The year 2013 began with some outlandish predictions regarding lift-off for NFC, mobile wallets and contactless. And I dare say that similar predictions will be made for 2014, writes Douglas Blakey
As resident sceptic in residence on the Timetric editorial team – my younger colleagues are infinitely more upbeat considering such myths as the death of cash and all things contactless – I would argue that it has been a middling year in terms of innovation.
I will spare the blushes of colleagues who forecast that 2013 would be the year for NFC by not naming and shaming.
Even if and when issues such as consumer education and technology roll-outs are sorted at thousands of outlets, there remains one simple fact.
Lots of consumers will stick to the view that when it comes down to card versus phone they will prefer to use their card.
On a quick straw poll of my colleagues, asking how many of them were now using a digital wallet, not many hands were raised.
I am not convinced that a different answer will result in 12 months time.
No doubt 2014 will witness growth in contactless mobile payments and the integration of mobile devices as a tool for managing personal spending.
The concept that QR codes will move into the mainstream in 2014 as a payment method is somewhat unlikely.
If I had one wish for 2014, it would be that PRs, many of whom insist on calling this office to check that we received their email, might do some basic reading before pitching stories.
For what I hope is the last time that I say or write this – PRs take note – we are not witnessing the death of cash.
Not any time soon anyway.
Cash in circulation will actually continue to grow in US and Europe.
Yes, alternatives to cash will also grow.
The two facts are not mutually exclusive.
As an aside and while we are at it, is it too much to hope for that the UK, Europe and US might take a lead from China as regards Bitcoin?
On a positive note, there are clear signs that banks and card issuers are taking heed of the need to be customer-centric.
In the debit card space, 2013 witnessed genuine innovation by UK standards with the launch of a debit card rewards programme by RBS.
Meantime, Santander’s 123 goes from strength to strength.
Other innovations in the past year that stick in the memory include: Barclaycard’s Ring Credit card, Amex’s Taste from Platinum benefit program and Barclays’ personalised debit card.
With the successful expansion of Pingit and signs that its contactless metrics are showing growth, it has been a pretty good year for Barclays.
As for the US, I seem to recall a letter being sent on behalf of the US retail banks to the Federal Reserve expressing dismay and forecasting a form of debit Armageddon if the ‘Durbin Amendment’ of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed.
Result: the US debit card is far from dead. Debit card marketing spend increased, debit card rewards programmes were not completely wiped out.
May I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very merry Christmas, and all the very best for 2014.