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October 27, 2022

Contactless ATMs: time for the UK to catch-up

By Douglas Blakey

The UK has blazed something of a trail in terms of contactless adoption. As per GlobalData’s figures for 2022, the UK ranks fourth in the world with 80.3% of consumers holding a contactless enabled payment card that they use actively for contactless transactions.

For the record, only Poland (81.8%), Turkey (81.0%) and Finland (80.4%) rank ahead of the UK. By contrast, the corresponding figures in a number of mature banking and payments markets such as Canada (66.8%), Australia (62.4%), Sweden (59.1%) and Germany (55.9%) highlight the success of contactless adoption in the UK. And as for the US, well it is no surprise to any regular visitor to the US to note that the equivalent rate in the US remains a relatively modest one of just 40.9%. On the other hand, cardless ATM usage is not an area where the UK has shown much by way of innovation. In the US, Chase provides cardless ATM service with consumer debit cards; Wells Fargo Debit and EasyPay cards can be linked to a digital wallet and used with cardless ATMs and contactless transactions can be made using a Bank of America debit card at all the bank’s ATMs.

But in the UK, only about 8,400 of around 53,000 ATMs-about 16% – support contactless withdrawals. meaning the technology is well-established but remains a work in progress.

So, it was a pleasure to hear from David Griffiths, Product Manager of Cards, Contis, making an upbeat case for the prospects of a ramping up of contactless ATM availability. As he argues cash is going to remain an important part of our payment systems. Cash is vital for financial inclusion and personal privacy and ongoing access to cash has the support of regulators and government.

While Europe is ahead in terms of contactless ATM adoption, Griffiths argues that the UK is catching up.

And he makes the strong case that predicting the imminent extinction of physical plastic cards is ultimately dependent on accepting the need for more access to cash?

Perhaps the question shouldn’t be one of asking which country is leading the way in adopting contactless ATMs, perhaps the question should really be asking which countries are leading the transition from physical cards to their virtual equivalents.

He is right to say that there is a lot of potential value to be derived from new and innovative financial services developed around virtual card use cases, and cash will play its part.

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