MasterCard Inc. is encouraging large merchants, including fast-food chains and pharmacies, to accept contactless cards in the United Kingdom.

"We are focusing on bringing in Tier 1 merchants," said Catherine Murchie, MasterCard's head of PayPass product management for Europe.

Those merchants include McDonald's Corp., the bookseller Borders Group and The Boots Co., a pharmacy chain that in May said it would test contactless payments in 15 stores in London and six in Liverpool. (PayPass is the brand name for MasterCard's contactless cards; 61 million PayPass cards have been issued worldwide.)

Most of the contactless effort in the United Kingdom to date have focused on transit and merchants that handle small-value retail purchases located around transit stations in the London area, Murchie said.

The contactless payment effort in the United Kingdom initially focused on "smaller, independent stores," unlike in Canada and the United States, where larger retailers were involved from the start, Murchie said.

"One of the things we realized from the experience we saw in Canada and the U.S. [was that] larger merchants really helped generate an awareness" about contactless payments."

In France, at least one major retailer is taking part in the early stages of that country's rollout of contactless cards.

The financial services arm of Carrefour Group plans to deploy as many as 4,600 contactless payment terminals in the company's large retail outlets and other stores by yearend, and its Societe des Paiements subsidiary plans to issue 2.5 million contactless payment cards.