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Visa’s “Wave to Pay” Offers Transit Purchases via iPhone Swipe

Paying for your subway ride may soon require just a wave of your iPhone rather than a swipe of a metro card.

iPhone MetroCard

Paying for your subway ride may soon require just a wave of your iPhone rather than a swipe of a metro card.

Visa announced today initiatives in New York and California to create more convenient payment experiences for riders of mass transit. The company is aiming to integrate VisaNet, its electronic payment system, to let commuters avoid the hassle of digging through a wallet or pocket book for cash as the subway pulls away from the station.

The New York pilot program is more promising than L.A.’s, where the company is simply testing prepaid cards. Though the NYC trial has been open for several months, thanks to Visa joining the pilot, microSD-enabled smartphones can now be used to make payments. Visa has worked with contactless solutions firm DeviceFidelity to bring this functionality to the iPhone. Using Visa’s payWave technology, smartphones with embedded chips are converted into payment devices that communicate securely with card readers at fare gates. Commuters will now only have to wave their iPhone or BlackBerry to gain access–no more fumbling for money or metro cards.

Currently, the pilot will be available on trains, buses, and at 28 subway stations in New York. Additionally, more than 10,000 cabs are already equipped with Visa payWave terminals, enabling passengers to pay with smartphones in taxis as well.

Visa isn’t the first company to employ pay-wave technology. Citigroup is testing a pilot called PayPass with MasterCard, which enables riders to wave certain credit cards and Nokia phones for access. These tap-and-go payments have been available for months, but have gained little traction among commuters due to a lack of education about the product, security concerns, and slim availability (PayPass MasterCards are required).

If Visa can make its new technology known to riders, especially the fact that it is available in smartphones as trusted and ubiquitous as the iPhone, then metro cards may soon be a thing of the past.

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.