Saudi Arabia achieves highest adoption of contactless payments

SAMA announced the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia witnessed the highest adoption of contactless payments through Near-Field Communication (NFC) with 94%, the highest in the Middle East and North Africa, above of the European Union average, and ahead of Hong Kong and Canada.

SAMA clarified the kingdom's successful adoption of contactless payments is part of the Saudi Central Bank's strategy, which builds on the goals of the Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP) of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 that aims to reduce cash transactions while raising electronic payments to 70% of all transactions by 2025. To achieve these goals, the Saudi Central Bank has fully adopted NFC payments since 2016, taking strategic steps to authorize and facilitate e-payment transactions after ensuring the highest level of security in accordance with international standards and best practices.

The Saudi Central Bank further indicated that the relevant infrastructure supporting NFC payments has been deployed through close collaboration with Saudi Payments, payment services providers, and banks to provide unified, interoperable specifications that make these transactions within everyone's reach. These operations included overhauling the national payment ecosystem and replacing all bank cards and Point-Of-Sale terminals as well as ensuring that all devices endorse the technology.

A number of key initiatives that paved the way for the rapid adoption of contactless payments in Saudi Arabia included the Saudi Central Bank's decision increasing the NFC transaction limit from SAR100 to SAR300, and enabling payment through smart devices, as well as the National Anti-Concealment program's decision urging all commercial activities to install POS terminals. This is in addition to the awareness efforts to introduce NFC payments to the public and resolve misconceptions regarding the security of such transactions.                              

The Saudi Central Bank also indicated that public transport projects and the Riyadh Metro project will adopt NFC in their payment operations, in a step that will align the Saudi public transport system with the latest payments technologies.

The announcement of Saudi Arabia's ranking in contactless payments adoption was first made in a whitepaper published by Saudi Payments, a fully-owned subsidiary of the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA), in partnership with Visa, the world leader in digital payments. The whitepaper, titled 'NFC Contactless adoption in Saudi Arabia 2020', covered NFC penetration in the European Union (80%), Hong Kong (79%) and Canada (76%), besides MENA, where Kuwait and United Arab Emirates had an 81% adoption rate.

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