Part of the drudgery of shopping is getting stuck in line behind several people who pay for their purchases with a credit card. You have to wait for what seems like forever while the credit card reader processes the transaction and prints out a receipt for the customer to sign. However, some credit cards have the capability to speed up the payment process so that you can get through the check out line and out of the store in a flash.

These cards offer contactless payment, a way to pay without having to swipe the card through a magnetic stripe reader. The card is embedded with a contactless chip and a radio antenna. When you hold the card up to a special payment reader, the antenna in the card talks to the reader to give it your card information. The reader then verifies the transaction with the card-issuing bank and authorizes the transaction. It then flashes to indicate that payment was made, and it all happens within a few seconds. If your purchase is under $25, you may not even have to enter a PIN or sign a receipt. Although the transaction doesn't automatically generate a receipt, you can still get one by asking for it.

The four major credit card networks have some form of contactless payment technology system. The American Express system is called expresspay, Discover offers Discover Zip. MasterCard has PayPass, and Visa has Visa payWave. You can tell if your card contains the contactless chip if the card has the name of the contactless product on it, or it has a contactless symbol, which is four curving lines that branch out to the right, like waves of sound.

The contactless cards have security measures built into them, such as encryption technology or digital watermarks. They can't accidentally be read if you happen to be walking past a contactless reader. In order for the card to register a payment, you have to hold it within an inch or two of the contactless reader in such a way that the reader can read the chip. As an added security measure against unauthorized transactions, card networks generally offer zero liability protection on the card. Additionally, since the card never leaves your hand, no one can lift the number off of it during a transaction.

Most of the credit cards with the contactless feature also have the traditional magnetic stripe so it can be used for traditional purchases in stores that don't have contactless readers. Some, like the Visa Micro Tag and Discover Zip sticker don't.

The Visa Micro Tag is a key fob that contains shortwave radio technology that can be used with contactless readers that accept Visa's payWave. It works just like the contactless credit card, but since it doesn't have a magnetic stripe, you can't use it at places that don't accept this specific contactless technology.

Discover Zip offers a sticker that attaches to the back of a mobile phone, allowing you to have a payment method that's always nearby. You then can use it at any retail outlet that accepts Discover's contactless payment system. Along with the standard security features, Zip has a transaction verification code that changes with each transaction so that no one can attempt to use it for a different purchase. Although the sticker is designed to be attached to a phone, it won't interfere with any phone functions, nor can it use minutes.

Many places around the country accept these different types of contactless payments, including many drug stores, convenience stores, fast food restaurants and gas stations. Look for it at selected movie theater and arena concession stands. The Utah Transit Authority accepts it as payment to ride its public transportation system, and some toll roads even offer contactless payment.

While this contactless technology isn't available on every credit card, you can apply for cards that do have this feature. Check the Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover websites for links to banks that issue these cards.