Use Contactless Payment Cards to Reduce Risk of Coronavirus COVID-19

In our third post in the series on a cashless society, Vince Graziani, CEO of IDEX Biometrics discusses the use of contactless payment cards to reduce risk of Coronavirus COVID-19.

Up until recently, consumers were happy to have both cash and contactless payment cards running concurrently, as they felt comforted by the familiarity of having notes in their pockets and purses. Cash tends to be associated with smaller transactions like buying a loaf of bread or a pint of milk. The beginning of the year 2020 and the arrival of the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic, however, has already started to change that.

Cash is very unhygienic, as people exchanging cash may not have washed their hands. Contamination gets passed on and shared with potentially millions of others. Cash is also becoming easier to counterfeit and replicate as the technologies available to do it become easier to acquire and criminal gangs become more sophisticated in their methods and networks.

As a result, we have witnessed an exponential growth in the payment technology sector throughout the past decade. People are familiar with contactless payments, and now with the introduction of biometric technology, the idea of a cashless society seems even more within reach. Companies have been pushing the virtues of the cashless society for some time, but it has taken something as seismic as a pandemic to force real change.

According to Demitry Estrin, the founder and CEO of ‘The Futurist Group’, a financial services consultancy, ‘The coronavirus could be the tipping point needed for contactless in the U.S.’ [1] What he means is that this global emergency could force people to change an age-old habit and some habits need an extra push to make the change.

As biometric technology improves with every innovation, living in a cashless society now makes more sense than ever. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic it was true that countries were already in the process of reducing their dependency on cash, however, highly sophisticated biometric security measures have increased our trust and reliance on cards.

On-card biometrics ensure that the cards remain entirely personal to the holder, with no contaminatory behavior required in order to use them. This is in contrast to shared biometric devices such as entry system fingerprint sensors.

Before the pandemic, Sweden was noted for being an excellent example of how the switch to contactless can be made. Sweden only conducts 2% of its transactions with cash and even though the option is still there, it would appear that most people are choosing to pay by card. The switch to biometric payment cards and the extra security and reassurance they offer makes the change almost inevitable.

People have toyed with the idea of using payment cards to reduce the associated risks with cash, but as one CEO of the company, Electronic Transactions Association states, ‘People default to what’s familiar, unless there’s something to jolt you out of it.’

It would appear that jolt is now here [3].


The previous post in our series on a cashless society looked at how the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing biometric identification one step closer.