Paying with your phone: TechRadar tests the Visa Olympic Samsung Galaxy S3

"When we consider contactless payments on mobile you've not only got the obvious cash replacement advantage, but also other benefits, such as having a screen, keyboard, internet connection, all of which allows you to track your transactions and manage your finances better."

However, there definitely needs to be some refinement when it comes to the transaction history, as we're currently treated to indeterminate vendors each time we paid using our phone – there need to be associated IDs to be of any use.

In the wider world

Visa warned us that this was a work in progress when we signed up for the trial, that paying for stuff when using a phone would encounter problems. It actively encouraged it, to help the brand find the weaknesses of such a system.

And in practice, we'll admit up front there were many – let us recount our major experiences with you now:

(Disclaimer: these experiences are generally based on one visit to each style of outlet, and may not be indicative of function throughout the chain).

Pret a Manger

One of the early brands to install contactless technology, Pret is a store set up for NFC payments. The only issue (and one that prevails throughout our test) is that it only depends on whether the server understands what you mean by 'I want to pay by contactless'.

Most recognise an NFC credit or debit card, but when you hold up a phone, those that don't understand what you're saying look equally dumbfounded.

However, a quick tap was all that was needed once we explained what was going on - and the dedicated readers are a godsend over not knowing where to rub a chip and pin device.


This is where we spent a good chunk of our £50 – taking the lady out for dinner for passing her driving test. Yes, we're that considerate.

However, paying the princely sum of £21 (no, of course there was no pudding. It was only her theory test) brought confusion to the manager, who had to be called when we said we wanted to pay using contactless technology.

Apparently the chain can't accept payment over £15 (it's supposed to be £20 nowadays), despite protestations to the contrary. This was resolved by paying it in chunks, but there was a clear reticence from the store to let us pay using a phone.


Tesco is only just starting to get behind NFC payments, with contactless terminals installed in a small percentage of shops.

Samsung Galaxy S3 Visa

However, they're clearly designed for cards rather than phones, as we couldn't actually angle the handset around the side of the reader to allow us to make the payment, with 'you've tapped twice, please try again' messages appearing every time.

It did eventually work, but it highlighted the need for proper space when paying for items rather than just tacking it on the side of a chip and pin reader that's stuck to a till.


Another stalwart of the NFC movement, this was a decidedly more pleasant affair, and not just because we had a Wispa Gold McFlurry.

There was clear signage all around the till area noting how to pay via contactless, we didn't have to ask to activate the system and when we paid using our phone, the young lady serving us said: "That is, like, the coolest thing EVER!".

When your spend your life trying to convince people DLNA streaming is really an awesome thing, the respect of a teenager in McDonald's over a piece of technology is oddly refreshing.

The Olympic Park

Obviously, what with this being the Olympic phone, we had to pop down to East London and see if making all the terminals contactless offered an easier experience.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.