Networks: Contactless Transactions Soar as Pandemic Takes Toll on Cash

NFC TIMES Exclusive Insight – In announcing their respective quarterly results this week, both Visa and Mastercard, as expected, discussed the major disruption that Covid-19 is wreaking on the payments business. But they also noted that there is one unexpected victim of the pandemic: cash.

The networks each said they saw a 40% growth in contactless transactions in the first quarter of 2020, compared with the same quarter a year earlier–as consumers sought ways to avoid handling coins and notes and also to sidestep inserting their cards into POS terminals, which would require them to touch the terminals. Further, Visa said that nearly 60% of global face-to-face transactions with cards carrying its brand outside of the U.S. were contactless at the end of April. Of course, Visa’s share of contactless transactions of total face-to-face domestic card payments had already been growing by around 10 percentage points per year, and the network a year ago had touted a nearly 50% share of contactless in-store transactions outside the U.S. Visa said that rate had increased from 30% two years earlier.  

And neither Visa nor Mastercard said how much yearly growth they had expected for contactless transactions before the pandemic. The technology had already been increasing at a healthy rate.

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