A recent news report from Australiasuggests that more than four million people in the country arealready using contactless payment cards. The Australian bankingindustry has been actively promoting this new payment format toconsumers. All the major banks and many other financialinstitutions offer such cards to their customers. Right now thenumber of contactless cards stands at about 4.5 million and isexpected to double within next year.
So far, it has appeared that manycountries in the Asia-Pac region are early adopters of the newtechnology. In Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, millions and millions ofcontactless payment cards in different formats have been issued tothe hands of consumers. One of the many explanations for this isthat contactless payments are more attractive to consumers andmerchants in markets with such high population densities that thereis always pressure to speed up transactions and shorten wait timein front of the check-out counter. Australia is not one of the mostpopulous countries in the region, but there might be a spill-overeffect from other countries in the region that have warmed up tocontactless.
Usage of contactless cards has beenrising fast. Commonwealth Bank said it processed more than 150,000contactless transactions in November, up almost 70% from a monthearlier. On the acceptance side, things are also evolving quickly.Currently there are about 35,000 merchant locations acceptingcontactless payments and the number is expected to triple within ayear.
Will the popularity of contactlesscards pave the way for NFC-based mobile payment services inAustralia? With tens of millions of mobile handsets equipped withNFC expected to be in the hands of consumers around the world bythe end of next year, that is an intriguing question for thebanking and mobile industry in Australia. Let’s wait and see.