Contactless EMV payment adoption rates are slow, steady change is probable

Change can be a difficult thing to facilitate and accept for some. For Americans in particular, replacing the tried and true magnetic strip cards with the more complex and unknown technology of EMV has been a sluggish, ongoing process compared to some other countries.

Adoption rates in the U.S. have increased vastly over recent years, but consumers were slow to initially accept the shift.

In the case of implementing contactless EMV payments technology a half-measure more advanced than standard EMV transactions, consumers are even more reluctant to adjust. 

But recent reports show that there could be large uptick in consumers and businesses employing contactless payments.

More hardware activation and card distribution on the horizon

Apple Pay, Android Pay, iWallet, and Samsung Pay have grown increasingly prevalent in the public consciousness and have paved the way for more widespread use of contactless payments.  According to Javelin, a research firm specializing in consumer transactions, payments spurred by those companies has led to EMV terminal manufacturers automatically adding contactless payment hardware into their machines for free.

"In the next wave of [EMV] card issuance, Javelin believes the speed and convenience offered by contactless EMV cards could be instrumental in gaining top-of-wallet status, as well as attracting and retaining more affluent customers," said Michael Moeser, Javelin's director of payments, retail and small business, in a company press release.

Even with the hardware already in place, that does not automatically mean businesses will immediately begin accepting contactless payments. The hardware has to be activated and as of 2015, only 21 percent of all U.S. establishments enabled that functionality. But Javelin estimated that by 2019, over one third of businesses in the country will welcome contactless payments.

According to, technology analysis and research company ABI Research stated 25.7 million contactless cards were shipped in 2016. That number is expected to rise to just below 230 million by 2021.

Phil Sealy, a senior analyst at ABI Research, told that cards typically have a three-year life span and since EMV cards were issued in 2014, many will need to be replaced in 2017 and the new cards will feature contactless chips.

Although the new cards will allow consumers to use contactless payments at the increasing number of businesses that will take them, there is no guarantee that that will indeed occur, at least right away. However, just as EMV technology took time for its influence to spread, so too will the public need more opportunities to adapt to the usage of contactless payments.

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