Bicycles are my preferred form of transportation so I was eager to explore London using the Barclay’s-sponsored bike share program. Unfortunately, you need a Chip & PIN card to rent a bike using the automated stands and all I have are U.S. issued mag stripe cards. I was foiled:
After I tweeted about my disappointment (above) a number of payment geek friends offered to help me out (including Frank Mastrangelo at Bancorp who offered to issue everyone at Glenbrook a Chip & PIN prepaid card for travel).
Locally, here in London Dave Birch of Consult Hyperion (payments professional #2) came to the rescue and gave me a prepaid card of his own, kindly loaded with a bicycle budget. But when I went to use it I realized that I didn’t ask Dave for the PIN (or if he told me I promptly forgot it!).
Luckily I was with Chris Jones of PSE (payments professional #3) and he has an annual membership in the bicycle scheme. So he simply inserted his little key fob and off I went:
After a flurry of emails with Dave I did eventually get the PIN for his card and was able to hire a bike to get to my meetings in the City of London later in the afternoon.
This little cycling fable illustrates a troubling breakdown of the International card brand promise, something we’ve explored previously on Payments Views (here). And it wasn’t just bicycle hires – I wound up getting cash from the ATM and using it to buy tube tickets and train tickets (rather than wait in the long queues at Waterloo to pay a person at the counter with my mag stripe card). As a result I now have a huge handful of very heavy British coins that I received as change from the ticket machines.
I realize that the US is planning to move to EMV. But when we do eventually shift over to EMV, we’ll be using a combination of Chip & PIN and Chip & Signature (it’s up to the Issuers) so I am not entirely sure that this problem will be resolved. Just in case, I’m going to take Frank at Bancorp up on his offer.