If you’re looking for innovation, you’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere more dynamic than Istanbul. Sitting at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, the Turkish capital lends its own unique influence to the contactless marketplace. The combination of a high number of tech-savvy  and increasingly wealthy young people living in a city whose total population tops 12.8 million, and the lack of legacy payment systems have propelled Istanbul –  and the wider Turkish economy – to the forefront of European contactless adoption.

Consumers in the capital have been encouraged to think contactless for some time. Back in 2004 SuperCom delivered a contactless campus control system to one of the city’s universities which integrated access control, time and attendance and eWallet applications. And it’s also been a hot location for contactless payments as one of the first places in Europe where innovative form factors such as watches, key fobs and stickers could be seen in action.

Its devotion to innovation continues today with many of its leading banking and telecoms companies employing the technology. Unsurprisingly, for a city that has been at the vanguard of European contactless deployment, some schemes have now extended beyond its boundaries and been adopted country-wide.

In transportation, the technology is being used for toll payments on expressways and bridges, including the bridges over the Bosphorus Strait. Travelers using ferries on the Bosphorus can take advantage of DenizBank’s Sea & Miles card, which uses the contactless feature on Visa cards and allows them to pay directly at the gate. The bank was the first to offer Visa PayWave to its customers and more than 1,000 commuters now use the card.

Taxi firms have also got in on the act, with 114 cabs at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen Airport being equipped with contactless terminals thanks to a partnership between Ingenico and Bank Asya.

In the wider payments world, the city and country have played host to an increasing number of contactless pilots. Turkey’s largest bank Akbank and leading cell phone operator Turkcell conducted an NFC payments trial in 2009 in conjunction with MasterCard, Giesecke & Devrient, E-Kart and Venyon. Big High Street names such as Burger King also took part.

Back in 2008, Turkcell teamed up with Garanti Bank in a trial backed by the GSMA’s Pay-Buy Mobile scheme. The trial, which involved 100 Turkcell and Garanti Bank employees, tested MasterCard PayPass on NFC handsets with around 5,000 merchants. Participants could tap their phones to make contactless payments across the country.

And In 2010, Garanti Bank and telco Avea are launching an ambitious commercial NFC service. They plan to issue 100,000 customers with an NFC SIM+ antenna solution that will allow them to make payments with their cell phones at more than 15,000 retailers throughout the country, including Burger King, Starbucks, Cinebonus, Carrefour and Istanbul Atatürk Airport car parks. The scheme will include MasterCard PayPass credit and debit applications as well as access control, event ticketing and potentially loyalty and mobile couponing applications.

In yet another move, Turkey’s interbank card organization BKM is teaming up with Avea to launch a Visa payWave and MasterCard PayPass trial with an estimated 32,000 merchants throughout the country. It’s an ambitious trial, involving six of BKM’s members – Isbank, DenizBank, Finansbank, Halk Bankası, VakıfBank, Ziraat Bankası – which will see an initial 200 users given NFC handsets. When it moves into its second phase, it could involve more than 15,000 users and expand to involve additional cell operators and banks. Applications may also grow to include transport ticketing, couponing and account top-up, with plans to use contactless microSD cards and SIM cards attached to flexible antennas.

Category Number Score
Point of sale terminals/readers deployed 101-150 4
Different types of contactless device 5 10
Number of contactless devices 5001+ 50
Number of applications 7 7
Total number of service providers involved 22 22
Number of banks in partnership 9 9
Number of operators in partnership 2 2
Number of merchant locations 11-50 2
Transit operators in scheme 2 2
Parking sector 1 1
Vending 0 0
Entertainment sector – football, leisure, congress etc 0 0
Public sector activities – libraries, schools etc 1 1
Smart poster environments in place 0 0
Marketing campaigns rolled out 6 6
Length of time project implemented 25 months + 5
ROI – future potential 5 5
Green credentials 1000 5
Social equality 0 0
Total 131



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