Combat Covid with Contactless Payments
Making a payment by tapping – a contactless payment – provides consumers all over the world a more sanitary and streamlined way to pay for purchases, preventing contact with potentially contaminated public surfaces.
While secure contactless payment processing has been around for several years, the technology is slowly getting adopted by consumers. Here’s a brief overview to explain and foster greater use of secure contactless payments in the US and worldwide.
What is a contactless payment?
A contactless payment uses wireless, encrypted technology to transmit payment information from your electronic/digital device or enabled card to the merchant’s point-of-sale terminal without any physical contact. Contactless payments are quick, secure and easy to make. Consider the alternatives of handing someone your credit card (or inserting it yourself in a public card reader used by hundreds) or cash, which is notoriously dirty.
There are numerous electronic devices these days that you can use to make a contactless payment: your smartphone, a contactless-enabled credit or debit card (look for the contactless payment symbol, usually on the backside of your card), a smartwatch or other wearable technology. With these, simply tap the device over the contactless-enabled device over the payment terminal.
The transaction is almost instantaneously processed securely and there is no contact between people or possibly contaminated surfaces.
What’s going on behind the transaction?
When you initiate a contactless payment, a secure signal transmits your payment data directly to the payment reader, using Near-Field Communication, abbreviated NFC. The contactless payment devices have an NFC antenna in them to transmit data to the terminal, activated when placed near an NFC receiver, such as a payment terminal.
How do I know it’s secure?
Contactless payments are every bit as secure as using a chipped credit card. Contactless devices/cards use the same technology used in EMV (Europay Mastercard Visa) chipped credit/debit cards. This makes payments made with contactless devices/cards are virtually impenetrable to counterfeiting for in-person transactions. To date in the US, the use of chipped cards/EMV technology has decreased counterfeit card fraud by 87 percent, and overall in-person card fraud by 40 percent, VISA announced in September 2019.
Contactless payments use tokenization to ensure every transaction is secure. Tokenization replaces your credit card account number with a one-time-only digital identifier, called a token. The tokens are instantly created and just as immediately disposed of. The tokens do not transmit sensitive data such as your account number. What this means for a consumer is that even if someone obtained your tokenized data, it keeps you and your account number untraceable beyond the moment of the transaction so it cannot be used a second time.
Use your smartphone for extra protection
If you use your smartphone for contactless payments, you have an extra level of security in hand. Smartphones require you to login, either with a PIN or unique biometric identifiers such as your fingerprint or a face scan to proceed to payment approval. That means that only you can use your smartphone to transact a contactless payment, adding one more layer of security for your purchases.
Your smartphone stores credit card information in what is called a “secure element,” an industry-standard, certified chip that is specifically designed to store payment information securely. That’s the purpose of the mobile wallet on your smartphone.
By the way, if you’re paying with a contactless device/card, as a consumer you are never liable if you become a fraud victim. Either the merchant or the funding financial institution is liable, not you.
What do I do to make a contactless payment?
First, check to see if your card or smart device is enabled for contactless use. Contactless credit/debit cards come from your bank or credit union and bear the brands of the major players in the industry: Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover. Millions of contactless credit/debit cards are in circulation, making it very likely that your financial institution issues them. Check your cards and look for the universal contactless symbol on the front or back of your card, looks like little sound waves.
If you don’t have a contactless-enabled card, call your credit union or bank (or visit them in person) to request one.
All iPhones and most Android devices introduced in the last two or three years are enabled for contactless payments from their mobile wallet applications. The most popular of the mobile wallets are Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay, which are pre-installed on new devices purchased from those manufacturers. You can easily and quickly opt-in to using these services.
If you use a device as a digital wallet, treat it the same way you would cash—use the locks on your device and set up notifications on all your credit cards in case of fraud or theft.
Once you have your contactless card or mobile device set up, making a contactless payment is simple. When you’re at the register checking out, hold the device for two to three seconds above the contactless-enabled payment terminal. Listen for a beep and check the payment reader to see that your payment has been processed. Easy peasy!
How can I tell if a merchant accepts contactless payments?
You will be delighted to find that millions of brick-and-mortar merchants accept contactless payments. According to Visa’s report from 2019, more than 60 percent of face-to-face transactions took place at contactless-enabled payment readers.
When you’re at the checkout, look at the merchant’s payment reader for the contactless symbol or a sticker that shows Apple Pay, Google Pay and others are accepted. You’ll also see the prompt/contactless symbol on the screen of the payment reader. The word “tap” on the screen also is a clue that the reader is contactless-enabled.
And if you see no symbols or stickers indicating contactless payments, ask the checkout person. Since contactless payments are so secure, merchants are eager to have you use this form of payment.
My business does not currently accept contactless payments. How can I add that capability?
Contact your merchant services/credit card services provider. If you are already accepting chipped credit/debit cards, you are probably already set up to take contactless payments. If you aren’t accepting chipped cards (still using the swipe method), you should consider upgrading to chipped card equipment for your own financial protection.
Sales Sense Payments can answer any questions you have about taking contactless payments and help you with equipment or other requirements. Visit SalesSensePayments.com or call (585) 704-6453.
While contactless payments offer a wide array of benefits, the best reasons to pay by or accept contactless transactions is the highest level of security and convenience, along with the touchless aspect that’s so important right now. Contactless payments provide merchants and customers a payment option helping everyone avoid contact with potentially contaminated surfaces – something we all should be concerned about as the whole world fights to eradicate the deadly COVID-19 virus.
Regardless of how you pay for your purchases, don’t forget the common sense steps to avoid infection by washing your hands often, wear masks out in crowded public places and don’t touch your face. Click here to read more best practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stay home, slow the spread. Flatten the curve.
Stay home, stay healthy and safe!
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