They are a foretaste of what the rest of the country can expect as banks press on to replace notes and coins with electronic money. The parking meters have been modified to accept Visa Cash cards, an 'electronic purse' system that has been on test in Leeds for the past 18 months. More than 60,000 cards have been issued to local people.
The cards are loaded with credit and may be used instead of cash for everyday purchases around the city. A chip in the card keeps a track of how much credit is left. When the money runs out, the card is simply reloaded. The cards can be charged with value at machines that look rather like conventional cash dispensers, or even by special mobile phones that transfer money direct from bank accounts.
Cardholders do not use PIN numbers or sign sales slips so, like notes or coins, the cards can be used by anyone who gets their hands on one and they should be guarded in the same way as cash.
Seven banks, all members of the Visa credit card network, are backing the Visa Cash trial, which they hope to extend beyond Leeds over the next year.