Louisville, Kentucky’s Louder than Life rock festival encouraged attendees to go cashless, but unfortunately the strategy hit a few snags.

I recently attended a famous rock festival in Louisville, Kentucky called Louder than Life. The festival, which ran from September 22 to 25, featured bands such as Slipknot, Tenacious D, Lamb of God, Evanescence, Kiss, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and many more. The event attracted an estimated 170,000 people, all eager to listen to music and/or be beaten in the mosh pit.

At the event, organizers encouraged users not to pay cash with an RFID wristband. I decided to experiment with the technology to see how it would work at the festival. Unfortunately, there were a few problems from the start.

The RFID bracelet itself acted as a ticket to enter Louder than Life. I had to register the bracelet online and upon registration it gave me the option to link a debit card to the bracelet. When adding the card, I had to make a four-digit PIN for the card.

For security reasons, I fully understand this step, but I was wondering if there might not be an easier way to achieve this, such as biometric verification. After all, if I have to enter a PIN at checkout anyway, why not just use my debit card? And of course, I’ll have to remember that new PIN while I’m at a loud event surrounded by tens of thousands of people.

After being at the festival and having some time to listen to a few bands, I went to the merch table with my wife to see what t-shirts they had in stock. Whenever I attend a concert, I always have to check out the merchandise and come home with a fresh black t-shirt with dark images of one of my favorite bands.

After standing in line for an hour and a half in the mild weather, we luckily got to the front of the line and bought two t-shirts. However, when I prepared my bracelet for payment, I did not see a POS terminal for it, only a mobile card reader. The clerk then informed me that the merch table could not support cashless payments and I would have to use cash or a card.

Luckily I had my debit card in my wallet and the worker apologized for the inconvenience, but I wondered how many people stood in line only to find out they couldn’t use the only payment method the festival encouraged them to use at the most popular venue of the event.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only problem with Louder than Life’s cashless method. On the one hand, in front of the event’s multiple stages were numerous vendors carrying or pushing carts full of cold water and beer. As far as I could tell, these merchants only accepted cash. You can get cash from ATMs on site, but these ATMs seem to only accept physical cards.

So by this point I was wondering where I could even use my cashless wristband? Determined to find out, my wife and I went to the nearest pizza stand and tried to buy. This time the stand had a strap reader but there was nothing to indicate that reader and it was placed right next to the main POS reader which had a touch and go symbol which can be very confusing for a customer.

Also, when I tapped my wrist on the reader, there was no feedback as to whether it had read it or not. There was only a green light that flashed constantly. The clerk had to let me tap my wristband again, and after checking in, they turned their tablet over so I could enter my PIN number.

Overall, the cashless experience was pretty disappointing. It was not successfully implemented in many places at the festival and was not at all intuitive to use. If nothing else, this event reinforced the importance of having cash and a physical card.

While cash may not be the most important thing, it clearly remains a useful payment method, especially since many have yet to figure out how to go cashless.

Bradley Cooper is the editor of ATM Marketplace and was previously the editor of Digital Signage Today. His background is in information technology, advertising and writing.