Put a Big Mac on my smart card, please!

Put a Big Mac on my smart card, please!

"One Big Mac, a small Coke and fries coming right up. Will that be cash or smart card?"

At 870 McDonald's restaurants across Germany, the familiar clink of the cash register will soon be replaced, in part, by a payment system that allows customers to pay for goods using stored-value smart cards.

Under a scheme announced recently in Paris, Hewlett-Packard's VeriFone unit will be providing payment terminals which allow McDonald's Deutschland customers to swipe smart cards storing electronic cash through small terminals at the counter to pay for their goods.

Smart cards look similar to credit cards, but include a microprocessor and the ability to store data. Stored-value smart cards are most often used to store electronic cash that can in turn be used to purchase low-value items, such as bus tickets, newspapers and food. They eliminate the need for the merchant to communicate with the bank for authorisation of purchases.

In addition, they will be able to add value to the smart cards by downloading money electronically from their bank accounts at touch-screen terminals in the restaurants. These terminals will have easy-to-use touch screens that lead users through the process of downloading new money to the cards.

A Verifone spokesperson said McDonald's Deutschland tested smart card terminals in 55 stores earlier this year. During the first 10 weeks of the trial, 30,000 transactions were conducted.

While smart cards are catching on in Germany as a method to pay for goods, there hasn't been an easy way to add value to the cards, said Rolf Kreiner, senior vice president for marketing for McDonald's Deutschland. By allowing users at McDonald's to not only buy goods, but to also add value to their cards, McDonald's is hoping to lead a trend in Germany towards the wide-scale acceptance of smart cards, he said.

A date when the 870 restaurants would be up and running with the system could not be pinned down but it appears European countries are leading the way in the adoption of smart card technologies.

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