The technology is branded with the terms like "blink" and "Tap N Go," connoting speed and convenience. Banks around the country have begun...

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The technology is branded with the terms like “blink” and “Tap N Go,” connoting speed and convenience.

Banks around the country have begun issuing bank cards with microchips. The cards contain radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, that enable users to simply wave the cards in front of special terminals to pay for a purchase.

For small purchases, consumers don’t need to swipe their cards, enter a PIN number, hand the card to a clerk, or sign a receipt. They still need to sign for purchases over $25, however.

The cards also have magnetic strips so they can be swiped the conventional way.

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JPMorgan Chase, which teamed up with Visa USA and MasterCard International, said in May that it was the first bank to issue millions of credit cards nationwide using the new technology. Chase calls the cards “blink.”

The Cleveland-based Key Bank announced this month that it will be the first bank to offer MasterCard PayPass debit cards to millions of customers nationwide beginning Sept. 1.

MasterCard has trademarked its name for the technology, “Tap N Go.”

“There are many, many people interested in this concept,” said Carl Stauffenenger, senior vice president of product management for Key consumer-product development. “People like it for the speed and convenience, and they see it’s cool.”

MasterCard’s PayPass, American Express’ ExpressPay and Visa’s Contactless cards — the only three cards available so far — tout convenience and speed, factors that translate into higher revenue because, studies show, consumers spend more when they use cards than when they use cash.

All three companies say the transactions are safe because the information the cards send is encrypted. As with regular cards, customers using the new cards do not have to pay back fraudulent charges, the companies say.

“We don’t see any cons, frankly,” Stauffenenger said. “We just see pros.”

Seattle’s first PayPass terminals were introduced Monday at Qwest Field, but in other states, merchants — including McDonald’s, Regal Cinemas and Ritz Camera Centers — already accept the cards in some stores.

In 2003, MasterCard completed a nine-month market trial with Chase, CitiBank and MBNA in Orlando in which about 16,000 cardholders and 60 retailers participated.

In Dallas, MasterCard, teamed up with Nokia, AT&T Wireless and JP Morgan Chase, where consumers used PayPass on their cellphones to make payments.

The development of the new cards is an example of the banking industry finding new ways to provide convenience, said Ed Kountz, a senior analyst in bank-cards research service at TowerGroup, a subsidiary of MasterCard International.

The cards will save consumers time, Kountz said. A phone survey by MasterCard found that 49 percent of consumers carried $20 or less in their wallets and that 86 percent said they wanted to use less cash.

Whether the new technology will catch on in the U.S. is hard to determine, said Aaron McPherson, a research director with Financial Insights, a Framingham, Mass.-based technology-consulting firm.

Millions of cards will be issued, but, “whether they’ll actually be used is another question,” McPherson said. Merchants will need to buy the equipment, activate it, download the software, and train the sales staff, he said.

Many merchants have said they will install the readers, but McPherson said, “consumers should expect to search a little bit” to find stores that use the new terminals.

The technology has been used for years on transit systems and overseas but is only now making its way into stores in the U.S. In 1997, ExxonMobil began using the technology in its key-chain fobs for consumers to use at gas stations. In Hong Kong the same year, a rechargeable smart card called Octopus was introduced for use on mass transit.

Seven Puget Sound-area transit systems, including the state ferries, are working to implement a regional fare-collection system using one card and similar chip technology.

Seung Hwa Hong: 206-464-3347 or ihong@seattletimes.com