Friction and frustration in payments – the state of UK contactless

There’s been a lot of comment recently about the success of contactless payments in the UK. I’m a big fan of contactless payments, especially when they’re secured and tracked using Apple Pay. Contactless takes some of the friction out of paying and delivers a simpler consumer experience. However despite the growth in contactless, the reality is a myriad of inconsistencies across retailers, especially where contactless involves mobile handset payments like Apple Pay. My recent research indicates that consumers are still presented with a confusing and inconsistent experience when using contactless payments.

Amex Apple PayFor the average consumer it’s impossible to know which contactless payment methods work where. For example, Waitrose supports American Express via card contactless, Apple Pay handset and Apple Pay Watch. However go to Boots and Amex card contactless works fine but neither Apple Pay handset or Watch works – presumably an acquirer or hardware issue. Pret a Manger Amex card contactless and Apple Pay handset are fine but Watch fails. Elsewhere, some stores accept Amex Chip and PIN but not contactless.

Apple Pay transactions do not need to be limited by the £30 transaction limit as the handset is covered by Consumer Device Cardholder Verification Method. However the only evidence in store I’ve seen where this limit does not apply is in Apple’s own stores. To prove this I paid for a MacBook Pro with my Apple Watch last year (an expensive experiment!). Other stores that have lifted the limit seem to keep it a closely guarded secret!

To further add to consumer confusion, Tesco has now launched its own handset based payment method PayQwiq which uses an app generated QR code to pay with a pre-loaded credit or debit card. I really don’t want retailer specific payment apps as well as generic ones – this just adds to payment friction.

Payment methods must be ubiquitous and consumers not be expected to think about what will and will not work. The payment industry must work to create consistency across retailers so consumers can pay with certainty.

Originally published on Disruptive Views.

Payments acceptance confusion at the point of sale

Historically card acceptance in-store was fairly straightforward. You knew if shops took cards because they had a sticker in the window; if they took cards you were safe with Visa and MasterCard and if you were lucky they also took American Express.

The arrival of contactless payments brought greater payments convenience at the point of sale but also confusion. Consumers were now faced with a new way of paying with cards and having to determine if the option existed in their store of choice. Sometimes the card reader has a contactless label on it, sometimes the LCD display shows contactless acceptance, sometimes it’s necessary to ask for contactless to be enabled for the transaction, sometimes the card reader looks like it’s a contactless terminal but contactless hasn’t been enabled on it. What’s happened to taking friction out of payments?

Recently I discovered another twist in the contactless acceptance story. Some stores that accept American Express, do not accept American Express for contactless; it’s Chip and PIN only. And it’s not just small stores where this is a problem; I recently discovered this in WH Smith after battling with a self-serve contactless terminal.

The arrival of Apple Pay in the UK has further highlighted the chaos around card acceptance in stores. Displaying the Apple Pay logo in-store should mean that consumers can always pay with Apple Pay; however to make an Amex Apple Pay payment, the store must also accept Amex cards and accept Amex for contactless. Plus, thanks to Consumer Device Cardholder Verification Method, Apple Pay does not need to be restricted by the £20 contactless limit for cards; however so far it seems that only Apple’s own stores and Pret a Manger have lifted this limit. Other stores will do so over the next few months but again it’s a muddled landscape for consumers.

I guess this all makes perfect sense to people in the payments industry but to the consumer who just wants a simple way of paying in-store? Definitely not. It’s confusion like this that sets back the case for moving away from cash and cards for in-store payment. The payments industry needs to do more to take the friction and frustration out of payments by removing point of sale confusion around product acceptance.

Apple Pay comes to the UK – at last!

Apple Pay NatWestAs everyone now knows, Apple Pay launches in the UK in July. If you have a card from a participating issuer and an iPhone 6, 6 Plus or Apple Watch (paired with an iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6 or 6 Plus) you can pay in store at contactless card terminals. In app you can pay using an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus or iPad Air 2 or Mini 3. So far my experience of using my Apple Watch to pay in store has been limited to Starbucks (using the Starbucks app) so I’m very excited about using it in lots more stores!iPhone6_Watch_iOS9_Wallet_NatWest-PRINTiPhone6_Watch_iOS9_Wallet_NatWest-PRINTiPhone6_Watch_iOS9_Wallet_NatWest-PRINT

Apple has clearly done a good job getting a critical mass of card issuers on board at launch with most of the major issuers committed, either at the start or soon after. At launch American Express, First Direct, HSBC, Nationwide, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, Ulster Bank cards will be supported. Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Lloyds Bank, M&S Bank, MBNA, TSB will follow.

Apple Pay AmexObvious omissions are Barclays and Capital One. Whilst Barclays has its own strategy around Pingit and also contactless wristbands, it is still a curious decision not to sign up at the start and one that will annoy many customers. Both Barclaycard and Capital One in the U.S. support Apple Pay which just goes to show how fragmented banks and payments markets are!

There are around 400,000 places that support contactless payments in the UK. It appears that most of these will limit Apple Pay transactions to the usual £20 contactless transaction limit (£30 from September), despite the superior authentication offered by Touch ID. However some retailers will not be bound by the limit, as in the U.S. I suspect that some contactless terminals will not support Apple Pay, especially early generation models. Currently neither my American Express nor Capital One cards work for contactless payments via any Caffe Nero terminal I’ve tried (Chip and PIN is fine and contactless elsewhere works). These terminals are old and seem to be incompatible with newer contactless cards.

Apple Pay HSBCApple has a handy summary of the key places where you can use Apple Pay, both contactless and in app Apple Pay stores.

Whilst Apple Pay is not truly disruptive because it uses the existing card scheme payment rails, it moves consumers along the journey of mobile device payment acceptance whilst improving transaction security. For consumers, frictionless payments moves a step closer.

So now everyone’s a payment expert!

Last week I received a letter from Capital One regarding my cashback credit card. The letter indicated I would no longer receive cashback on my card; something of a disappointment as it was worth a few hundred pounds last year. The explanation of the change read “Changes in our industry mean it is no longer sustainable for us to offer cutback on your card. This is because the fees we receive when you use your card are reducing”. Seems fair enough; Capital One are earning less money so something has to give and it’s my cashback!

However, heading over to the EU website things start to become a little clearer; “The European Commission welcomes the adoption by the European Parliament of a Regulation capping interchange fees for payments using consumer debit and credit cards and improving competition for all card payments.”

In fact I was aware this EU proposal had been under discussion for a couple of years and we can now see one result of this market intervention. The intention is apparently to encourage merchant adoption of card payments and reduce the prices merchants charge consumers but my cynical side questions how well this will work in practice!

  • Am I really going to pay less in stores or will those stores keep their savings?
  • How can the EU possibly know the correct rate for interchange?
  • How does cutting card margins help banks offer attractive and competitive products in the market?
  • How long until banks impose annual fees on most credit cards?

As an aside, apparently the change still requires formal approval by the Council of the EU but Capital One clearly thinks it’s inevitable.

Most American Express cards fall outside the terms of the cap as they don’t use interchange fees. Here’s hoping the cashback on my Amex card survives!