Almost two-thirds of Australians prefer NFC to cash: MasterCard

Contactless payments are the preferred payment method for 66 percent of Australians, with 64 percent preferring it to cash, according to a survey conducted for MasterCard.

MasterCard has labelled cash as unnecessary wallet real estate following the release of a survey that showed contactless near-field communication (NFC) payments are preferred over cash for nearly two-thirds of respondents.

The survey of just over 1,000 Australians aged between 18 and 65 was conducted by Galaxy research for the credit card giant, and found that respondents favoured the speed of a contactless transaction, and the ability to be reimbursed for unauthorised transactions in the event of card theft.

"I'll take a card any day of the week -- it is safer than cash," said MasterCard Australia country manager Andrew Cartwright. "If my wallet is stolen, the cash is as good as gone."

While Apple Pay has popularised contactless payments in the United States since its introduction in October last year, the service was only made available to Australians last month, and only for those with an American Express card.

In his capacity as the deputy chair of the Australian House of Representatives Standing Economics Committee, Ed Husic wrote to the Reserve Bank last week and called for adjustments to national payment frameworks to increase technology neutrality.

Husic said he was surprised to learn of claims that Australian banks had refused to support Apple Pay, effectively boycotting the system.

"Various reasons are being cited for this decision by the banks, including a preference to drive customers to use the banks' own payment platforms and a strong negotiating position by the banks in relation to transaction commissions being demanded by Apple," Husic wrote. "It's also been suggested that some credit card companies have resisted embracing alternative payment systems such as Android Pay and Apple Pay on commercial grounds, reflected through their approach to tokenisation.

"Australian consumers should not be denied the ability to make payment choices that are openly available to consumers globally."

Apple is said to take a 0.15 percent cut of every Apple Pay transaction in the US.

MasterCard said that it has 625,000 terminals capable of contactless payments, and card data compiled along with Visa found that contactless fraud made up less than 2 percent of all card fraud. For the year to July 2014, MasterCard said it had experienced 148 percent growth in contactless payments.

A parliamentary committee recommended in September that banks should ensure contactless payments on debit and credit cards include a feature that requires the consent of customers before it is activated.

Victoria Police was highlighted as seeing a significant increase in deception offences in Victoria, arguing that "tap and go" technology provides motivation for the physical theft of credit cards, with little risk of capture by police or of physical identification.