Merchants Say Pay Fraud is Bumping into Bottom Lines

The American Express 2019 Digital Payments Survey found over two thirds of U.S. merchants (69%) reported that significant amount of company time and expense is dedicated to dealing with payment fraud. Nearly eight-in-ten U.S. merchant respondents (77%) reported that their companies experienced some type of fraud over the course of being in business, and their efforts to manage security are impacting their businesses’ bottom lines.

At the same time, the survey found that customer expectations for ease and convenience during checkout are increasing, both in-store and online. Therefore, merchants must find ways to balance security with a seamless customer experience.

The survey, which examines the evolving landscape of online and in-store payments in the U.S., highlights the need for payment technologies that can meet both merchant and consumer expectations. Technologies like EMV® contactless payments and EMV® Secure Remote Commerce (SRC) are identified as capabilities that can help solve these pain points and improve both the customer experience and business operations.

U.S. merchants surveyed estimate an average of 27% of their annual online sales to be fraudulent transactions, a significant increase from 18% in 2018. And compared to last year, significantly more merchants agree that their business is vulnerable to payment fraud across multiple channels, including mobile transactions (82%, up from 73% in 2018), their website (79%, up from 74% in 2018), and point-of-sale payments (66%, up from 55% in 2018).

Nearly half (42%) of consumers in the survey have experienced a fraudulent attempt to use their credit card or other payment information, and over half (59%) say they are worried about having their payment account or credit card information compromised when making an online purchase.

As a result, many merchants are investing more in payment data security, with survey respondents reporting that they spent an average of 33% of their IT budget this year on payment data security, up from 27% last year.

While merchants look to enhance payment security, consumers have a desire to speed up the checkout experience, putting ease and security of checkout at a crossroads. Consumers have come to expect a fast and seamless checkout experience across all payment channels, meaning that wait time and ease of the payment experience have the potential to impact a sale. For example, 62% of customers surveyed said they have left a store without making a purchase after waiting too long in line to pay, while 85% have left items in their cart and not completed the online transaction. 

When it comes to digital payments, 55% of merchant respondents currently store customer profiles and card payment information for future purchases, with an additional 22% planning to do so in the next 12 months. Yet 76% would prefer not to hold onto this data, in order to alleviate costs and security concerns. The arrival of SRC establishes a simplified way for customers to click to pay across web and mobile sites, mobile apps, and connected devices, eliminating the need for merchants to store sensitive payment information. The SRC capability is starting to roll out with select U.S. merchants, with wider expansion planned for 2020.  It will address an important need, since 80% of U.S. merchants in the survey say they’d benefit from a technology that reduces the need to store customer payment data, and a similar percent (79%) agree that their online checkout experience needs to be simplified for customers.

In addition to online checkout, consumers also expect a seamless checkout experience in-store, and more than eight-in-ten merchants surveyed agree that contactless provides a faster checkout option for in-person payments (83%) and is more convenient for customers than paying with card or cash (84%). Contactless is an emerging favorite as a consumer payment option as well. One quarter (26%) of consumers have used contactless at least once within the past six months, a figure that is likely to increase as more contactless cards are issued in 2020 and as a growing number of merchants in the U.S. accept contactless payments. And contactless not only addresses the need for convenience, but also for security, since contactless cards contain the same security features as chip payments – where payment information is encrypted and the purchase details are routed for added security.

The majority of merchants responding to the survey are interested in the benefits of other innovative payment security solutions like biometrics, tokenization, and more. They overwhelmingly agree that requiring a one-time password for additional security to complete a purchase (77%), biometrics (76%), and tokenization (70%) are effective in preventing fraud.

“The 2019 Digital Payments Survey shines a light on the most pressing needs for our merchants and customers, and the findings about the battle between convenience and security are striking,” said Jaromir Divilek, Executive Vice President, American Express. “We’re always looking to better understand our customers and their everyday challenges, and the survey points to a real need for emerging payments innovation to improve the online and in-store checkout experience. We believe that Secure Remote Commerce for digital checkout and contactless payments for in-person checkout will be significant improvements for both merchants and consumers in the U.S.”

To view the full report, please visit

85 thoughts on “Merchants Say Pay Fraud is Bumping into Bottom Lines”

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