Banks: Contactless, NFC are solutions looking for problems

Payment cards have been working well so far — however, the question isn't whether there is a need for contactless payments, but how banks can make contactless mainstream.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

There's no real need for consumers to use contactless payments, such as near-field communication (NFC), but banks still think that smartphones will be the future for payments.

At the Mobile and Contactless Payments Australia conference held in Sydney yesterday, representatives from ANZ Bank and Credit Union Australia (CUA) said that, despite banks increasingly issuing contactless payment cards and retailers rolling out corresponding sales terminals, contactless payments are still relatively underused.

They said that instead, consumers are still comfortable swiping their cards at EFTPOS terminals or using cash, and are in no hurry to start going contactless — even for small purchases — despite the transition being seen as the means to increase the adoption of NFC phones as wallets.

"Largely, we don't have a payment problem," ANZ Bank Head of Payments John Collins said.

Some businesses, such as Baker's Delight, are comfortable with cash and rarely deal with payment cards — let alone contactless ones — so NFC may not work for them, Collins said.

"In New Zealand, I'm not used to carrying cash, but in Australia, I am," he said. "For merchants that take card, it works well, so what is the problem we are actually trying to solve?"

"Banks really need to answer that question for themselves."

Collins is hopeful that NFC smartphones will become the norm in the future, but said that banks need to get the balance of convenience and security right.

"I'm not saying [NFC] is a panacea for mobile payments, but maybe it's a good first step to start building a level of collaboration [between banks]," he said.

CUA Products and Marketing General Manager Jason Murray, who was also speaking at the conference, has no doubt that we're heading towards a mobile wallet future, but there are hurdles that banks must first overcome.

"Ultimately, consumers are going to adopt this and it's very obvious," he said, drawing on his own experiences in testing NFC phone payments. "Clearly, payment via mobile replacing wallets, and so on, is the end game.

"I just don't think we've done a very good job of getting the customer experience side right."

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