Contactless payments doubled during Olympic Games


Contactless payments have been slow to gain traction in the UK. Yet, with a captive Olympic audience in London this summer, Visa hoped to publicise contactless technology, which lets customers pay by tapping their cards -- and even phones -- on special terminals.

The numbers are now in. Statistics presented by Visa Europe at the NFC World Congress in Nice last week show that contactless transactions doubled in the UK during the 10 weeks leading up to and including the Olympic Games. Will this enthusiasm about the technology continue even after Olympic spirit wanes? contactless-card-payment

How Visa pushed contactless
This time last year, many people in the UK had not heard of contactless payments or had been ignoring their cards' contactless capabilities. With the London Olympics, Visa's sponsorship of the games gave it an exclusive lock-down on all payment terminals at official venues -- and an opportunity to push contactless.

In addition to installing about 3,000 contactless payment terminals at Olympic venues (and promoting them weeks before the games), Visa also drummed up publicity for contactless by giving sponsored athletes and journalists limited-edition Olympic-branded Samsung Galaxy S III phones. The phones came loaded with Visa's mobile payment app that allowed users to tap and pay with their phones instead of with a bank card.

Encouraging numbers
The newly released numbers from Visa Europe suggest Visa's efforts may have paid off. Among the findings:

  • During the games and the weeks leading up to them, the number of contactless transactions in the UK doubled.
  • Compared with the same time period in 2011, the number of contactless payments during the games increased six-fold.
  • Contactless transactions at Olympic venues represented 15% of contactless payments in the UK.
  • About one in 10 of all Visa payment transactions at the games (and one in five of those under £20) were contactless. At some of the Games venues, such as Horse Guards Parade, as many as one in four Visa transactions below £20 were contactless.
  • Those who were given the Samsung Galaxy S III phones used their devices to make 15 transactions each, on average.

Will enthusiasm for contactless continue?
Mary Carol Harris, head of mobile at Visa Europe, described the response from consumers as "extremely positive" in a statement and revealed that Visa's priority now is to increase adoption across Europe. However, the company recognises that change will not come overnight, with Harris describing the journey as "a marathon, not a sprint."

One in five UK Visa cards now include contactless technology -- and many major retail chains throughout the UK already have the special payment terminals that allow consumers with contactless credit and debit cards (or a contactless technology-equipped phone) to "tap and pay" without entering a PIN for transactions under £20. Visa predicts that half of all transactions over its networks will be through mobile devices by 2020.

"We will continue to work with all of our partners in the new world of payments to educate and encourage consumers on the ease, security and value of contactless payments, whether they're made through a card or a phone," Harris said.

See related: Experts: contactless payments won't take off without retailers, Wireless Festival lets revellers go cash-less


Published: 24 September 2012