Contactless Cards Coming To Carrefour

Carrefour, Europe's largest retailer and the world's second-largest retailer, is about to introduce contactless credit/loyalty cards as it continues to push near field communication (NFC) payment technology.

The adoption of contactless by a retailer of Carrefour's size "is one of the largest victories so far" and a "very positive win" for contactless technology, said Forrester Research Analyst Ed Kountz. "It's looking like we are going to see more deployments in Europe. It's also being done well in Turkey, of all places, and Asia really remains the number one market for contactless payments."

The issuance of the new "Pass" cards is slated for Feb. 11, 2009. Carrefour said the cards will include the MasterCard PayPass "Tap & Go" contactless capability and allow users to choose between having payments deducted from their bank accounts or treated as credit transactions.

"We believe the Pass MasterCard, an innovative card with improved consumer benefits, will help to not only build customer loyalty but also attract and retain new cardholders to our network," said Carrefour Group General Manager of Financial Services Gauthier Durand Delbecque in announcing the new cards.

Forrester's Kountz said a region's acceptance of contactless technology appears to be linked with societal factors, primarily the level of mass-transit use. Contactless payment technology is ideal for situations where people are in a hurry, such as zipping in and out of convenience stores or rushing to catch a train.

"In Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, there is heavy use of mass transit as well as the ability to synergize the transit functions," Kountz said. "Transit served or helped serve as a nexus around contactless development, which broadened to retail from there."

The impact of marketing cannot be discounted, and Kountz said marketing is an area where the big players in contactless have come up short in North America.

"The first thing that comes to my mind is that in some markets it seems that contactless is being issued as a differentiator, which is interesting, because it's not been able to do that in the U.S. at this point," Kountz said. "We have certainly seen deployments in the U.S. But what's been lacking is the marketing angle to drive home the value proposition of contactless among American consumers."