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Vive la France: Cashless & Card Opportunities

By Roger Carrico, Head of Payment Business at Fingerprints


Across the world, consumers are migrating away from cash and PIN pads, with contactless rapidly becoming the de facto method for most in-store payments.  Providing a frictionless, contactless experience is a powerful pull factor for consumers when it comes to in-store payments. 50% of card payments are made using contactless, and usage has risen sharply since 2020.

With consumers drawn to the hygiene and convenience of contactless, biometric payment cards are the next logical evolution of how we pay in-store. The same ‘tap to pay’ experience, just with added security. As the technology advances towards the global mass market, French consumers like me have been the first to realize its benefits.

France – a global hotspot in the payments ecosystem

France holds a proud position within Europe’s renowned payments and card technology heritage, spearheading the first microchip and launching ‘la carte à puce’ – the smart card – in 1976 and contactless payment cards ten years ago. Fast forward three decades and the National Payment Strategy fosters a strong culture of innovation and competition, guaranteeing that French consumers have access to the best the sector has to offer.

Today, this innovative ecosystem now encompasses digital payments and cashless opportunities. Cultivated by a strong sense of collaboration – both domestically and internationally – these opportunities were discussed during our recent Lunch & Learn Webinar, which brought together industry thought leaders from the likes of Banque de France, Cartes Bancaires, Thales, FrejaID Finance Innovation, Findec and Business Sweden; to discuss the latest payment trends, digital ID, digital currencies and technologies like biometrics that are enabling the future of payments.

Vive les Cartes! French consumers love contactless 

A feature of our rich payments heritage is that French consumers are highly receptive when adopting emerging payment technologies. Convenience is a top priority for payments technologies – our survey from 2020 found that over 80% of French consumers rank the contactless payment card as easy to use. Along with the UK, France was the first nation to roll out contactless payment cards. In-store payments remain very ‘card first’ here too. Payment cards account for 83% of transactions, 60% of which are contactless, significantly above the global average of 73% and 50%.

Around the world, contactless payments spiked in the wake of the pandemic, but this was especially true in France, which saw a staggering 216% growth when we asked consumers what method they normally use when paying in store. Indicators suggest this is not a short-term boom either – 64% of French consumers expect to use contactless more than they do today or wherever possible in future.

However, despite this strong affinity, French consumers share the common worries and frustrations that other strong contactless markets do. 52% are worried about contactless fraud if their cards are lost or stolen, and with limits now at 50€, these fears will only intensify. Contactless payment limits are also another source of anxiety. One in five French consumers are still confused about what the limit is, while 20% feel the limit is too low. Even though limits are rising or have risen in many nations, often it is still not enough for a family’s grocery shop for example, forcing PIN entry. Plus, with the introduction of Europe’s Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) mandates, the need for PIN entry rises further – either with every five transactions or once spending exceeds 150€. With 1 in 3 consumers feeling concerned to touch PIN-pads due to the risk of getting infected, this is certainly an unwelcome user-experience.

These worries mean consumers need a card payment solution that enhances security without sacrificing convenience, a point highlighted by Fingerprints’ SVP of Corporate Strategy, Charles Burgeat, during the webinar. Biometric payment cards, he argued, are the next generation of contactless. Contactless 2.0. And, in keeping with our heritage, the French payments ecosystem is once again an early adopter.

Making contactless limitless 

By adding strong authentication to the ‘tap’, consumers can benefit from contactless without being worried about fraud, or confused and frustrated with contactless limits.

51% of French consumers want a biometric payment card. Meanwhile over half of those would even switch banks to get one, highlighting the era of a ‘bank for life’ coming to an end. In France, consumers want biometric payment cards so much, we are even willing to pay – 50% compared to the global average of 43%. For example, I currently pay just 2€ a month extra for my biometric card –the price of a baguette or a cup of coffee. A small price to pay for the convenience and reassurance it brings!

Embracing the benefits biometrics provide to customers and capitalizing on the brand and commercial opportunities they present, French banks have taken the initiative and started to roll out biometric payment cards. Early this year, BNP Paribas and Crédit Agricole announced commercial launches of biometric payment cards following successful trial periods with Fingerprints’ technology. As a user of one of these cards, I’m hugely impressed with the user experience of my day-to-day purchases.

Today France – tomorrow the world

Across the world, consumers remain concerned about safety, security, and the overall convenience of their in-store payments, so it is imperative biometric payment cards reach mass market. Accelerating this process are vital certification milestones aligned with the rigorous standards demanded by the international payments industry. Underpinning the roadmap to mass market are strategic collaborations with industry stakeholders that are already lowering costs and simplifying the manufacturing process.

Alongside the existing commercial launches, over 20 market pilots have been conducted across the world. What has started here is just the beginning, and soon, more consumers around the world will experience the next generation of convenient, secure and hygienic payments through biometrics.


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