The National Payments Corporation of India’s (NPCI) card network RuPay has launched a contactless prepaid NFC card. Recently, it launched a contactless card for the Ahmedabad Smart City project in association with ICICI Bank and Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. It also launched similar prepaid contactless cards for the Kochi Metro Rail Ltd (KMRL) and Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) in association with Axis Bank.

NPCI said that plans to launch more such transit and smart city projects on the RuPay contactless program along with banks. RuPay’s contactless card is an interoperable, open-loop EMV based product where amount users can add money to the card through various payment modes such as cash and internet banking. In open-loop cards, users will be allowed to withdraw cash from ATMs as well.

The cards can be used at payment applications, including transport (City Buses, BRTS etc.), toll, parking, municipal payments, utility payments and retail.  For payments lower than Rs 2,000, customers can simply tap their card on the NFC terminal and no second-factor authorisation is needed through PIN as per Reserve Bank of India (RBI) guidelines.

NPCI takes over the National Common Mobility Card

The NPCI added that RuPay’s contactless cards are designed in line with the National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) guidelines as envisioned by Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD). It’s worth noting that the UTI Infrastructure Technology and Services Ltd (UTI-ITSL), the Government of India company which was running the NCMC, had surrendered its wallet license earlier this year. In November 2016, Minister of State for Railways, Rajen Gohain said that NPCI had been entrusted to prepare the standards and specifications of the NCMC.

It’s worth remembering that there have been several attempts by banks to develop smart cards. ICICI Bank had launched a smart card for the Delhi Metro back in 2014. In July 2011, State Bank of India had also partnered with Bangalore Metro to launch NFC-enabled debit cards, that doubles up as travel smart cards.

Other global smart cards

Hong Kong has a smart card for digital payments called Octopus card which can be used for all public transport in the city. London has Oyster card which can be used to pay for fares for the London Underground, London Buses, the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), London Overground, Tramlink, some river boat services, and most National Rail services. Dubai has a electronic ticketing card called NoI card which can be used in all public transport systems.

State of NFC cards in India

The adoption of NFC payments has been slow in India due to the lack of devices which can accept the corresponding cards. Last year, card network Visa said it issued over one million NFC contactless cards and has over 100,000 merchant locations which can accept NFC cards and transactions. In May 2016, State Bank of India (SBI), the country’s largest lender, said that it has issued 30,000 NFC terminals. ICICI Bank says that it has NFC terminals in over 991 locations in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Gurgaon.

Meanwhile, Mswipe enabled Samsung Pay across its POS  which will enable contactless NFC “tap and go” payments. So technically RuPay’s contactless cards should also work on these terminals.