Why Mobile Payments are Unpopular in Canada According to CIBC, RBC, MasterCard


For years now we have seen different surveys (e.g. PayPal’s) suggesting that Canadians are ready to leave their wallets at home and use their mobile phones to pay for goods and services. But what looks good on paper – or in theory – doesn’t always work in real life: Nearly three years after the launch of CIBC’s app that kick-started mobile payments in Canada, the adoption rate is very low. We can say mobile payments are unpopular in the country. Why? The Financial Post tried to find some answers.

The CIBC app started a wave of mobile payment initiatives, as carriers took advantage of the opportunity to step into the market and grab a piece of the lucrative mobile payments cake.

Apple Pay jetblue

Fast forward to today and we see Apple Pay six months old. At the same time, the number of times Canadians have used their mobile phone at a POS has been “hardly noticeable”, says Rob Cameron, chief product and marketing officer at credit and debit card processor Moneris Solutions Corp., a Toronto-based joint venture between RBC Financial Group and BMO Financial Group.

That’s a status report for every player present in the mobile payments market. TD Bank declines to offer data, CIBC says the numbers are small, while Rogers talks about tens of thousands of users registering for Suretap and tens of thousands of transactions. That compares to the roughly 2.5 million Canadians using TD’s mobile banking apps.

“There are a lot of solutions that work, but if they’re an equal or more painful way to pay than pulling a credit or debit card out of your pocket, then they’re not going to take hold,” says David Woynerowski, a partner at U.S.-based payments advisory firm First Annapolis Consulting. “It has to be frictionless.”

One possible answer could be that everyone is waiting for Apple Pay to launch.

“No one’s done the really easy, low-friction loading of cards that are acceptable everywhere that Apple Pay will bring,” said Cameron, adding that Apple hasn’t confirmed where it’ll make its platform available next. According to a recent comScore report, close to 40 per cent of smartphone users in Canada have an iPhone, which currently cannot facilitate a mobile payment in places outside the U.S. “That’s the magic when Apple brings something to market,” said Cameron. “It is a really good consumer experience.”

That could push the adoption rate forward, as it is the “frictionless” payment experience customers are probably waiting for. So, does that mean that starting from November you’re going to use your iPhone to make a purchase?


  • harrisjr

    The reason for low usage is because mobile payment is only available on a limited number of phones. That’s it.

  • Lolita

    Exactly. They are so ignorant. Look what devices people own, not a blackberry..

  • Jason Reid

    We are nothing but a bunch of old fuddy duddy’s!! Lol
    Bring on Apple pay!!!

  • erth

    apple pay please. then i will start.

  • Gavin

    This pretty much sums it all up. It will be nice when apple pay is rolled out however I still have to walk with my visa/debit in case I end up in a situation where they don’t have nfc payment and I still have to swipe my card.

  • I love my blackberry! #not

  • Yep. Hard to scale when it’s only available on a handful of Android handsets and aging BlackBerrys.

  • bionicmonk


  • Salinger

    Do we really need a newspaper investigation to find out why mobile payments haven’t caught on?

    It’s pretty simple. You had to have the perfect storm of a situation just to be eligible.

    You had to have a very specific phone model (and they aren’t even popular ones that most people would have), you had to also be with a specific wireless carrier that the bank chose, you had to get a special SIM card from the carrier, and you had to bank with a specific bank and could use only their card/s.

    If you have one of the more popular rewards credit cards these days, that come from issuers like Capital One or Amex, then you could never use it!

    Apple Pay may not be perfect, but it’s by far the best solution to date. The sooner they get it in place, the better. Canadians want a mobile wallet, but they don’t want one that places so many restrictions on them, that it becomes pointless.

  • Jason Reid

    Agreed. And the Stocard app for the rest.

  • Eric

    Just wait till Apple Pay!

  • exaro

    Salinger says it completely. The offerings to date have been so limited in scope that it’s a wonder anyone signed-up. As BlackBerry was dying [sad to witness that] it was also all the banks could think about using. Meanwhile, they steadfastly ignored the stampede to iOS. Other reports have been published that RBC had to create a separate division to work on iOS in secret because the main IT division refused to consider anything but BB.

    Unfortunately for consumers, banking concentration in Canada [5 big banks] gives the banks more power and leverage. The banks don’t need Apple to develop a system for them as do the thousands of little USA banks. They also dread the prospect of sharing user fees with Cupertino. As yet, I am sceptical that ApplePay will make it to Canada this year but maybe Tim will have something to boast about on June 8.

  • T33BS

    This report is akin to saying how little adoption there was with 1st-Gen iPhones in Canada, because it isn’t being supplied to consumers. But the story is right, I’ll give them that.

  • johnnygoodface

    Hey! Don’t forget that in QC we’ve been using NFC with credit cards for at least a year. I don’t get my credit card out anymore. The only reason (and one hell of a good argument) of using Apple Pay in Canada is that it’s more secure than using the card itself cause of its unique token used for the transaction.

  • chikaraginger

    Not just QC. It’s been in BC since 2013. Usually it reads right through the wallet, but I often take it out as multiple cards means you don’t know which one it will take. Canada’s adoption of Apple Pay will be lightning quick when it comes here. Canadians are credit card happy, always been willing to use digital transactions (Interac has been around forever) and have the requirement to use Chip n’ PIN everywhere.

    In fact, I’d say chip n’ pin has been the BIGGEST reason for adoption of tap to pay. Apple Watch and iPhone 6 and newer will be a natural fit to use. Half the time people are texting/facebooking/instagramming while they’re in the checkout line anyhow. They’ve got their phones out already.

  • TM

    Another case of the carriers getting in the middle of something that should be easy. Lumia 1020 and other Windows phone have a secure NFC wallet that COULD work. Apple has ApplePay and various Android models offer something similar… it’s the carriers that pick and choose what does and doesn’t work and the banks that don’t seem to want to actually go it alone. Wonder why? No service fees maybe 🙁