Once consumers try contactless payments, they like it.
That’s the latest from a consumer research study commissioned by the Smart Card Alliance that showed nine percent of the U.S. population now has a contactless credit or debit card. Last year the number of open network contactless cards in circulation reached 35 million, nearly doubling the 19 million issued in 2006, according to a separate study from Jupiter Research. Still, more industry promotions are needed to educate consumers about the value of contactless, the alliance study pointed out.
But with large issuers getting behind contactless including American Express, Chase, Citibank, Washington Mutual, Wells Fargo and many others, the number of users is growing fast.
The alliance survey showed 92% of contactless users thought it was both fast and easy. On the whole, these users had positive experiences at merchants too, reporting that 85% of cashiers knew how to accept contactless, and 84% saw contactless acceptance marks at the point-of-sale. Contactless users are also paying with their contactless cards or fobs frequently, with over 22% using contactless payment more than six times per month.
The Alliance survey, conducted in 2008 by Javelin Strategy and Research, included two pools of respondents: 1,500 representative of the U.S. online population and 500 contactless credit/debit card users.
“Millions of Chase customers make contactless payments every day using Chase cards with blink,” said Deana Cook, who manages the contactless feature at Chase. “We have found that customers especially appreciate making contactless payments in places where speed and convenience is important. Our research shows that customers who make contactless payments do so often, and we continue to issue and reissue millions of Chase cards with blink. Contactless technology is also safe and secure. Issuers of contactless credit cards have seen no evidence of increased fraud.”
Peter Ho, vice president and product manager for Wells Fargo Card Services, seconded Cook on the card’s security features. “Unlike other card payment mechanisms, contactless payments utilize a dynamic verification value that is unique to each transaction. This is a very strong security feature because it prevents criminals from making fraudulent contactless transactions.”
One challenge highlighted by the recent Alliance consumer study was that more communication is needed to reach more consumers. Awareness has grown significantly since 2006, with 25% of consumers surveyed now familiar with contactless payments compared to 15% in 2006; however, more than 50% of consumers still are not familiar with contactless payments. Even in high penetration zip codes nearly half of all consumers are unfamiliar with contactless.
“Communicating and building awareness of contactless benefits to get consumers to try it is critical, and an important priority for all of the stakeholders,” said Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance.
Merchant acceptance of contactless is also strong and growing. There are now 75,000 U.S. merchant locations accepting contactless payment, including taxi cabs and transit operators, according to David Robertson, publisher of The Nilson Report, a trade newsletter that tracks the payment industry.
“Contactless payment acceptance at merchants is taking off much faster than PIN debit did,” said John Suchanec, senior vice president of Payment Research and Innovations, Bank of America. “Contactless acceptance is already growing at a rate that it took seven years to achieve with PIN debit. Mobile will accelerate the curve.”