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To pay in London, just 'tap and go'

MasterCard rolls out its PayPass contactless-payment technology in several locations across U.K. capital, including Canary Wharf.

MasterCard has launched its contactless-payment technology in the United Kingdom.

The MasterCard PayPass and Maestro PayPass contactless cards enable consumers to buy items costing less than 10 pounds ($20) simply by waving their debit or credit card in front of a reader.

The rollout of contactless-card readers has started in London, in several areas, including Canary Wharf, with participating retailers in the rest of the United Kingdom set to get the technology over the course of next year.

In a similar vein to the London Underground's Oyster card, contactless cards transmit payment details wirelessly between the PayPass card and a retailer's terminal. The transaction is then processed through the MasterCard network for clearing and settlement.

The so-called "tap and go" payment feature can be added to any MasterCard credit, debit or prepaid card, or Maestro debit card, and HSBC Group and The Royal Bank of Scotland have already signed up to use the technology. Retailers participating in the contactless-payment plan include Books Etc, Coffee Republic, Eat, McDonald's and the Science Museum.

U.K. payments industry body Apacs estimates that more than 5 million contactless cards will be issued by the end of 2008 in the United Kingdom and that they will be accepted by at least 100,000 retailers.

About a third of U.K. consumers said theft (34 percent) and loss (33 percent) are the two main reasons they do not want to carry cash, according to research from YouGov on behalf of MasterCard.

But only one in six of those surveyed said they decide "often" or "very often" against making everyday purchases such as newspapers, sweets or sandwiches, because they don't have the change and don't want to break a note, or bill.

Gemma Simpson of reported from London.