Mondex, NatWest's electronic cash card

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Banking and telecommunications are coming together in NatWest's Mondex, an electronic cash card to be tried out in Swindon next year. It is being developed with BT's help.

Mondex is a smart plastic card. It stores 'cash' as information on a computer chip, like a sophisticated telephone card. The cash is issued by a bank to the customer's card, from a machine in a branch or through a modified telephone. It can also be paid back again. To check how much is on the card, a customer reads it with a device on a key ring.

Customers can transfer their cash balance from the card into a shop's electronic till or use it to make payments over the phone. Cash payments between individuals are made using a wallet-sized computer that transfers cash from one chip to another.

The system has complex electronic 'locks' claimed to make it safer to carry than banknotes. And cash can be drawn over a telephone from a customer's bank into the card in five currencies, anywhere in the world.