Coronavirus: Mastercard increases contactless payment limits in MEA

The change allows customers to make higher-value payments without having to touch a keypad

Global payments firm Mastercard increased contactless payment limits across the Middle East and Africa region so that customers don't have to touch keypads during the coronavirus outbreak.

Currently, almost one in nine Mastercard transactions at point-of-sale (POS) terminals in the MEA region are contactless - a payment method that does not require a user enter a personal identification number or provide a signature.

“In the current environment, we are grateful that contactless payments are available so consumers can follow social distancing recommendations,” said Mete Guney, executive vice president of services in MEA at Mastercard.

“People are embracing these safe and hygienic solutions as their preferred form of payment every day,” he added.

Globally, the contactless payment market size is expected to grow to $18bn (Dh66.1bn) by 2025 from $10.3 billion this year, surging at a compound annual growth rate of 11.7 per cent, according to researcher MarketsandMarkets. Last year, Mastercard saw a 200 per cent growth in contactless transactions in the MEA region, the company said.

The acceptable amount for a contactless transaction varies by country and by bank but regulators are now increasing the limit to widen the scope of contactless payments.

Central banks across the region - in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Egypt - have increased the cardholder verification method (CVM) limit to further facilitate contactless payments.

Mastercard has increased the CVM limit in the UAE by more than 66 per cent to Dh500, while in Saudi Arabia and Oman it has been increased by 50 per cent.

Contactless payments for transaction amounts below the CVM limits do not require a physical PIN entry.

“Today’s announcement reflects the pace of those changing behaviours … offering consumers ease, speed and peace of mind in a rapidly changing world,” said Mr Guney.

The company said it is working closely with its partners to enable businesses and retailers to implement contactless limit increases quickly and efficiently.

Before making a payment, cardholders should look for the contactless symbol on the front or back of their credit or debit cards to determine whether they have a contactless-enabled card. They can also add their card to mobile wallets on their contactless-enabled devices to tap and pay where such payments are accepted, it added.