BANKING cards that will allow consumers to make small purchases by simply waving them in front of a terminal will be introduced later this year.
They will allow people to buy coffee and pay for a newspaper or a taxi without having to enter a PIN number.
The new contactless debit cards will effectively be an electronic purse and should significantly reduce the use of cash.
Irish people are the most intensive users of cash in Europe, and are jointly, with the French, biggest issuers of currency notes.
Visa Europe says it expects to have the technology up and running by summer.
Its debit cards are used by Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank, with Bank of Ireland rolling them out to customers later this year. Industry experts expect Visa debit to fully replace Laser cards soon.
The new "smart card" technology is already operating in Britain. The card will have an overall limit of €15 per item, or €45 overall for small purchases, to reduce the risk of fraud.
For amounts over that, card holders will have to punch in a PIN, as they do at the moment, says Visa's Irish boss Conor Langford. Once they enter their number, they will again be able to use the card for small purchases until they hit the €45 limit again.
Visa already issues 1.3 million debit cards in Ireland. With these, you can only spend what you have in your current account, unlike a credit card.
Mr Langford says there had been strong take-up of the new contactless card in other markets, with the cards especially popular among fast-food outlets, pharmacies, newsagents, taxis and sandwich bars.
It takes just one-fifth of a second to swipe the card in front of a wireless reader, in the same way that Dublin's Luas smart card works .
By 2012, Visa says, it expects to embed a chip in mobile phones which will allow them to double as debit or credit cards.
Bank of Ireland said in November that, from summer, it would drop the Laser card and replace it with a Visa debit card for its more than one million personal banking customers. Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank already use Visa debit cards but AIB still uses a Laser debit card.
Mr Langford says he does not expect banks to apply charges to individual contactless transactions as there will be huge savings for banks, retailers and consumers from this technology.