Some of the most impressive payments innovations are taking place in Asian subway systems, but to view the success of projects like contactless transit entry as a local phenomenon is to miss the impact that innovation such as NFC and mobile can have on non-cash payments.

"NFC contactless payments are creating new opportunities for banks and providers in general... offering new ways of interacting with merchants in an easier way," says Simon Newstead, head of the financial institutions advisory group for global transaction services at the Royal Bank of Scotland, which teamed with Capgemini and the European Financial Management and Marketing Association to produce the 2009 World Payments Report.

While the U.S. and the Eurozone still account for nearly two thirds of all transactions, developing countries are gaining, and mobile and contactless initiatives in Asia and Africa are providing a blueprint for payments innovation.

The report suffers a bit in that most of the detailed visuals provide a view that ends before the financial crisis. But an early view of the current market reveals card payment volume in Europe and the U.S. is holding up, though weakness may emerge from declines in workers' remittance and global exports. Newstead says 2008 data shows card volume will grow about 11.6 percent, down from 2007's 14.5 percent growth rate but still above global GDP.

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