Contactless Payment – The new weapon in the age of coronavirus

In our second post in the series on ‘Are we at the tipping point for global biometric payment card adoption?’, IDEX Biometrics discusses contactless payments as a new weapon in the age of coronavirus.

Both banknotes and coins can carry coronavirus, but there is less public trust in electronic commerce and banking. Contactless cards that confirm the identity of their rightful owner are about to solve both problems.

Early in the Covid-19 outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) both urged the world’s governments to discourage cash. Few things pass through more hands as quickly as money, so it makes sense to avoid it if possible during a viral outbreak.

PIN pads are also seen as potential transmission hazards, so most European countries responded by raising the limits they set on contactless transactions from €30 (£30 in the UK) to €45 (£45). Caps are imposed to limit the abuse of stolen cards, so the decision to raise them is a balance of evils. However, with a typical family weekend shopping expedition usually costing £100, a £45 cap still limits the usefulness of a contactless smart card.

So far, fewer people in the US have a contactless smart card than in Europe, and fewer terminals allow their use, but the need for safer payment options is compelling. With its mix of climates and unhampered free movement, the US has plenty of potential outbreaks to worry about. Covid-19 is probably far from over, and more epidemics are still on the horizon.

Other contactless payment options

Only a few years ago, not using money would have been unthinkable in most parts of the world. Today, access to electronic payment methods is everywhere, but not all countries have been taking the same route. Mobile phone digital wallets are hugely popular in India’s cities and even more popular in China. Ironically, few countries use them less than the USA where they were invented.

WeChat and Alipay are easily the market leaders in Chinese cities. However, mobile phone wallets have many drawbacks. Phones are expensive, easily broken, lost or stolen and go flat. In large countries, signal coverage can be poor and the outlets equipped to accept them become increasingly scarce outside the cities.

The third option is an internet transaction, but these too require a smartphone or computer and a connection. They are also notoriously prone to interception, theft and fraud.

The case for the biometric card

What if your payment card could identify and authenticate you to the cashier without new equipment, centralized databases or complicated registration processes? Well, that’s what the new generation of biometric payment cards do. On arrival, you register your fingerprint with the card and can then use it in all the same ways as traditional contactless or chip and PIN cards.

Because you are the only person who can ever use the card, the spending limits can be removed. Your money is now safe, and so is your health.

The previous post in our series on ‘Are we at the tipping point for global biometric payment card adoption?’ looked at how consumers are looking forward to Biometric Payment Cards in terms of security and hygiene.