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GCC Contactless Challenge: Digital Qatar was mobile only for me, no plastic, no paper!

Hello from Doha, Qatar.

I have had a great time with my on-going GCC Contactless Challenge here in Doha. Everything – and I do mean everything – has been utterly seamless from a contactless/Apple Pay standpoint. I haven’t had to use cash, or even credit card at any point.

Now, again, it’s worth pointing out that this is because I have been routinely paying my hotel rooms in full when I check in (via Apple Pay). Otherwise I would have had to resort to credit card – because there isn’t yet a method of ‘paying’ or ‘holding’ a deposit via contactless. Yet. So that’s been my trick to get round that issue.

I have readily enjoyed walking around Doha (making sure to get my 10,000 steps every day) with just my mobile phone(s) in hand. It is much nicer than having to mess around with paper or plastic, it really is.

So, here are some highlights:

I always check when I get in a taxi at the airport whether they ‘take cards’ – to avoid the hassle of hunting around for an ATM when you reach your destination. In the Doha Airport taxi I found the above sign. Nice and simple. Very reassuring.

When it came to pay, the driver wasn’t phased or surprised as I held out my iPhone.

In this situation – in the taxi, that is – I actually used a soft-POS facility that the driver had on his (Android) handset. Seriously cool. Both of us used ‘soft’ means to pay. That’s a first for me, in a taxi, anywhere, if memory serves.

Further afield, almost every concession or restaurant place I found had some kind of sign like this. I would imagine these are held over from when Covid was a serious, serious concern, but the fact they are still prominently placed shows just how much customers are being ‘strongly suggested’ (or ‘encouraged’) to adopt contactless means.

Across my Doha transactions I generally saw phone payments being used by others, with maybe 20-25% cards in use. Rarely… in fact, I can’t remember actually seeing any Qatari paper money being used by anyone. Yes I was in the capital only and of course, this is only the experience of one guy, so hardly comprehensive.

One seriously compelling offering I saw in the local Carrefour supermarket was this feature – Face Pay. I had so many meetings I wasn’t able to dedicate the time to download the MAF Carrefour app and try this out. Absolutely astonishing and really cool.

I presume it works by registering your face via the MAF (“Majid Al Futtaim”) app and then also connecting that to a credit or debit card… and when it comes to pay, boom… the cash register looks for a face and then completes the transaction. I would use this A LOT if I had access to it regularly. I have already been a heavy user of Scan & Go with the Carrefour app when I was living in Oman.

Ok. Next stop on the GCC Contactless Tour: Bahrain.

Ewan is Founder and Editor of FinTech Profile and Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of mobile and FinTech industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.
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