Consumers spent 30 percent more using contactless credit cards than with their traditional, magnetic stripe credit cards in a study commissioned by MasterCard Advisors. The spending increase remained consistent across usage categories, signaling consumer preference to shift spending to their contactless cards and away from cash or other accounts.

Researchers tracked two sets of MasterCard account holders: one group started using PayPass-enabled MasterCards in early 2009, while the other group kept using their standard cards. Customers in both groups used the same accounts for at least four months prior to the start of the study, assuring researchers that any changes in spending patterns stemmed from the introduction of contactless technology.

MasterCard Advisors spokesman Mark Burnett told reporters that the findings signaled a "halo effect" for contactless credit cards. When researchers broke the survey group into three categories bases on monthly spending, they found consistent increases across all three sub-groups. The highest spending groups, on average, shifted $600 of their spending every month to their PayPass cards. Researchers saw this "top of wallet" preference extend to online purchases and travel expenses, as well.

Contactless credit cards include a version of the EMV chip technology now standard in Europe and Canada. Researchers saw strong spikes in cross-border transactions, since foreign merchants often steer transactions to the more secure payment format. MasterCard Advisors executive Jonathan Orndorff told reporters that the study indicates the U.S. could learn from Canada's example, as American merchants face a 2017 deadline for adopting EMV technology in their point of sale systems.

American credit card issuers and retailers have mostly resisted the global trend toward EMV technology, preferring to rely on real-time authorization tools and fraud detection systems instead of enhancing card security. The MasterCard Advisors study shows that banks and merchants can both benefit from increased revenues from contactless payments, potentially earning enough in fees and new sales to offset technology costs.