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Visa: Contactless Transactions in UK to Grow Fourfold This Year; Though Base Remains Small

Visa Europe predicts the UK will have 34 million contactless Visa-branded cards on issue and 175,000 contactless terminals deployed by the end of 2013, with Europe reaching 70 million Visa-branded contactless cards and 650,000 contactless terminals this year.

It’s unclear whether all the terminals in Europe would be active this year; some might be equipped with readers, ready for activation later. 

Visa made the predictions Wednesday as part of an announcement with Streamline, the UK’s biggest merchant acquirer, confirming a larger rollout of contactless acceptance by major UK merchant Boots at its retail pharmacy locations. It follows announcements by some other major merchants accepting contactless in the UK.

“2012 was a tipping point for UK contactless transactions, which increased over the course of the year to more than 2.5 million a month,” Mark Austin, Visa Europe’s head of contactless, said in a statement. “We’re predicting that transactions will grow fourfold over the course of 2013, thanks to the rollout in retailers like Boots UK, Marks and Spencer and McDonald’s, as well as all of London’s buses.”

Such major UK merchants as supermarket chain Tesco, however, continue to hold back in rolling out contactless. But an expansion by Boots would add momentum to the UK contactless rollout, which is Europe’s largest, though takeup is larger in Poland. And in a first project of its kind, Transport for London in December began accepting contactless credit and debit cards for payment of fares on 8,500 buses serving London.

It was unclear how much Boots plans to expand its contactless rollout in its UK stores. Visa and Steamline noted that Wednesday’s announcement follows an “initial launch,” in which 600 of the largest Boots stores in London have begun to accept contactless payments. Boots has more than 2,000 stores in the UK. All Boots stores in Ireland accept contactless, said Visa. Boots has more than 70 stores there.

In an announcement earlier this month, Visa said there were, at present, nearly 30 million contactless cards in circulation in the UK and more than 150,000 contactless terminals. The 30-million-card figure probably refers to contactless bank cards of all brands, though Visa payWave has the largest share of the UK market for cards.

Visa in the earlier release said that The Royal Bank of Scotland and its sister bank, NatWest, would roll out more than 2 million contactless cards supporting Visa payWave over the next 12 months.

Earlier this month, there were 50 million contactless bank cards and 590,000 contactless POS terminals in Europe, according to Visa. Nearly all contactless terminals that accept Visa payWave, also accept rival MasterCard PayPass. But MasterCard said in December that there were about 225,000 PayPass-enabled terminals in Europe, which indicates the much larger figure cited by Visa includes nonactivated contactless terminals.

When activated, the contactless terminals could accept payWave, PayPass and other open-loop contactless applications on NFC phones, as well as those applications on cards.

In a related prediction, Visa said that by 2020, 50% of all transactions on the Visa network would be made by a mobile device. The transactions would include online purchases.

 

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