With the aggressive spread of COVID-19 across the world, governments have advised citizens to minimize social interactions and do their best to shelter in place. Unfortunately, most have to eventually go out into public to shop for groceries and other essentials. In instances where shopping is necessary, best practices in social distancing and limiting the touching of potentially contaminated surfaces is critical, particularly during the checkout process and especially if the shopper is paying with cash or using a PIN pad.
Alternatively, contactless payments can play a vital role in minimizing risk. In fact, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization recently recommended the use of contactless payments whenever possible to reduce transmission possibilities via cash.
Five benefits of contactless payments related to COVID-19
- Reducing the need to touch a payment terminal physically removes another potential infection touchpoint
- Less cash usage reduces the potential to spread from one shopper to the other
- Cuts waiting times by having quicker transactions via no PIN entry
- Gives shoppers the ability to opt for the speed and convenience when checking out
- Minimizes social interactions during this time of social distancing
With a recent increase in contactless limits in many countries by as much as 25 - 400%, and the added benefit that contactless payments can help curtail the spread of COVID-19, it’s not surprising that there’s been an increase in contactless usage in the U.S., U.K., and beyond
Mobile Payments and COVID-19
The U.S. continues to lag behind much of the world when it comes to the number of contactless cards in circulation. A more immediate resolution for Americans is the use of contactless payments using a smartphone or watch equipped with NFC via mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay.
Shoppers using Apple Pay can now pay for more transactions using their Apple Watch or iPhone. If a merchant specifically supports Apple Pay then much higher limits apply. The exact limit depends on the merchant and the card type, but are typically many hundreds of dollars, or even thousands. Higher limits are possible because Apple Pay is as secure as a chip-and-PIN transaction. For payment terminals not configured for Apple Pay, the new contactless limits apply since the transaction is treated as a non-authenticated payment — similar to tapping a physical card.
Although the standard usage instructions are to "tap to pay," the reality is that shoppers can bring their device close to the payment terminal without making contact.
In such uncertain times, exchanging cash or using a PIN pad when shopping creates unnecessary risks. Thanks to the increase in contactless limits, we now have a greater ability to safeguard ourselves, loved ones and fellow citizens.
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