On your way to an important meeting, you rush down to the subway. After fumbling for your wallet, you unsuccessfully swipe your MTA card multiple times before the payment is accepted – only to see the train’s doors slam shut.
If this experience sounds familiar, you’ll be pleased to hear that New York’s MTA is recognizing that payments are causing far too much friction for riders. As soon as this spring, riders of NYC subways will be able to tap a contactless bank card or mobile wallet at turnstiles. The development portends a future of contactless payments in the U.S.
However, contactless is old news internationally. In Australia, the UK, Canada and South Korea, for example, contactless cards account for more than 20% of all retail transactions. In the U.S., contactless payments are less than 1%.
Why has the U.S. lagged behind in contactless payments?
The short answer is that cards in America have been burdened with technical debt. In order to have contactless, you need a chip with a small NFC (near-field-communication) antenna. In the U.S., the card networks have only been pushing cards with chips for a few years. It’s been slow going to get merchants and card issuers (primarily banks) on board.
However, we may be reaching a tipping point where more opportunities for contactless payments are opening up and lame excuses like "I did not have the correct change, Mr. Vader" will be met with "you are part of the rebel alliance and a common fare dodger...take her away"
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FinTech Collective Newsletter
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Delivered every Saturday, the weekly newsletter, produced by our team, provides a tightly edited rundown of global fintech news, along with a bit of our original analysis.