Mastercard contactless payment technology

Svetlana Popova / 04 Jan 2018 13:13

ITS Domain(s):
Mobility services
United Kingdom


Mastercard contactless payment technology allows everyday purchases to be made quickly and safely with just a touch of a contactless-enabled Mastercard® or Maestro®card, NFC-enabled smart phone or other contactless device.

After examining a number of technologies, TfL selected Mastercard contactless payment technology to be the enabler for the innovative enhancement of the Oyster system under the Future Ticketing Programme. Both TfL’s own technology team and the Oyster system provider Cubic Transportation Systems were tasked with designing and implementing a system upgrade. This enhancement would eliminate both the need for occasional or one-time travellers to acquire Oyster cards as well as the middlemen required to sell and administer them.

The core concept of the programme was to enhance the Oyster system infrastructure to make it capable of interacting securely with contactless payments cards, and perform the complex logic of fare calculation and daily capping in a back-office system that would also allow proper online account management. The solution makes optimal use of three specific Mastercard technologies and/or rules in its design:

Offline Data Authentication
The enhanced Oyster terminals can complete secure cryptographic EMV authentication for each transaction made by card or mobile device entirely offline without exchanging keys or data with remote servers. As such, the system is highly resilient against counterfeit attempts while maintaining the transaction speed necessary to allow high volumes of passengers to move through the transport system at peak hours.

Zero-Value Terminals
Most contactless payment situations may require the customer to enter a PIN for cardholder verification. In a busy, peak transport environment, process would slow down fare transactions, creating a frustrating situation for both TfL operators and customers. For optimum efficiency and passenger satisfaction, Mastercard recommended that Cubic hard-code the Oyster terminal software to remove the PIN entry requirement.

Fare Aggregation
Mastercard recognises that most transport providers charge fares based on the distance the customer travels. For each journey, a cardholder must tap in to the transport system, travel between stations, and then tap out, only charging a fare after the second tap. To reflect this, Mastercard introduced an aggregation rule enabling TfL to offer daily and weekly capping, and charge each payment card on a daily cycle once these caps have been applied. More generally, the rule gives transport providers the flexibility to offer a range of other fare constructs such as free transfers and time-based tickets.


Improved mobility options Improved accessibility to public transport


With this solution, there is no need for a PIN or a signature; customers simply touch their card or device on TfL’s signature yellow readers to enter the system, and then tap again when exiting.

Consumers—be they London residents or visitors—indicate they prefer contactless payment because of its convenience. The most time-consuming and frustrating aspects of TfL transit have been eliminated, especially the need to pre-register or pre-purchase a “special” transit card before travel. Simply using their existing payment cards or mobile payment solutions has simplified each TfL journey.

For London, contactless has generated a reputational boost. The convenience and simplicity of the system have encouraged more individuals to use TfL rather than other travel options, while raising user satisfaction scores in the process.

 Finally, issuing banks are reaping the benefits of simple, easy and convenient contactless payments, too. Everyday transit transactions are increasing card usage and loyalty—and generating the same sort of reputational boost the city of London also enjoys.

Results/Lessons Learnt

Contactless payment has been an unqualified success for TfL, as consumers have eagerly embraced the technology. Since its launch in September 2014,3 more than 850 million journeys have been made, and 19 million unique contactless cards or payment devices have now been used from more than 100 countries across the world. Now, TfL regularly sees more than 1.8 million journeys per day using contactless payment cards, with about 25,000 new contactless cards in use each day.

Technology readiness level

  • Not applicable (not R&D)

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Mobility as a Service
Svetlana Popova
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