Pandemic Creates Higher Demand for Touchless Payments

Touchless payments have been gaining popularity for a few years, because they’re quick and convenient. But in the United States the technology initially remained more of a novelty, not  catching on as fast as it did in other places like the UK. Then COVID-19 drastically changed the way Americans think of contactless transactions. The desire to avoid physical contact  and the health risk it currently represents created powerful motivation to adopt contactless payments.

Surging Usage Rates

At the beginning of the pandemic, MasterCard surveyed 17,000 cardholders across 19 countries. More than eight out of 10 said that they consider contactless payment the “cleaner way to pay.” Nearly half said that they were giving touchless payments priority in their wallets, and nearly 75 percent said that they’ll keep using contactless payment methods after the pandemic is over. Globally, the use of touchless payments has doubled, compared to contact payment methods, in the significant consumer categories of groceries and pharmacies.

Shorter Transaction Times

Using a conventional chip-enabled card at checkout can take up to 45 seconds. But during that same timeframe it’s possible to process three or four contactless payment transactions. That not only enables merchants to conduct more business per hour, but it reduces the time customers spend standing in line at the register. Because of the risk of COVID-19 exposure, particularly indoors, shortening those wait times can reassure customers concerned about their health and safety. Most consumers do not want to linger any longer than necessary inside a store, particularly when standing in close proximity to others at check out.

Purchase Limits and ATM Withdrawals

There are also increasing numbers of ATMs capable of accepting debit cards with touchless technology. There is no need to punch in a personal identification number (PIN) on a keypad. But since touchless systems don’t involve a PIN or signature, there are often limits on the maximum allowable withdrawal or purchase amount. During COVID-19, however, many banks and card issuers are revising those limits upward, to facilitate higher-value transactions. At least 49 different nations have announced such increases, and have typically raised the caps on purchases and cash withdrawals by more than 130 percent.


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Mobile Payment Options

Touchless mobile payments via services like PayPal and Venmo and also making inroads, as companies like GrubHub and UberEats embrace the technology. One of the most significant changes is that CVS is in the midst of a nationwide roll-out of a touchless payment system that uses PayPal and Venmo. The drug store chain intends to start using the new system before the end of 2020, at more than 8,000 of its locations around the United States. Customers will be able to pay for merchandise while they shop, using a scanned QR code and a mobile app, with no added transaction fees.

Forward Momentum

COVID-19 safety protocols have given touch-free payments a substantial boost. Adoption of the technology is expected to continue to accelerate as consumers experience it and are converted to the rather new way to pay. While online payments have surged, face-to-face payment transactions have been in need of a way to similarly facilitate no-contact purchases. Touchless payments are a tailor-made solution for that, and are now more timely than ever.