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Contactless card payments continue to boom in Europe as merchant acceptance levels grow and consumers become increasingly familiar with the technology. According to strategic research and consulting firm RBR, one in five card payments will be contactless by 2021, up from one in twenty in 2015

RBR’s new study Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2021 shows that Europe continues to witness striking growth in contactless card issuance and usage. At the end of 2015, there were 346 million contactless cards in the region, up 41% from a year before. Growth in usage was more impressive still, with the number of contactless card payments increasing three-fold to 3.7 billion during the year – equivalent to 5% of all card payments.

Rising merchant acceptance and consumer adoption boosting growth in contactless

RBR’s latest research also reveals that contactless card acceptance is increasing more rapidly than issuance. Last year the number of contactless-enabled EFTPOS terminals in Europe rose by 63% to reach 4.9 million–contactless payments can now be made at 30% of all terminals. With many large retail chains and several key transport networks across the region accepting contactless cards, consumers have become increasingly comfortable using this functionality to make quicker and simpler payments. Often the roll out of contactless terminals has been accompanied by industry campaigns,with merchants in various sectors keen to promote the technology to reduce transaction times and shorten queues.

Growth in the number and share of contactless card payments in Europe

Source: Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2021 (RBR

Source: Global Payment Cards Data and Forecasts to 2021 (RBR)

Initiatives by governments, Visa and Mastercard will make contactless ubiquitous in Europe

Governments in countries as diverse as France and Belarus are promoting contactless as a means of reducing cash payments. Furthermore, Visa and Mastercard mandates requiring all EFTPOS terminals in Europe to be contactless-enabled by 2020 will result in better geographic coverage and inclusion of additional merchant sectors. This in turn will increase customer awareness and familiarity further, leading to even higher usage levels.

Half of all European cards will be contactless by 2021 and RBR forecasts the volume of contactless payments will rise more than six-fold between 2015 and 2021 to almost 25 billion – equivalent to 22% of all payments on European cards. According to RBR’s Chris Herbert:“With contactless cardholding and acceptance continuing to spread rapidly, one-touchcard payments will be second nature for the majority of Europeans by 2021”.

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