TfL hunts backers for ‘smart’ Oyster

Transport for London (TfL) will next month formally present its plans for transforming the Oyster travel smartcard into a “digital wallet” to media groups, financial institutions, retailers and packaged goods brand owners.

TfL wants to develop the Oyster card as a method of making payments for small purchases, and will hold a presentation on April 15 in the City to interested third-party companies.

Observers speculate that companies showing an interest in working with Oyster could include Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Associated Newspapers, owner of the Evening Standard and Metro, is thought to be one of the media companies attending.

One insider says: “If I were a finance house I would be knocking the door down to be involved with Oyster. London Underground and Transys don’t have the expertise themselves to handle credit.”

TfL group marketing director Chris Townsend says that “the cashless society” could be a way for finance houses and other companies to gain market share and develop loyalty.

He adds: “One option is to do the whole thing ourselves, but we believe it will be more efficient and we’d get it to market quicker if we team up with third parties.”

The Oyster card was developed by Transys and is used by 2.2 million passengers. TfL intends to make its bus network totally cashless by the end of next year.

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