updated 5/25/2005 10:17:23 AM ET 2005-05-25T14:17:23

About 400,000 credit-card holders in Georgia will be the first in the country to use a new technology that allows them to pay for items by waving their card near a terminal instead of swiping it through a machine.

Residents of Atlanta and 160 other cities in the state will test drive the new "blink" cards, which JPMorgan Chase & Co. will begin mailing to its customers June 1.

The company selected Atlanta as the first test city because "what we see in Atlanta is very much on the leading edge of being trendsetting," said Tom O'Donnell, senior vice president of JPMorgan's card division.  "It's a dynamic place where people are on the go."

JPMorgan estimates that the new technology will help shorten lines at businesses and help merchants reach more customers by speeding up credit-card purchases.  For example, the company predicts it would cut up to 20 seconds from a typical transaction at a fast-food restaurant's drive-through window.

In Atlanta, the cards will be accepted at hundreds of businesses starting next month, mostly at pharmacies, convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and movie theaters.

Everything about the "blink" card is the same as a traditional credit card except that the new cards don't have to be swiped through a machine, so it shaves a few seconds off of a transaction.  It looks like a normal credit card, but there is a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip embedded inside it.  Barely visible, the flat microchip is smaller than a kernel of corn.

When a customer brings his credit card within a couple of inches of the terminal, it lights up and beeps, and the transaction is instantly captured.  "A big part of convenience is speedy transaction," said Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman with 7-Eleven convenience stores.  "It's quicker because they're not fumbling around with cash."

Consumers can start "blinking" at 170 7-Eleven stores next month, and Chabris said that the company hopes to have all its 5,300 stores outfitted with the terminals by the end of the year.

"What we're looking for is adding a feature that gives them more speed and more convenience in terms of how they use their credit card. They now have an easier way to pay," O'Donnell said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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