FUTURE OF MONEY This month’s feature concludes a two-part series on currency. This month focuses on the future of plastic as well as micro payments. Read about the evolving form of paper currency in the January, 2006 issue.

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ark Friedman has a payments dream. He pictures the day when he can hop on the Massachusetts Pike on his way to a meeting in Boston and not stop to pay the $2 toll. The same device would save him from digging for quarters in the backseat of his car by electronically paying the parking meter, shorten the time to pay for a cup of coffee and a scone at a café, and let him buy a candy bar from a vending machine. That day may not be far off, according to Friedman, president and CEO of Peppercoin, a Waltham, Mass., company that develops technology to facilitate small payments. Advances in technology, including contactless technologies and micropayments, and shifting consumer preferences are changing the look and use of credit, debit and stored-value cards. From the days of metal tags and embossers to today’s plastic cards with magnetic stripes, payment cards have offered convenience, flexibility and consumer rewards capabilities that have dramatically changed the way Americans make payments—and will continue to do so in the future.

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Wallet cards are clearly outstripping cash and 12.5 seconds in a recent pilot at drugstore chain checks when it comes to making purchases. Ameri- CVS in Phoenix. The company was so pleased it cans charged an estimated $2.7 trillion in 2005, implemented 40,000 contactless payment terminals about 13 percent more than the year before. Of that throughout its chain of 5,400 stores in 2005. total, $1.9 trillion was credit card charges and Contactless payments have been available in approximately $800 billion was debit card charges, some arenas for years—most notably transportation. according to...