuristic credit card replacement

By , CardRatings contributor
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Music fans often wear wristbands to access concerts. MasterCard merged that tradition with its own vision of mobile technology at a spring festival in the United Kingdom this month. Guests of the VIP tent at the 2011 Isle of Wight Festival received special MasterCard wristbands featuring embedded PayPass chips like those in the company's credit cards. Researchers preloaded the wristbands with about $75 in credit good for concessions at participating vendors on the festival grounds.

Before the final act of the weekend's festivities, researchers reviewed real-time data that showed the PayPass wristbands were the weekend's surprise hit among the VIP attendees. Instead of fumbling for cash and credit cards at outdoor bars and food stalls, concertgoers waved their PayPass wristbands and special point-of-sale devices. Vendors told researchers that quicker checkouts led to faster service, which resulted in colder drinks and warmer meals for concertgoers.

When MasterCard researchers asked the concertgoers about their weekends wearing the wristbands, 100 percent of respondents said they'd want to use a similar system at future outdoor concerts or sporting events. More than 96 percent of the respondents found the wristbands quicker or easier than using credit cards. As in most parts of Europe, Isle of Wight vendors often use "chip and PIN" technology that requires both a specially equipped credit card reader and a pad for secure PIN entry. Merging "tap and go" technology with a standard festival wristband eliminated the need for attendees to fumble with food and drinks during checkout.

MasterCard spokesperson Hany Fam shared his excitement about the experiment as an opportunity to enhance the entertainment experience for concertgoers. In a statement to reporters, Fam noted that the Isle of Wight Festival created an ideal opportunity to experiment with new PayPass technology in a cashless environment. Fam said that MasterCard would continue experiments to innovate in live entertainment with more wristband trials and other programs that would enable concert promoters to replace paper tickets with customers' own credit cards at entry points.

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