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Tue 2 Oct 2007 04:00 AM

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Purchase power

We reveal the results of Visa International extensive research into UAE customers' attitudes to contactless credit cards.

In August this year, Visa International conducted extensive research into UAE customers' attitudes to contactless credit cards. Now Money can exclusively reveal the results.

Background

The research took place using nine focus group discussions and mock card placements with selected participants to find out how they would use the card in their daily lives.

Who took part?

Visa's aim was to include as broad a spectrum as possible of potential contactless card users in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Its focus groups included three main groups: unmarried students aged from 18 to 22 years old; unmarried working people aged between 24 and 27 years old; and married and working consumers aged 35 to 45 years old. The nationalities of those who took part were local Arabs, expat Arabs and Asians.

Users of both Visa and competitor cards took part in the survey which also took into account both debit and credit card users.

Key findings

The survey identified key concerns and questions consumers had regarding contactless card technology wherein security concerns were among the most prominent. Questions regarding security included: Is there any customer authentication required for contactless cards in case of loss or theft?; can the cashier misuse the card - (ie) to make multiple transactions?; what does the customer do if the card is lost or stolen?.

Acceptability

Regarding acceptability of the card questions included: would it be accepted everywhere?; Even in places like small groceries, food courts etc?.

Unfamiliarity

Participants of the focus groups expressed some reluctance to use such unfamiliar technology. Some of those that took part said they would wait to see how the technology worked in practice before they would adopt it.

Anticipated cost

Some of those that took part assumed that the costs of having a contactless card would be similar to a normal credit card with similar fees and interest rates.

Technical concerns
The focus group participants expressed some distrust in the new contactless technology. Their two main concerns were that the card reader machine could make a mistake while scanning the card and accidentally take two payments.

They were also worried that if they had more than one card in their wallets and it made contact with a reader, that the reader would scan all the cards.

Money management

Some were concerned that because of the ease with which payments are made using a contactless card, that it would encourage them to spend more money.

They wanted to know whether there was any identity proof mechanism that could be put in place to restrict usage of the card. Visa International concluded from the concerns that measures are needed to be taken to solve any possible security or technological loopholes in the card but also to inform customers and reassure them regarding security.

This means that information regarding security features, acceptability and how the card works needs to be communicated clearly to consumers.

Using the card

Across all age groups that took part in the research the following were identified as occasions when the contactless card would be used:

• For taxis or paying for petrol

• Buying small to medium-priced grocery purchases in convenience stores or at large chain supermarkets such as Carrefour

• For making purchases at other stores in shopping malls and in restaurants

• Cinemas

• For online shopping

Younger respondents said they would use the contactless cards for the following reasons:

• When ‘hanging out' with their friends at coffee shops, pools, movies, etc.

• For making small purchases at grocery convenience stores such as phone cards, cigarettes and snacks
• When buying clothes and accessories and for purchasing food at cafeterias, food courts and fast food restaurants

• To buy technology such as mobile phones, mp3 players, games and DVDs

• At beauty salons

Older age groups said they would like if possible to use the card to make bigger purchases such as:

• Rent and utility bills

• School fees

• Furniture, electronics and durables

• Clothes and household groceries

• Flight tickets and hotel payments

Attitudes to contactless cards

Key findings regarding customers' attitudes to contactless credit cards included:

• That consumers would associate contactless cards closely with credit cards which raises their expectations and leads them to expect promotional offers such as those being offered for credit cards, including no fee offers, shopping discounts, reward points and free gifts.

• Those who took part in the research see the potential for contactless credit cards, not just in low value purchase transactions but also in a variety of situations where there are queues.

• That using this kind of advanced technology would help customers to differentiate themselves and gain status in the eyes of their peers - particularly young people.

The finished product

The format most preferred by customers was a simple combi-card combining a contactless and credit card.

The second option incorporating e-gate and transit functionality also appealed because of its newness and the fact that it could possibly be used on Dubai's new Metro system. While the key chain fob idea appealed to some, the idea of the contactless card being incorporated into a watch or mobile phone was however, rejected.

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