Contactless payment explodes in 2020

In 2020, more than 4 billion payments in retail outlets were made "contactless", i.e. almost one in two bankcard payments, according to Groupement Carte Bancaire CB. The appearance of the virus and containment have accelerated pre-existing trends in French payment habits.

47% of retail payments made using contactless technology

The use of contactless payment exploded in 2020 following the introduction of containment. Specifically, 47% of card payments at merchants were made this way, compared with just a third in 2019. This share rose to 52% in December 2020. In volume terms, this equates to over 4 billion transactions, compared with 3.3 billion the previous year.

Despite this, cash is still the master of payments, accounting for 60% of all transactions in 2019 (in-store and remote payments combined).

Rapid adoption of the new ceiling

The use of contactless payment has intensified with the increase in the ceiling to 50 euros. This new rule was quickly adopted by the French, as barely a month after its introduction, 35% of payments over 30 euros were made without contact.

The widespread use of contactless payment is also due to the high level of security perceived by users. Indeed, while cards remain the most widely used cashless payment method, accounting for nearly 60% of all transactions, their fraud rate remains at an all-time low of 0.064%, according to the Banque de France in September. Meanwhile, contactless mobile payments are slow to take off in France, unlike in other countries such as China.

Contactless: an increase in refusals

Contactless technology is experiencing a number of setbacks, with the number of refusals on the rise. These are often linked to a security mechanism that forces the cardholder to enter his or her code to prove that he or she is the legitimate owner of the bankcard. In other words, even if you're careful not to exceed the maximum limit set by the bank, it's impossible to pay solely by contactless means. While authorization requests are not automatic for payments of less than 30 euros, "beyond that, every card payment is subject to an authorization request that goes back to the banks", explains Jean Michel Chanavas, Mercatel's Managing Director, to Les Echos. In this case, transaction speed depends on the fluidity of the network.

Contactless payment is one of the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, and is set to become a permanent feature of French habits.