CUNA Payments Roundtable

High Interest, Low Activity in Mobile Payments

There’s high potential for mobile payments, but acceptance is still low.

May 12, 2014

Jason Oxman

“There is high interest in mobile payments right now, but low activity," Jason Oxman, CEO of Electronics Transactions Association, told attendees at CUNA's Payments Roundtable Monday in Las Vegas.

“About 70% of U.S. gross domestic product is attributed to consumer spending,” Oxman said. “And 70% of consumer spending is being done electronically. There are one billion plastic cards in circulation in the U.S. today. Clearly, consumers love electronic payments. They also love mobile phones. There are 325 million mobile phone subscriptions in the U.S. and about 65% of those mobile phones are smartphones.

“If consumers love electronic payments, and if consumers love mobile phones, the logical conclusion is that there's high potential for acceptance of mobile payments,” he continued. “But that acceptance might not take place a quickly as some people think. About 90% of retail sales take place through brick-and-mortar stores; only 10% of retail sales are online.”

As a result, consumer and retail acceptance of mobile payments will take some time. Acceptance of mobile payments has been growing at about 120% annually for the past five years, but it’s still relatively low, Oxman said.

“Consumers need to be given an incentive to use mobile payments,” Oxman said. “Surveys have shown that consumers actually think their credit and debit cards are more secure than their smartphones. It’s not true, but that’s what they think. So consumers don’t see security as a reason for using mobile payments—they’ll have to be given some type of incentive or reward for embracing mobile payments.”

Oxman said it's difficult to say which technology will ultimately prevail in mobile payments. Some of the frontrunners include Bluetooth low energy; near-field communication (NFC); or Europay, MasterCard, Visa (EMV) technology.

“It's estimated that one-third of all smartphones will be NFC-enabled by 2015,” he said. “The big question is whether or not the new iPhone will be NFC-enabled.”