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Contactless: The new normal

Filed on August 31, 2020

Consumers in the UAE Make the Move to Contactless Payments for Everyday Purchases, Seeking Touch-Free Payment Experiences.

During March 2020, as many countries in the Middle East imposed necessary restrictions on social distancing, a significant majority of consumers turned to contactless payments for necessary purchases. 70 percent of respondents in the Middle East say they are now using contactless payments, citing safety and hygiene as key drivers. Consumer polling by Mastercard, studying changing consumer behaviors in 19 countries around the world, paints a picture of accelerated and sustained contactless adoption.

The act of running to the store for groceries, medicine and other necessities has changed dramatically. Shoppers around the world have had to adjust to social distancing measures and other new challenges when buying everyday supplies for their families and loved ones. This shift in consumer behaviour is particularly clear at checkout, as people express a desire for contactless, and voice concerns over cleanliness and safety at the point of sale, according to the new Mastercard study.
In fact, findings from respondents in the UAE show:

Contactless Move to Top of Wallet
Perceptions of safety and convenience have spurred a preference for contactless and reminded consumers of the convenience of tapping on a global scale. In the UAE, 73 per cent of respondents have swapped their top-of-wallet card for one that offers contactless while 82 per cent UAE respondents consider contactless to be their preferred method of payment.

Confidence in Contactless
The global disruption has led to increased concern from consumers on cash usage and positive perceptions towards contactless due to the peace of mind that it provides. 71 per cent of consumers say they are now using some form of contactless payment. Amidst the pandemic, 84 percent agreed that contactless is a cleaner way to pay, while 85 percent think it is more convenient than cash. Furthermore, 78 per cent of UAE respondents have said contactless payment methods have been easy to adopt. Contactless payments are up to 10 times faster than other in-person payment methods, enabling customers to get in and out of stores faster.

Contactless is Here to Stay
We are in a sustained period in which consumers are making purchases in a very focused way; it's reinforcing contactless use in markets where adoption is more mature, and it's stimulating use in newer markets. This trend appears to be here to stay. Three in four UAE respondents (74 per cent) confirmed that the pandemic has led them to use less cash, and 83 per cent of UAE respondents said they will continue to use contactless post-pandemic.

"The UAE government is setting a great example in keeping residents safe and in addition to social distancing between people, this should also apply to publicly shared devices, like point of sale terminals and checkout counters," said Girish Nanda, general manager, UAE and Oman, Mastercard. "Contactless is already quite prevalent in the UAE, though conditions resulting from this pandemic are advancing consumer adoption further. UAE shoppers are increasingly recognising contactless as a safer, more hygienic, faster way to pay, especially since control over physical proximity is critical at that moment."

Visa also welcomed the UAE Central Bank's move to increase the Card Verification Method (CVM) limit
for contactless transactions in UAE to AED 500 (from AED 300). The 67 per cent increase in the PIN-free transaction limit will allow consumers to simply tap-to-pay using their card, mobile phone or a wearable device for larger purchases. Visa is working closely with local bank partners and merchants to implement the new limit on Visa contactless cards in the UAE.

This move is in line with similar changes in the Middle East and North Africa region where Visa has been working with local governments to increase the limits to support the growing appetite for contactless payments.

Contactless technology provides the fastest, most convenient and highly secure way to pay for both consumers and merchants, enabling simple 'tap' payments. According to a 2019 Visa-DED Stay Secure study, about 80 per cent of people in the UAE who already use contactless payment technology trust this payment method. With more than 50 per cent of card transactions in the UAE already contactless, the increase in PIN-free transaction limits will continue to improve consumers' shopping experience and reinforce their trust in the technology.

"The UAE Central Bank's decision to increase PIN-free limits for contactless transactions in the country will allow larger everyday purchases to be made using this fast, easy and secure way to pay. It will even further support merchants and front line staff working during these challenging times. Visa is working with our local bank and merchant partners to implement the new central bank-mandated limits for Visa cardholders that will facilitate the continued growth of highly secure and convenient contactless technology in the UAE," said Shahebaz Khan, Visa's General Manager for the UAE.

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