Only 10% of Canadians currently use their phones to make mobile payments

Igor Bonifacic

October 20, 2015 2:01pm

Mobile payments, the act of paying for goods and services with a credit or debit card tied to one’s smartphone, has a long way to go in Canada, according to a new report.

The report, which was conducted by multi-national consultation firm Accenture and gathered data from more than 4,000 smartphone users in both the United States and Canada, found that only 10 percent of Canadians make at least one payment per week using their smartphone. At 19 percent, that number is almost twice as high in the U.S.

Moreover, a modest 40 percent of Canadians, up from 35 percent in 2014, know that they can use their smartphone to pay for goods and services. In the U.S., that number is closer to 53 percent, according to the firm.

Mobile Payments Study

It doesn’t take a lot of digging to find the reason for the disparity. For the past year, our neighbours to the south have had access to Apple Pay. Developed by iPhone maker Apple, the platform has quickly become the go-to mobile payments solution for many Americans with about 68 percents all mobile payments in that country being completed with the help of Apple Pay.

By contrast, Suretap, the main mobile payments available in Canada, has yet to catch on in a meaningful way. After two months of availability, the company reported a modest install base of 180,000 individuals. Despite a relationship with one of Canada’s largest carriers, Suretap simply does not have the visibility that its competitor in Cupertino does.

Accenture Mobile Payments Report

It also must be said the culture surrounding paying for things with a debit card in the U.S. and Canada are vastly different. For the most part, debit cards aren’t a thing in the U.S.

In Canada, however, thanks to organizations like Interac and the technologies they’ve helped developed, including things like the contactless Interac Flash capability that’s built into many new debit cards, the experience of paying for something with a debit card is mostly hassle free. With many merchants supporting point of sales systems that allow people to simply tap their debit card to pay for something, the days of swiping a card or trying to find the right amount of change are, for the most part, gone, and have been for several years now already.

When it comes to the experience of paying for things, Canadians already have it pretty good.

Of course, that’s likely all set to change when Apple Pay finally makes an appearance in Canada, which by all accounts should happen soon. Since its resurgence, Apple has disrupted multiple industries, whether the company is set for a repeat with Apple Pay remains to be seen, but it will certainly have a significant effect on the current landscape when it finally does arrive.

SourceCNW
  • Ridge

    I honestly would have thought it was less than 10%. We’re just waiting for a way to add our cards to our phones regardless of our bank/ mobile carrier.. All I should need is an android phone and a credit card.

    • jeff

      Very true. I downloaded the rbc app now that it works on rogers, but every time I try to use it i get an error. I then pull out my visa and sure enough the tap works. So many hoops and in the end the system doesn’t work.

    • Anthony Roberts

      Exactly…….

    • Gohy

      Yeah. That number seems really high. It is probably more like 10% of Canadians CAN use mobile payments.

    • Vito R.

      There is no way it’s that much. I read the report, it said “make a payment” from a mobile device – that means mobile banking, PayPal, etc. There is no way 1 in 10 actually tap to pay with their Android devices – I doubt it would even be that high when Apple Pay comes out.

  • Tony

    That number would be a lot higher if a lot of us had access to mobile payments via our smartphones. Apple Pay, Android Pay, not having to rely on getting that specific model of phone on the right carrier and be with the right bank to enable mobile payments.

  • ifly2

    I got all excited when I read that you could do mobile payments through RBC’s app. Went to add my RBC Mastercard… nope, not on the list of cards you can use. Why is it so hard to just make this work in Canada?

    • rgl168

      Same boat here. I guess I will need to reapply for their Visa instead and cancel the MC.

  • neo905

    I am surprised it’s that high given the fragmented, non store supported, beta app deployed crap fest that it is.

  • duwenbasden

    Surprised it’s that high considering PayPass already exists and mobile payments doesn’t do anything better than it.

    • HelloCDN

      Exactly. As of right now, this is a feature for tech reviewers and tech geeks – general public will not go though the hoops to set it up or troubleshoot it if necessary, when the alternative is so simple.

    • Savage Alien

      It doesn’t do anything better because it’s the same in the end, whether you choose to pay with your phone or card you can tap/wave and you’re done. Having it on your phone is similar to all those apps that keep track of your loyalty/point/membership cards (ex Shoppers Optimum or PC Plus), it’s one less thing to carry around with you. If it’s not your thing, use a card, if it is your thing great use the phone and enjoy having the option (unfortunately the situation here in Canada is limiting that for now)

  • cole26

    Because, there isn’t Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay or even Google Wallet available. An app where you can keep all your cards and have them available quickly. The Suretap app, while the best functionally, only supports a CIBC credit card, and until recently, only was available to Rogers subscribers. Same with the CIBC app. The RBC app finally supports all Android 4.4 and later phones across carriers (previously locked to Bell and a handful of smartphones), but surprise, only lets you use an RBC credit or debit card. The RBC app is also terrible in every respect.

    It’s not difficult to see why NFC mobile payments haven’t caught on. When you must use specific phones, with specific banks and be on a specific carrier, it becomes way to simple to just pull a card out of your wallet. If everyone could get together and offer one unified app, it would change everything.

  • Lirodon

    Yeah, because the carriers and banks insist on tying this technology to exclusivity deals.

