Abstract It turns out from recent researches on Nb3Sn conductor that contact strain is important for Nb3Sn conductor, as it could cause the degradation of the conductor itself. Few experimental results describing the behavior of Nb3Sn sub cables under transverse load are available. Numerical modeling is one method to investigate the contact strain inside the cable. In this paper, finite element method was used to analyze the two- and three strand contact strains under two pressing configurations: flat and concave plates. From the finite element analysis, it is found that the average von-Mises strain of bottom Nb3Sn in Nb3Sn–Nb3Sn–Nb3Sn contact model and copper–Nb3Sn–Nb3Sn contact model is the same under flat or concave plates; the average von-Mises strain of bottom Nb3Sn in two strand contact model is also the same. It is also verified that the shape of the top copper press has no more influence on the strain distribution in Nb3Sn strand under the transverse compression.