When GreenState Credit Union sent out a press release last week announcing it is now issuing contactless credit cards for all its new customers or those whose cards were being renewed, I was curious how prevalent the move to contactless, also known as “tap-and-go,” cards has been.

Some of the most recent data comes from a survey by MasterCard. According to a CNBC article posted last week, just over half (51%) of Americans are using some form of contactless payment, which includes tap-and-go credit cards and mobile wallet apps such as Apple Pay. And an equal percentage of U.S. consumers in that same survey said they are using cash less often, or not at all, since the pandemic began. 

Additionally, according to the survey, nearly a third of respondents said they have recently switched out their top-of-wallet card for a card that offers contactless capability due to safety and convenience concerns amid the coronavirus. Younger adults — 35 and under — were even more likely to switch to using a contactless card for health safety reasons, with 43% in that age group switching to a contactless card. 

Patrick Dix, vice president of strategic alliances for Shazam Network, said that about 250 of the top 300 merchants in the United States already accept contactless cards, and he anticipates much wider availability of the technology in the next year or two.  

“I don’t think the older technologies [magnetic stripe and EMV chip cards] will go away anytime soon,” Dix said. “It’s up to the bank or credit union to decide: What do the consumers demand, what do the merchants use, and what is our risk tolerance for keeping transactions safe?” 

The majority of credit card accounts are controlled by about a half-dozen of the biggest U.S. banks, Dix noted, and nine out of the 10 largest card issuers are rolling out contactless cards in the United States. A report in June by Mercator Advisory Group, which tracks the payment card industry, states that 31 million Americans tapped a Visa contactless card in March, up from 25 million in November.  Visa estimates there are 175 million contactless cards now in the U.S. market. 

Dix said he’s used a contactless card for about the past five years, actually, and he’s noticed many more merchants locally who offer contactless payments. 

From Shazam’s perspective, “our bottom line is making sure that our banks and credit unions have access to the technology they want to use,” Dix said. “It should be a level playing field. The technology shouldn’t be used to route the transactions to where they otherwise wouldn’t go.”