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Pandemic accelerates contactless payment adoption in the Nordics


​Year-on-year contactless payment adoption enters double digit growth for the first time, as social distancing steers Nordic consumers away from chip and PIN.

​The first four months of 2020, during which the Nordics imposed strict COVID-19 social distancing measures, saw contactless payments in the region increase by an unprecedented 12 percentage points, according to transaction data from European payments industry leader, Nets, released today. 

In the first 16 weeks of 2019, contactless usage, as a proportion of all card transactions performed in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, increased by 5 percentage points from 40% to 45%. In stark contrast, the same period in 2020 saw contactless volumes increase at more than twice this rate, growing by 12 percentage points from 57% to 69%. 

“The convenience of ‘tap and go’ contactless payments has always been popular in the Nordics, but we have never seen adoption rates increase like this,” comments Robert Hoffmann, Head of Merchant Services at Nets. “Reducing the spread of Covid-19 is rightly at the forefront of all our minds, so I’m pleased to report that Nordic consumers are responding to World Health Organization recommendations and the requests of merchants, by opting to use contactless wherever possible.”

Widely renowned for using the least cash in the world, the Nordic countries have already consistently demonstrated one of the highest contactless adoption rates in the world. In the period between weeks 11 and 16, however, as lockdown began across Denmark, Norway and Sweden, increases in adoption were notably acute. Denmark, which already displays the highest levels of contactless utilisation, rose from 80.8% in week 11 to 83.4% in week 16. Norway demonstrated a dramatic increase of 13.7 percentage points over the same period, from 45.6% to 59.3%. Sweden rose from 47.4% in week 11 to 50.2% in week 16. 

In Finland contactless payment adoption, as a proportion of all card payments, is 63.7%. 

To further facilitate adoption, Norway has recently increased the transaction limit to pay with contactless without inputting a PIN code from NOK 400 to 500, while Sweden doubled the amount from SEK 200 to 400 in mid-April. In Denmark the limit has been DKK 350 for over two years. The contactless limit set by EU law is EUR 50, which is honoured in Finland. Contactless payments through mobile devices, such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, work on all payment terminals with contactless functionality and have no transaction limit, as the purchase is approved by the mobile.