The 10th of February I started something I call the “30 contactless days challenge ”, wherein I under no circumstance could pay for goods or services using a physical card issued by banks like DNB, or fintechs like Revolut. Instead, I would have to rely on my iPhone, Apple Watch, and NFC technology to ensure I could continue living a normal life.
What inspired me to begin this challenge was my involvement in rolling out the contactless scheme at Rema 1000, as the first grocery store chain, throughout Norway. As I realized I could get what I needed the most without using a payment card, I felt inclined to test a contactless life - which brings us to the article itself.
I was never socialised into cash
Wandering about as a Norwegian at the sparkling age of 24;
"I can honestly say that I have not willingly used cash since I turned 13 years old back in 2008 when I got my first bank issued Visa card from Toten Sparebank.”
My case is not unique; Norway is known to be early adopters of new payment options, and this report from Forbrukerrådet (P33) demonstrates how only 2.7% of the Norwegian population use cash as their payment instrument - which equates to 140,395 people, or a little more than the current population of Stavanger Municipality. Meanwhile, a report from Sparebank1 Gruppen from 2016 (P15) states that 81% of Norwegians prefer debit/credit cards over any other instrument.
But what about contactless payments, that’s why we’re here after all. This is the newest in payment (if you disregard crypto-payments), and 2020 is the year of contactless payments in Norway. With more than 85%+ of all stores having activated contactless, you’d expect the 30 day challenge to go as smooth as a warm knife through Bremykt. I would love to provide you with some numbers about how many use the various mobile wallets, but according to Norges Bank Memo Kunderetta betalingsformidling 2018 (P7 note 7), we can’t differentiate between wallet payments and contactless card payments as of now. Generally though, only 13 mill (4.5%) of the 2116 mill transactions on physical terminals are contactless, and those numbers are expected to grow.
Norwegian card issuers and Apple Pay
So, back to the challenge - 30 days without using a physical payment card. The fact that I own Apple devices meant that I need ApplePay - which in turn meant that none of my card issuers like DNB, Norwegian Airline Bank, or Toten Sparebank could be of any use.
“As a reward point hunter I knew I had to find a way to get my Norwegian Airline Bank card onto ApplePay.”
Conveniently enough, a colleague shared some news about Curve finally supporting ApplePay, meaning that I could use my originally-not-ApplePay-supported-cards after all. So I got Curve and proceeded living my normal life.
Where I shopped
Grocery stores have all enabled contactless payments, and I haven’t received any declined payments from Rema, Matkroken, and Meny so far. As a loyal Rema 1000 shopper, I am of course an Æ member and my only wish for the future is that Æ would be registered when tapping my phone/watch just like it does when you tap your card. The picture below is me paying with my AppleWatch at Meny.
The vast majority of gas stations do not support contactless payment by the pumps except for a few selected ones by UnoX if we are to believe their incredible marketing campaign. I refuel at my local YX who have, as you see in the picture below, a yellow button by the pump that allows you to start fueling and pay inside afterwards. Not optimal, since some stations ask you to place a valuable belonging behind the counter while fuelling, but it works.
Bars, fashion retailers, electronics stores all cater to the contactless era, but as the title teases with - it was when i sought to be a loving husband i was met with the overwhelming shame of having to break my 30 day challenge on day 25.
A loving husband’s downfall
It was the gloomy afternoon of Tuesday February 25th it happened. At precisely 16:21 during my rush to make my train departing at 16:24 I quickly stopped by Mestergrønn at Oslo Central Station to buy flowers for my wife. Today was our 1 month wedding anniversary and this was my last opportunity to get her flowers before she picked me up at the train station. The problem was, Mester Grønn´s bank terminal said, "We don´t take contactless. Use chip and PIN."
And so there I stood, hesitant, broodingly assessing my impending decision.
“At 16:22:45 I pulled out my plastic, inserted it, and typed a PIN code I had nearly forgotten.”
For what felt like a century, the chip payment was finally completed (contactless is almost 3x faster) [internal source], and I ran to my train and quickly saw the Barcode vanish to my right.
We need plastic to never use it again
Wrapping up, I want to mention something that keeps grinding my gears - the fact that with most banks and fintechs, you still need to get a plastic card in the mail even with the intention of never using it. Cause how else will you get the card information to add to your wallet...? Curve was impressive but even they issue a plastic card. I wonder when all-virtual card options are the standard, like the ones you can get with Revolut and Monese.
Anyway, I admit I might have been a little dramatic with the title - loving husbands will not suffer their downfall in the contactless era. This was indeed a fun experiment to do and I was pleasantly surprised about how easy it was get around without using a card in the Oslo area. Furthermore, in the time of Covid-19, we’re all encouraged to pay using contactless methods to reduce the spread of the virus. Rema 1000 has done well in communicating this through Æ.
My final tip for anyone who's bothered by having to type your PIN when shopping for more than 500NOK, use your mobile phone or smart watch. Your FaceID/TouchID or the fact that the watch is connected to your arm replace the need for typing your PIN.
Will you enter the 30 contactless days challenge? If so, share your experience with us!
The below is a Norwegian discussion between the author and Business Advisor Sigurd Høystad about where we are today with mobile payments, and where we hope to be in the near future.