Living with credit

At music festivals, cashless is all the rage

Kimberley Carmona

Goodbye, expensive ATMs on music festival fairgrounds!

Music festivals across the globe are going cashless. Instead of worrying about losing a card or being forced to use those high-fee ATMs on site, festivalgoers can focus on the music instead of mundane things such as having enough cash on hand to splurge on your favorite band’s T-shirt.

It’s all in the wrist. Wristband, that is.

As a frequent festivalgoer, the best part of going cashless is that I will no longer have to dig through my backpack trying to find my money. My wallet is usually buried beneath numerous band T-shirts, a water bottle, sunscreen, sunglasses, a bandana and a cap.

Instead, I want to focus on having fun and yelling out the lyrics to my favorite songs, not worrying about whether there’s enough cash left for yet another T-shirt or even losing my credit or debit card and being left parched and hungry in a sea of music fanatics.


More music festival organizers are turning to radio-frequency identification (RFID) and other similar technologies to give festivalgoers the ability to pay for food, drinks and merchandise without having to worry about cash or credit. We music fans now have the option to create a personal account linked to our wristband to not only register and plan our festival schedule, but to link our debit or credit card information or add money to our account.

For example, Front Gate Tickets provides RFID-enabled wristbands to music festivals such as Austin City Limits and the touring Lollapalooza. ACL uses an open-loop system that links wristband transactions to credit card or bank accounts. The transaction then requires authorization via the Internet. For security, festivalgoers just have to wave their wristbands over a reader and then enter a PIN to verify their purchases.

If an activated wristband is somehow damaged, festivalgoers can get a new one and link their cards to the new wristband.

Intellitix, another technology-solution provider for live events, provides RFID wristbands for major festivals such as Belgium’s Tomorrowland and the touring Electric Daisy Carnival. The company’s cashless payment technology operates on a server-connected, closed-loop system that allows payments to be processed quickly.

If an activated wristband is stolen or damaged, attendees can quickly have their account deactivated online or through a customer service kiosk.

After the music fest, attendees can request any leftover funds be refunded from their online account.

Liverpool Sound City Music Festival and Belgium’s Rock Werchter attendees receive their wristbands from PlayPass. The company lets festivalgoers load up money on their wristbands prior to the start of the festival or at the festival. The wristbands also offer a PayPal integration. The system is offline to ensure constant cashless transactions, but uses an online connection for real-time reporting.

If a wristband is reported stolen or lost, the wristband is canceled. Festivalgoers can get a new wristband with the balance transferred from the old one. PlayPass uses a chip called Mifare Ultralight C, which uses military-grade encryption.

Festival attendees are not the only ones benefiting from using the wristbands. Depending on the event, Intellitix’s cashless payment system has been proven to increase on-site guest spending by 15-30 percent at booths and concession venues.

“Organizers can even drive more sales by introducing time-sensitive promotions to targeted customer segments on the fly during the festival or post-event,” said Eric Janssen, chief revenue officer of Intellitix, in an email. “Customer data can also be used to improve future event content to boost sales even further.”

As the going cashless movement increases, so do complications. The first is making festivalgoers comfortable linking their bank or card information and alleviating theft or loss concerns. The second is technology problems. What happens if a fest goes offline, such as the reports of the cashless system going down at Mysteryland USA in Bethel Woods, New York? Many of the services have created an offline mode, but there is room for human error in technology.

But with my wristband, there will be no more worrying about trying to find my money at the next music festival I attend. Going cashless is allowing us to enjoy the music fest experience and create memories filled with dancing, singing and happiness. That’s what music festivals are about.

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