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Contactless payments were already on the rise in the U.S., but the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has hiked up the number of Americans using various touch-free payment methods.
In fact, more than half (51%) of Americans are now using some form of contactless payment, which includes tap-to-go credit cards and mobile wallets like Apple Pay, according to Mastercard Contactless Consumer Polling. This comes as 51% of U.S. consumers say they are using cash less often or not at all since the pandemic began.
"What we're really seeing during this crisis period is a consumer behavioral shift to leveraging contactless products," Linda Kirkpatrick, president of U.S. issuers at Mastercard, tells CNBC Select. "If you're at a grocery store or a drug store where a consumer should avoid touching a terminal or coming into contact with the cashier, what contactless products really provide is an avenue to shop safely."
Consumers mostly use contactless cards for buying the essentials. Here's a breakdown:
- Grocery: 85%
- Pharmacy: 39%
- Retail: 38%
- Quick service restaurants (QSRs), fast food: 36%
- Transit: 9% (this lags in the current stay-at-home environment)
The increased adoption of contactless payments is due in part to the numerous concerns over the cleanliness of signing at point of sale (POS) or paying with cash. The survey found that half (50%) of U.S. consumers worry about the cleanliness of signature touchpads and 72% of U.S. consumers prefer to skip signatures altogether.
Many card issuers have transitioned to issuing contactless cards, but that doesn't mean all cardholders for a specific card have contactless capability. When an issuer switches to contactless, new cards aren't sent out to everyone at once. New cardholders typically receive contactless cards first since the old cards are no longer manufactured.
Then, existing cardholders will receive cards when their current card expires, or upon request.
That means many Americans are without contactless cards and are therefore reevaluating how they pay. Nearly a third of respondents switched out their top-of-wallet card for a card that offers contactless capability due to safety and convenience concerns amid the coronavirus. And that rate climbs to 43% for younger demographics (Americans under 35). This is an interesting point since rewards and benefits are often the deciding factor on what credit card to use.
Keep in mind, if your card currently doesn't have contactless tap-to-go capability (represented by a wave-like symbol on the front of your card), you can still add it to a mobile wallet, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay, to complete a contactless transaction at numerous stores, such as Costco, Target and Walmart (via Walmart Pay).
And if you've never used contactless payments before, rest assured that the process is relatively easy, according to nearly nine in ten (88%) Americans that adopted contactless.
If you use tap-to-go or traditional methods, such as swiping or inserting your card, at checkout, consider cleaning your credit card regularly. In fact, almost half of Americans polled wipe their payment cards clean after each use — so you may want to sanitize your card the next time you wash your hands.