Payments executives love to talk about the security of paying with a smart phone, but that message still hasn’t gotten through to consumers, according to new survey findings from The Pew Charitable Trusts.
The good news for mobile-payments proponents is that Pew found more than half, 56%, of its respondents had made a payment with a smart phone in the preceding year. Extrapolated, that means approximately 143 million adults had made a least one mobile payment over that time, according to Pew, citing U.S. Census Bureau population data.
But many people have a twinge of anxiety about financial loss from mobile payments. Some of this trepidation stems from not trusting the security technology, and part of it comes from confusion about regulations meant to protect consumers from loss. Only 22% of respondents believe mobile payments are “well protected,” according to Pew, a Philadelphia-based public-interest nonprofit. In contrast, 61% said credit cards are well protected, and 43% said the same about debit cards. Thirty-four percent of respondents thought prepaid cards were well protected.
“Previous research by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that age is the best predictor of mobile-payment use, with younger Americans driving the growth of these transactions, motivated in part by rewards or loyalty programs offered by mobile-app providers,” says a post on Pew’s Issue Brief Web site. “However, Pew’s study also found that across generations, consumers remain skeptical of this financial technology, have persistent concerns about security, and are more likely to trust traditional methods, such as debit and credit cards.”
Although the survey results were released this week, the underlying research was conducted in February and March of 2018 for Pew by The GfK Group. GfK fielded a nationally representative sample of 1,178 participants, with a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Pew’s results reflect other researchers’ findings about consumer comfort levels with mobile payments. A first-quarter survey by New York City-based 451 Research found that just 24% of consumers believe mobile wallets are very secure. Some 67% of 451’s respondents said either that traditional payment cards are more secure than mobile wallets, or they were unsure which is more secure.
Plus, 25% of the non-mobile-wallet users cited “security concerns” as the primary reason they weren’t using them. And 50% of non-users said the most important factor in encouraging them to use a wallet would be antifraud security that is better than traditional payment cards’.
“Many consumers are uneasy when it comes to the security of new technologies,” 451 Research payments analyst Jordan McKee tells Digital Transactions News by email. “When those new technologies intersect with their finances, concerns become even more elevated.”
Industry data suggest mobile wallets account for 2% at best of general-purpose card transactions. Part of the low adoption stems from the lack of a clearly superior experience in using a mobile wallet over a card at the point of sale for either consumers or merchants, and security is another major retardant. Thus, mobile-payments proponents have “an education issue at hand,” according to McKee.
“The onus is on all ecosystem stakeholders—issuers, wallet providers, networks, and others—to communicate the security benefits of mobile payments in language that the consumer understands,” he says. “Strong and persistent consumer education is paramount to dispelling security misconceptions that continue to run rampant in the mobile-payments sector.”