Member Exclusive, Payments

As the effects of COVID-19 continue to rise in the U.S., so does the use of contactless payments

  • Use of contactless payments has accelerated since the rise of COVID-19
  • Access, education and privacy concerns remain obstacles.
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As the effects of COVID-19 continue to rise in the U.S., so does the use of contactless payments

Even before COVID-19, contactless payments have seen a significant rise in use globally. But for the U.S., it’s taken the pandemic to really cause the trend to take hold.

In pre-pandemic years, the U.S. had been relatively slow in adopting contactless payment methods. Disinterest may have had to do with the lack of benefits contactless payments offered. People who adopted this payment method usually just benefited from only a slightly quicker checkout process.

Security misconceptions have also been a major obstacle for contactless payment growth. Fear of fraud has led to distrust among consumers.

Since the rise of COVID-19, however, behavior towards contactless payments has significantly changed.

31 million Americans used either a Visa contactless card or digital wallet in March 2020 — a 19% increase since last November. And since March 2019, the overall use of contactless payments in the U.S. has increased by 150%.

Mastercard has seen a similar surge in use of contactless cards. A recent global consumer study revealed that almost eight in 10 said they use contactless payments. In between the months of February and March, contactless transactions have increased twice as much as non-contactless transactions in grocery and pharmacy purchases.


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3 comments on “As the effects of COVID-19 continue to rise in the U.S., so does the use of contactless payments”

  • This is something we’ve been waiting for years for (even before Apple Pay came out), and there is still a ways to go for large-scale adoption of contactless payments as the POS. I think it’s 2 main issues for the consumer: Behavior and Convenience. A founder of a payments startup I spoke to a few years ago put it perfectly (for a TS article): “Until I know I can go to the gym without my wallet, and know I can buy a bottle of water on my way home, people are still going to use cash/card.” That plus people naturally reaching for their wallets instead of the phone to pay show we’re still not there yet, but def a compelling idea that hygiene may push adoption.

  • We also see this trend in Canada, the UK, and Australia for the ~50% of our POS customers who use an integrated payment partner. From the merchant conversations we have had, the (obvious) key driver is health & safety. However, over the past couple of years, we have seen a rise in the number of cashless merchants in our portfolio, so Covid merely accelerated this trend.

  • You know what would really accelerate contactless payments in the U.S.? A consistent point of sale experience. Seemingly every terminal has a “right place” to tap, you can’t easily tell if you can tap and people behind the counter are under trained on process.

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