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Contactless cards are coming to the U.S., but are retailers ready?

Millions of contactless cards are about to flood the U.S. market. Here’s what you need to know.

October 21, 2019

Many retail-focused solution providers in the U.S. still have a bit of a hangover from EMV. And yet the payments industry—and rest of the world—continue to move on. A perfect case in point is contactless payment technology, which includes mobile wallets and contactless cards with embedded RFID chips that enable quick and convenient tap and pay functionality.

Contactless payments have exploded in Europe over the past few years, and while the U.S. has lagged, there are clear signs that things are about to change. First, leading players such as Chase, American Express, Capital One and Wells Fargo have initiated rollouts of contactless cards to their customers. In fact, there are estimates that 100 million contactless cards will be issued to U.S. consumers in 2019.

Another factor in the rise of contactless card use in the U.S. is that thanks to EMV upgrades, many retailers have contactless-enabled payment terminals already in place. Unlike the EMV upgrade process, which took considerable time, money and convincing, the ability to accept contactless cards has few, if any such barriers.

Finally, it’s expected that once contactless cards are issued, their use will increase quickly when people experience the convenience for themselves. Unlike mobile wallets, which require a few (albeit simple) steps to make a payment, contactless cards really are as unobtrusive as tapping the card.

If what we’ve seen in Europe is any indication, it won’t take long for contactless cards to be the new norm in the U.S. According to a Greensheet interview with NMI’s CSO and co-founder Nick Starai, there were approximately 1 million contactless transactions in the U.K. in 2013. Just a few years later, there were 96 million. A recent Pymnts article revealed that there were 766 million contactless transactions in July alone in the U.K., totaling $9 billion. Based on the previously mentioned factors, there’s no reason not to expect similar growth in the U.S.

Prepare your merchants
Knowing that contactless cards will begin flooding the market very soon, it’s critical that solution providers prepare their merchants. For some, this can be as simple as educating them and their staff on contactless acceptance. This includes both contactless cards and mobile wallets. For others, it might require a settings tweak, firmware update or hardware upgrade of their payment terminals. Only through a discovery process will you uncover what each merchant needs.

The bottom line is that if merchants can’t accept contactless payments, they will unnecessarily damage the customer experience and, possibly, lose out on valuable business.

If you’d like help assessing merchants, understanding payments technology, and selling/implementing the latest payments and POS solutions, contact Angie Lawrence, Ingram Micro’s mPOS and payments expert.