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M&S shoppers make quarter of a million NFC payments a WEEK

It's not just ANY bonking, it's posh, food-centric bonking

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Posh retailer Marks & Spencer is accepting nearly a quarter of a million contactless payments a week, with a bonk of plastic replacing the rattle of coins.

At M&S Finsbury Pavement (it's a London street, not a food-enabled paving slab) one in three payments under £20 are contactless these days, as shoppers save valuable seconds off their transaction times.

The supermarket group processes 230,000 contactless payments a week, which make up one in 20 of its transactions for £20 or under. In the food hall and at the self-service tills, that number rises to one in four transactions.

The numbers make M&S the largest UK processor of bonking payments, which is all the more remarkable considering that the contactless tills have been in place for less than a year.

What we don't know is how many of those 230,000 weekly transactions are carried out with a phone handset rather than a card, as transactions from each device are indistinguishable. It will be a very small number, given how few NFC-payment-enabled phones there are in the UK, but the spread of contactless bank cards should encourage and facilitate phone-based NFC too.

Pay-by-bonk is capped at £20, so anything above that still requires chip-and-PIN, which is probably why M&S is leading the pack. Retail giant Tesco has been notably indifferent about contactless payments, in cards or phones.

Those technophobes who remain reticent about bonking still worry about the security side: that virtual pickpockets will lift their details from miles away (impossible given the induction-powered NFC standard) or that card details will be snatched from the airwaves – which is pointless, as transactions are formed from encrypted challenges and responses, so captured data will be entirely unintelligible.

Yet security-conscious shoppers may yet be persuaded to enter the fold. NFC in a handset allows the user to check their bank balance on demand, and can be linked to the lock screen or an additional PIN. Or, for the truly paranoid, you can even implement both forms of authentication together, perfectly suiting shoppers who still want to do a bit of bonking when the opportunity arises.

El Reg's NFC desk confidently predicts that bonking objectors will soon be left behind, along with those Luddites still refusing to use their credit cards over the internet. ®

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