By Dale S. Laszig
Castles Technology Co. Ltd.
It's faster than cash, so what's taking contactless so long to become a mainstream payment method in the United States? Most payments industry analysts agree that contactless technology, which is easy to implement and popular worldwide, may take longer to be fully embraced by U.S. merchants and consumers.
Thanks to the efforts of card brands and their technology partners, we've graduated from early pilots and processor certifications to an affordable family of contactless-ready terminals and peripheral readers. Consumers can confidently tap or wave credit cards, key fobs and assorted devices in lanes and counters across the country.
So why aren't more people doing it? It's taking time for consumers to notice the contactless cards on their key chains and in their wallets and understand the benefits of using this alternative payment method. Retailers have been cautious about adopting contactless technology, too. Best Buy Co. Inc. mandated only PIN-based contactless transactions, leading to the discontinuance of Visa Inc.'s payWave at its stores. Most contactless cards are dual-purpose, supporting both contactless and mag stripe, so currently Visa cards can be swiped, but not waved at Best Buy.
Also, unlike markets in Asia and Europe, where contactless payments are popular, the infrastructure in the United States has dampened contactless adoption because it is built more on mag stripe reader technology than on smart card and microprocessor technology.
The rollout may be slow, but there are signs the U.S. market is ripe for contactless payments. Beyond the faster transaction times, there's more security and control with contactless payments, because the card, key fob or smart phone used at the POS never leaves consumers' hands. Contactless is also a more fraud-proof technology: the microprocessor used in contactless payments is harder to hack into than traditional mag stripe schemes. Contactless payments can also be paired with gift, frequency and loyalty programs to create rewards and incentives.
Additionally, along with the success of pilots of Visa's payWave, MasterCard Worldwide's PayPass, American Express Co.'s ExpressPay and Discover Financial Service's Zip, there are ongoing systems integration efforts at the host, carrier and gateway level that will seamlessly fold these and other emerging technologies into a congruent, commercial processing framework. Here are additional indications that contactless acceptance in the United States is catching on:
Contactless initiatives, the relentless efforts of manufacturers of contactless chips and readers, and the increasing adoption of mobile technology will continue to drive mass acceptance of contactless technology.
The growing contactless trend promises increased adoption of all forms of contactless payments as consumers and merchants become more comfortable with tapping and waving. We're even seeing contactless options at self-attended venues such as pay-at-the-pump, quick-service restaurants and vending machines. So stay alert; you don't want to miss this important new wave.
Dale S. Laszig is Vice President of Sales in the United States for Castles Technology Co. Ltd., a manufacturer and global provider of smart card, contactless and POS solutions. She can be reached at 973-930-0331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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