New Ways To Pay
(Business 2.0) – On any given day, trillions of dollars' worth of cash changes hands around the world. Most transactions involve traditional forms of currency--paper money and coins--but a growing number occur via electronic payment systems that serve as alternatives to cash. Digital money has many advantages: It's more secure, more convenient, and more compact than an overstuffed wallet. Analysts expect Hong Kong residents alone to make $2.6 billion in purchases using electronic payments this year. With the exception of the transponders used to pay for bridge and highway tolls, Americans have little experience with digital cash. If the systems used overseas are any indication of what's to come, however, you may soon be able to leave that fat billfold at home. -- CYRUS FARIVAR
MZOOP // South Korea Users: 80,000 Some Korean mobile phones contain special chips that allow users to charge vending machine purchases to debit or credit cards simply by pressing a key. Almost 700,000 of the point-of-sale payment readers--the brainchild of Seoul-based Harex Infotech--will be installed by year's end. However, only about 4 percent of Korea's 2 million mZoop-capable phones carry the chips--far fewer than predicted.
OFFICA WATCH // Japan Users: 25 A charge card in the form of a timepiece, this Casio watch can be waved over a scanner to debit money from a Japan Credit Bureau account. This summer 25 JCB employees will begin testing the system in company cafeterias. It's expected to be commercially available by early next year.
OCTOPUS CARD // Hong Kong Users: 10 million Octopus was originally used by commuters on Hong Kong's public transport network, but it's now widely accepted by businesses across the city, from convenience stores to swimming pools. The tiny radio-frequency chips embedded in the cards can store as much as HK$1,000 ($128), and the cards can be exchanged for cash at any time.
VERIPAY // Spain Users: 38 VIP patrons of the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona can have RFID chips the size of a grain of rice implanted in their upper arms, allowing them to charge drinks to a bar tab when a scanner is passed over their tags. "You don't call someone crazy for getting a tattoo," says Conrad Chase, director of Baja Beach Clubs International. "Why would they be crazy for getting this?"