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How Covid-19 is Reshaping Card Payment Habits

The pandemic has forced people to embrace contactless and card-based payments – and the trend will only accelerate, research shows

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  • Written by  Banking Exchange staff
How Covid-19 is Reshaping Card Payment Habits

Contactless payment cards are becoming more popular among US consumers, according to a survey conducted by Entrust Datacard.

The technology provider quizzed 1,000 US cardholders and found that the majority – 61% – felt a contactless option was “at least somewhat of a priority” when choosing a new credit or debit card.

Uptake of contactless cards varied by age group, however. Entrust’s research found that baby boomers – those aged between 55 and 73 – were least likely to use the functionality. In addition, 20% of this age group said they never used the contactless option.

Among those who used contactless cards, sanitation and speed were the main benefits.

“As many Americans deal with financial setbacks and heightened concerns around health and safety in the face of Covid-19, the value we are placing on contactless payments has increased markedly,” said Tony Ball, senior vice president for instant payment card issuance at Entrust Datacard.

“Consumers want the ability to shop at their convenience, but also want to minimize personal contact with point of sale devices. Contactless cards are rising in popularity as a result.”

The research reflects a similar report published earlier this month by consumer research group Strategy Analytics, which found that 29% of US consumers preferred contactless payments to other options in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, the rising popularity of contactless in the US was dwarfed by data from the UK, China and Germany. Strategy Analytics found that 62% of UK consumers preferred contactless compared to 59% before the pandemic, while in Germany the proportion preferring ‘tap and pay’ grew from 42% to 46%. In China the increase was from 37% to 42%.

The data firm predicted that the US would see accelerated growth in contact-free payments as it was a global “laggard”.

Meanwhile, issuers of prepaid cards could offer “underbanked” or “unbanked” consumers a way out of their reliance on cash payments during the pandemic, according to work by market research firm Packaged Facts.

Users who have been “cash-only holdouts” have likely been forced to convert to card payments for online shopping, the market research company said in its report. These people could find it harder to open a traditional bank account, making prepaid cards a more accessible option.

Packaged Facts’ research found that 46% of “general-purpose reloadable” prepaid card users said they preferred to use cash, with 25% saying they always paid bills in cash. However, stay-at-home orders and store closures will have forced these people to embrace online shopping and bill payment.

“Once consumers adjust to this payment shift, many may find they like things just fine,” Packaged Facts stated.

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