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Amex UK - no PIN; Amex US - PIN & RFID no problem

I reported earlier this week that Amex UK hasn't implemented chip and PIN on its cards, so I was surprised to learn that Amex US is several steps ahead of its UK operation in this regard.

So far ahead, in fact, that it's started issuing RFID (radio frequency ID) cards to its US users on request.

Known as ExpressPay, the cards uses radio waves to send encrypted data to Point of Sale (PoS) readers at a range of a few inches or so.

The latest US store chain to offer ExpressPay facilities is McDonalds, with the chain planning to offer the service at around 12,000 of its US locations.

According to Amex, ExpressPay transactions are quicker than paying with cash or conventional magnetic-stripe cards, as the PoS terminal can extract the data from a card without the card having to leave the owner's hand.

The system operates at 13.56 megahertz and, says Amex, can be embedded in the credit/charge card or offered as a keyfob to cardholders.

Amex isn't the only card issuer with RFID-enabled cards, as MasterCard is currently piloting its PayPass technology in the US in partnership with around 700 McDonald's locations. Visa, I gather, is also testing a similar system.

Both the ExpressPay and PayPass systems are broadly compatible and, say the two card issuing organisations, the plan is to roll out RFID-enabled cards globally in the next four to five years...