‘Clean’ Contactless Cards Key to Pandemic-Driven Digital Adoption Surge

contactless card payment in bakery
Tom Pierce Photo
SVP/Chief Marketing Officer

3 minutes

Right now credit unions have a golden opportunity to teach members about such alternative payment methods as ‘tap to pay’.

Very few industries have remained unaffected by COVID-19, and the payments industry is no exception. The ongoing pandemic is acting as a driver for consumer payment choices and purchasing behavior, influencing how and where we transact, along with what forms of payment we use and why we choose to use them. According to findings from PSCU’s third annual Eye on Payments study, one of the most significant impacts of COVID-19 on payments has been a surge in digital adoption, as illustrated by an uptick in online shopping, increased usage of mobile apps, mobile wallets and digital banking, as well as “clean” forms of payments like contactless cards.

Seventy percent of Eye on Payments respondents reported they make decisions about how they will pay for something primarily based on which payment option is the most physically safe at the point of sale. In line with this finding, the number of survey respondents—credit union members in particular—who say they shop online at least a few times a week increased by almost 50% since the pandemic started. The frequency of online purchases has increased among all age groups. Respondents also reported increased usage of mobile apps and online platforms to order ahead for grocery or food pick-up or delivery, with most respondents indicating they expect to continue using these channels post- pandemic. 

The Findings

As consumers look for “clean” forms of payments that limit human contact, there has been a 72% year-over-year increase in survey respondents that report having a contactless card. In addition, 57% of respondents said they used a contactless card at least a few times a month before the pandemic; this number increased to 65% during the pandemic, and 69% anticipate continuing to use it post-pandemic. 

Respondents reported using contactless cards most frequently at essential businesses, with usage among credit union members higher across the board than non-members. Nearly 50% of consumers surveyed agreed with the statement, “I prefer to use a contactless card.” 

In 2019, 32% of respondents were likely or extremely likely to use a mobile wallet over the next six months. In 2020, this increased to 38%. And more credit union members (49%) report using a mobile wallet than non-members (28%). 

Mobile banking also continues to trend up. Respondents who said they typically make payments or do banking via their phones grew by three percentage points, with credit union members reporting higher usage than non-members (57% versus 35%). 

The Takeaways

More and more consumers are taking to digital channels to conduct transactions and interact with their credit unions, with usage among credit union members higher than non-members. To keep pace with member demand and compete with other financial institutions, credit unions must continue innovating in the digital space, especially as artificial intelligence and biometric technology advance. Credit unions should keep a regular pulse on what their members want and expect when it comes to innovation. Leveraging third-party partners can be beneficial once credit unions have formulated their strategic innovation priorities. 

While the number of respondents with contactless credit or debit cards has risen dramatically, credit unions not currently offering these options should prioritize issuance whether through mass or natural reissue. Of the survey respondents who currently have a contactless card or mobile wallet but do not use it, many reported not knowing what it is or how to use it. In addition, many did not feel contactless cards or mobile wallets were secure (17% and 31%, respectively). This is an opportunity for credit unions to teach members how to utilize alternative payment methods, as well as explain the benefits and security features of each. 

In his role as SVP/chief marketing officer, Tom Pierce is responsible for leading and executing marketing and communications strategy for CUESolutions Silver provider PSCU, St. Petersburg, Florida. Pierce has successfully led marketing teams for more than 30 years, with the latter half of his career spent in the payments industry. Before joining PSCU, Pierce served as CMO for Cardtronics, a global ATM organization serving the retail and financial services industries, where he directed a global marketing team in the development and execution of strategic marketing and communications initiatives.

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