  • Hijak

    It is interesting, but mobile payments with Cellphones are useless unless more stores accept the tap-to-pay option. After that there really isn’t much drive to get it on your mobile device since most debit cards already do that anyway. Plus I’d need to buy a new special simcard in order to get it working on my phone, so where is the incentive to actually go ahead and start using it?

    • Sebastien Grenier

      here in Quebec there’s a lot of contact less terminal. The problem is not there.

      like others says, it’s just too restrictive. I have done all they asked me and for any reason my Suretap wallet is locked and they don’t seems to care enough to help me.

      so II did ask for a RBCMastercard, only to see it’s exclusively Visa. it’s suck.

      Bring Android pay or Samsung pay and get a lot of bank on board and more than 10% will use it.

      still 10% is 3 000 000 people.

    • Andrew

      It’s very rare I go to a store or counter where they don’t have contactless payments.

    • Savage Alien

      Tap to Pay is just about everywhere (I travel between Toronto and the boonies/cottage country).

  • Tom Adams

    I didn’t even know we could use our phones for mobile payments…come on Apple pay!

  • jroc

    I find that surprisingly high considering the fact that no main mobile payment system works here (Android Pay or Apple Pay). The banks continue to screw around, releasing junk apps that require you to have certain credit cards, paired with specific phones and sim cards to even use then thing. Once that goes away it’ll pick up.

  • Chris

    Yeah, also thought this number seems high. Been waiting for Google Wallet for years. Our banks and telecoms have way too much of a grip. We need to be free of their greedy hold. Come on Google (and Apple?), you massive powerful corp(ss); loosen their grip and let us choose to use your service if we feel like it.

    Worst thing about it is that it all works right now as it is. It’s just a matter of Google and Apple ceasing to prevent us from using their pay services. I used my old rooted Galaxy Nexus 3 years ago to purchase some Tim Horton’s drinks, from a free $10 from Google. It works. Enable it.

    • Brian G.

      3 years ago is distant history in tech. You now need a U.S. Social Security Number to use Google Wallet.

  • John_JJP

    As others have noted, a serious issue is that there is not any kind of universality to the system. You end up having to have 3 very particular things .. The right phone, carrier and bank. If you could use ANY of the big banks and big carries and MOST phones .. it would become a much more usable thing. I could have RBC and Samsung but not Bell for example, (not necessarily that particular set, but just making a point) .. and then couldn’t use it. They’re getting better, but until it’s near universal, it’s going to be an issue.

    Having not used it, I do wonder how much of a convenience it is anyway. For myself (and many people I know), I just reach into the first slot in my wallet and pull out my debit card.. It’s accepted virtually anywhere.. regardless of the bank, store, etc… and it’s quick and simple to use (and tapping with the card of course makes it easier even) ..

  • Micheal Archer

    I’ve used my phone for a mobile payment exactly one time. It was a Tim Hortons purchase and was mostly just to prove that it could be done (in the days immediately following RBC opening their app to more carriers and phones).

    Suretap might be the “universal” solution, but it really REALLY isn’t any such thing. If Suretap were to be successful, they would already be AT LEAST where the RBC app is (in terms of compatibility). Instead, you still need to be part of a specific group who has the right combination of hardware, carrier, and bank. I can’t use it even though I have the right hardware but on the wrong carrier (I mean…why can’t a phone that’s approved to use Suretap on Bell not work on Rogers?). My previous phones were all marketed by Rogers as Suretap ready, but none were ever added to the compatible devices list (Sony phones) until after Suretap broke away from Rogers. I’ve been ready for using my phone for payments since NFC was installed in those phones, but there was never a solution that met my arrangement of hardware, carrier, and bank.

  • m-p{3}

    The fact that most mobile payment system are carrier-dependants really doesn’t help adoption.

  • Elton Bello

    Waste of resources. I am never using that

  • Ravi

    Honestly, I’ve had the ability to use mobile payments for a few years now and I never use it. It’s way faster to just pull out my credit card and tap it. On the other hand, once apple pay comes to Canada that number is gonna skyrocket

  • Raj Singh

    You should take out the word “only” from your headline.

  • Savage Alien

    “Moreover, a modest 40 percent of Canadians, up from 35 percent in 2014, know that they can use their smartphone to pay for goods and services”

    That’s pretty good considering how restricted our options are. Look at the numbers again: 40% of Canadians KNOW about it (carrier/phone/bank limit our ability to use it) versus 50% of Americans who know and pretty much have immediate use of it. The Canadian number is impressive and shows that we’re ready for it, the comment sections shows we’re asking for it. We have a number of contactless payment options (Interac,Visa,MasterCard)

  • QwertyJuan

    If the NFC chip on my Nexus was actually able to be USED I would pay with it. How can I do it now???

  • Stephen B Morris

    Too many hoops, not enough loops (holes).

  • Barry Harden

    What do you expect? The damn Canadian banks control everything including how merchant transactions are governed. Android & Apple Pay should’ve proliferated the retail space but the greedy Canadian banks won’t allow it until they get their cut.

    I wish the Canadian government steps in and slaps the banking sector.

  • GPman

    I won’t ever use it till I get a phone with a finger print scanner.

  • Ryan O’Neill

    I’m just waiting for updates to let me use the Note 5 for it. I’ve come to assume the issue is like what was highlighted in the S6 article about the delay in mobile payment being related to carriers and bands but I do hope it doesn’t take them 6 months after release to update for this.