Increased deployment of contactless cards in the US is likely to cause cash usage for everyday transactions to decrease. Contactless card payments allow for greater convenience, and as more consumers gain access to these cards we will eventually see the US become a cashless society.
Contactless cards have been widely adopted across a number of developed markets. According to GlobalData’s 2018 Consumer Payments Insight Survey, more than half of respondents in the UK, Australia, and Canada have at least one contactless card and use it for contactless payments.
However, contactless cards have been a comparative rarity in the US until now.
The reason for this is that US banks are finally making serious moves to deploy contactless cards to the mass market, with JPMorgan Chase, Capital One, and Citigroup introducing more than 100 million contactless credit and debit cards in the US in 2019.
Is the US ready to give up cash?
Given that US consumers are used to paying with cards, contactless is likely to be adopted, with the contactless feature simply enhancing the convenience of card payments.
There are various benefits for merchants of increased consumer access to contactless cards, such as shorter queues and a faster checkout process. Merchants are also likely to benefit financially, as the introduction of contactless cards is likely to increase spending – as seen in the UK.
How to entice customers?
According to the UK Cards Association, contactless card spending rose to £3bn ($3.98bn) in 2017, up from £117m ($155.41m) in 2014. The UK’s contactless boom was initially driven by contactless cards becoming available for use on public transport, most notably the London Underground.
If we see New York or other major US cities accept contactless cards on their own transport systems, this is likely to accelerate consumer adoption and usage of this technology, which could eventually lead to the US becoming a cashless society.
Yet despite the benefits for many merchants, significant challenges exist for smaller traders. These merchants may find it difficult or costly to update point of sale (POS) terminals with contactless acceptance, particularly if they have limited financial resources and a lack of knowledge of contactless payments. And as more consumers come to rely on contactless cards the US is likely to see fewer consumers using or even carrying cash. Small merchants – which tend to rely on cash payments more than larger retailers – will likely find themselves forced to upgrade POS terminals to keep their revenue coming in.
Overall the increased deployment of contactless cards is likely to start displacing cash in the short term. As more banks make contactless cards available, consumers will become increasingly used to the technology and will use less cash. This in turn will boost revenue for merchants – provided they are capable of accepting contactless card payments.