Mastercard Study Shows Consumers in Middle East & Africa Move to Contactless Payments for Everyday Purchases, Seeking Touch-Free Payment Experiences

April 30, 2020 | Cairo, Egypt
  • In a Mastercard global consumer study, seven in 10 in the Middle East & Africa say they use contactless payments
  • Additionally, the Central Bank of Egypt has raised the contactless payment limit in Egypt to EGP 600, helping consumers to hygienically pay for groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Between February and March, contactless payments in the region grew four times as fast as non-contactless transactions in the grocery and pharmacy categories
  • Mastercard has also collaborated with Egypt’s mobile network operators and banks to launch a digital self-registration feature for mobile wallets that enable remote and safe payment options

During March, as many countries in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) imposed necessary restrictions on social distancing, a significant majority of consumers turned to contactless card payments for necessary purchases. 70 percent of respondents in the MEA region say they are now using contactless payments, citing safety and cleanliness as key drivers. Consumer polling by Mastercard, studying changing consumer behaviors in 19 countries around the world, paints a picture of accelerated and sustained contactless adoption.

The act of running to the store for eggs, medicine and other necessities has changed dramatically. Shoppers around the world have had to adjust to social distancing measures and other new challenges when buying everyday supplies for their families and loved ones. This shift in consumer behavior is particularly clear at checkout, as people express a desire for contactless, and voice concerns over cleanliness and safety at the point of sale, according to the new Mastercard study. In fact, findings from respondents in the Middle East & Africa show:

    • Contactless Move to Top of Wallet – Perceptions of safety and convenience have spurred a preference for contactless cards and reminded consumers of the convenience of tapping on a global scale. Six in 10 (61 percent) respondents in the region have swapped out their top-of-wallet card for one that offers contactless.
    • Confidence in Contactless – The global disruption has led to increased concern from consumers on cash usage and positive perceptions towards contactless due to the peace of mind that it provides. 70 percent of respondents in the region say they are now using some form of contactless payment. Amidst the pandemic, 84 percent agreed that contactless is a cleaner way to pay. Furthermore, 79 percent said contactless payment methods have been easy to adopt. Contactless payments are up to 10 times faster than other in-person payment methods, enabling customers to get in and out of stores faster.
    • Contactless is Here to Stay – We are in a sustained period in which consumers are making purchases in a very focused way; it’s reinforcing contactless use in markets where adoption is more mature, and it’s stimulating use in newer markets. This trend appears to be here to stay. Nearly two in three respondents (64 percent) confirmed that the pandemic has led them to use less cash, and 81 percent said they will continue to use contactless post-pandemic.

“In addition to prioritizing physical safety, it is crucial to ensure that Egyptians can complete their everyday transactions amidst social distancing recommendations. The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has made important and supportive decisions in the wake of this pandemic – in addition to doubling the CVM limit to EGP 600, it has also allowed mobile network operators and banks to offer a digital self-registration service for mobile wallets, so consumers won’t have to leave their homes. Mastercard supports these initiatives, which are part of our efforts to facilitate digital and contactless transactions in Egypt, thereby providing safe, secure and efficient payment solutions, while encouraging social distancing,” said Magdy Hassan, Mastercard's General Manager for Egypt and Pakistan.

In addition to encouraging contactless payments, Mastercard has worked closely with the CBE, partners, and governmental entities, to leverage its expertise and technology to facilitate the self-registration of mobile wallets in Egypt. Egypt currently has over 14 million mobile wallets that allow consumers to pay bills online, shop and transfer money from the safety of their homes. While previously, Egyptian consumers were required to visit a branch to register for the mobile wallet service, the CBE’s decision to allow mobile network operators and banks to offer digital self-registration services for mobile wallets, accelerates the digitization of financial transactions, provides safe, secure and efficient payment solutions for everyone, while encouraging social distancing.

Egyptian consumers can now self-register for wallets through trusted digital channels of mobile network operators with more issuers expected to allow for this feature in the coming weeks.

Contactless Tipping Point

Mastercard has been spearheading the worldwide shift to contactless for years, championing the simple, safe and fast way to pay. As consumers increasingly seek out ways to quickly get in and out of stores without touching terminals, Mastercard data reveals over 40 percent growth in contactless transactions globally in the first quarter of 2020[1]. Further, 80 percent of contactless transactions are under $25, a range that is typically dominated by cash.

While countries worldwide are at different stages of contactless deployment and usage for daily shopping habits, Mastercard’s insights on grocery and pharmacy trends – two areas where many day-to-day essentials are being purchased – showed that nearly all regions experienced significant spikes in February and March. Further, reinforcing changing behaviors and consumer checkout preferences, Mastercard saw the number of contactless transactions grow four times as fast as non-contactless transactions in Middle East and Africa at grocery stores and pharmacies [2].

In the past few weeks, Mastercard announced commitments to increase contactless payment limits in more than 50 countries worldwide, including Egypt, where a decision by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) led to an increase of the cardholder verification method limit to EGP 600. Limit increases were part of Mastercard’s global effort to make sure consumers, merchants and small businesses have the resources to safely pay, receive payment, and maintain operations during the COVID-19 crisis.


Notes to Editors:  

1 Growth calculated as the percentage increase in contactless transactions in the region, comparing first quarter 2020 to first quarter 2019. Source: Mastercard Data Warehouse

2 Growth calculated as the percentage increase in contactless transactions compared to the percentage increase in non-contactless transactions, comparing March 2020 to February 2020, at Grocery and Pharmacy categories. Source: Mastercard Data Warehouse

 Survey Methodology

    • Online interviews of 17,000 consumers in 19 countries worldwide
    • 1,000 banked respondents per country in the US and Canada (North America); Australia, Singapore (Asia Pacific); UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Africa (Middle East and Africa); UK, Italy, France, German, Spain, Poland, Russia, the Netherlands (Europe).
    • 500 banked respondents per country in Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Colombia (Latin America and the Caribbean)
    • Research conducted April 10-12, 2020
    • Nationally representative sample
    • Readable sample sizes of:

        • Gen Z/Millennials

        • Affluent [defined at a country level]

        • Contactless users

        • Primary shoppers

        • Those with high levels of concern about Covid-19