Contactless has always been positioned on one single merchant benefit: speed. So waiving the signature for transactions under $25 just kills contactless.[From Waiving signatures for small purchases torpedoes contactless]
This is true to some extent. But it’s really only true in the U.S., where all transactions are online, and in comparison to similar card transactions. In chip environments, an offline chip-based transaction is going to take a couple of hundred milliseconds. Contactless is very fast, remember, partly because of the technology’s heritage in the transit world, where it is turning full circle: transit companies don’t really want to run ticketing operations at all, so they would be more than happy to have “pay at gate” where bank and other payment cards are used to enter/exit the transit system. This is why pilots and trials in this direction are useful indicators of the way the payment environment might develop. For example,
MasterCard is teaming with The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and NJ Transit for the eight month trial, which is set to kick off in early 2009. Customers will be able to pay fares on buses and trains between New York City and New Jersey by tapping their contactless device at turnstiles and on fare boxes.[From Finextra: NY commuters to trial contactless payments on buses and trains]
In the non-transit environment, or I should say non-“closed” environment, the only way to get 200ms transactions is to go offline. But even then, while you’re standing around waiting 10 minutes for your latte, 200ms may be neither here nor there! So in most markets (ie, markets where not all the transactions are online), contactless products will run adequately fast and are a better option than no-signature stripe cards because of the improved security.