It used to be that paying with cash was the quickest way through a checkout line, but that may be changing. Charla Young takes a look at a touchless technology that's supposed to get you in and out of a store with a wave of your hand.
Visa says it's literally the next wave for consumers -- paying for something by waving your card in front of a special reader. Visa's "PayWave" technology is offered by 41 card-issuing banks around the world and accepted at more than 32,000 retailers. The cards use microchips and radio waves to transmit encrypted information. You don't need to sign for most purchases under $25.00.
That means speedier checkouts. Sure it's convenient, but Greg Daugherty of Consumer Reports Money Adviser says there could be a downside to waving all that information through the air.
"The card issuers deny it, but some people think this technology exposes you to greater security risks, such as identity theft. There's concern about a tactic called skimming, where a thief could use a portable card reader to literally skim your encrypted information out of the air," says Daugherty.
Visa insists the data on your card can only be processed by secure readers at authorized merchants. And PayWave cards are covered by Visa's zero-liability policy, meaning you're not responsible if a thief uses your card. But there are other pitfalls.
"You may not get a receipt on transactions under 25 dollars unless you ask for one, which could be a problem if you need to return something," Daugherty says.
A study last year by Smart Card Alliance found people spend an average of 20 to 30 percent more when using touchless technology.
So be careful if you wave and pay. You could find yourself with some unexpected debt.
If you decide to apply for a touchless pay card, Consumer Reports says be sure to read the fine print. And double-check to see whether the card has penalty fees, which can add up to a lot of money in short order.
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