Contactless payments are rapidly becoming a mainstream payment option for Canadian consumers, according to a new study published by Technology Strategies International Inc. The report titled, Canadian Payments Forecast – 2015, estimates that the number of contactless payments transactions has increased by almost 150% over the past year, fueled, in part by the rapid rollout of Interac Flash cards by some financial institutions.

“It is quite evident, when visiting merchants, that consumers are embracing contactless payments,” says Christie Christelis, President of Technology Strategies International. “Contactless cards have been in consumers’ wallets for a number of years, but over the past year consumers have become much more comfortable making contactless payments, which is one of the reasons contributing to the uptick in volume.”

Other factors that have played an important role in making it easier for consumers to make contactless payment transactions are the increasing penetration of contactless acceptance infrastructure, as well as lifting of the floor limit from $50 to $100 by most issuers, he says.

“Only 20% of those Canadians who own one or more contactless payment cards have not made a contactless payment transaction in the past six months,” Christelis says. “Apart from increasing contactless card penetration, usage frequency has increased dramatically.”

While the contactless market is achieving critical mass, it is laying the groundwork for rapid mobile payment adoption, he says, since in-store mobile payments are likely, at least in the short term, to rely heavily on the contactless acceptance infrastructure that is being put in place.

“In-store mobile payments have yet to gain traction,” says Christelis, “mainly because it is very difficult to enable the consumers to make mobile payments. Firstly, there aren’t many phones that have NFC chipsets in them. Secondly, all of the business relationships that need to be in place to get a consumer’s payment card credentials onto their mobile device and ready for payment, are still being put into place. So it is not easy for consumers to make in-store mobile payments using open payment systems even if they wanted to.”

The report predicts that the mobile payments landscape in Canada will change dramatically within the next five years, with about two thirds of the smartphones in Canada having NFC capability by 2019, and major financial institutions and other key players releasing mobile wallets and applications that are more in line with consumer needs than the current slew of offerings.

Additional highlights from the study are:

  • The share of consumer expenditure paid for using cash is steadily being eroded
  • Growth in credit card payments continue to outpace growth in debit card payments
  • Online payments remain buoyant
  • Awareness of virtual currencies has increased substantially over the past year, but usage has remained low

The 260 page report provides a comprehensive review, analysis and forecast of consumer payments in Canada. It draws on established statistical sources as well the Canadian Consumer Payments Survey, 2015, conducted by TSI amongst more than 2,000 consumers. The report identifies high growth segments in the Canadian payments market in the context of some important recent developments in the economy, regulatory environment and the industry. Detailed forecasts are presented for credit card payments, debit card payments, cash payments, cheque payments, contactless payments, prepaid cards, gift cards, P2P payments, remittances, online payments, mobile payments, bill payments and transfers, ABM installations and POS terminals.

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