Zero-Touch Payments are Set to Grow Post-Covid

Welcome to the first post in our series on digital exclusion. In this post, Art Stewart, Global Head of Sales & Marketing, at IDEX Biometrics, discusses how zero-touch payments are set to grow post-Covid.

We still know too little about how the coronavirus spreads. That is true of many diseases, especially viruses, but we can’t afford to take chances. Repeatedly during the pandemic, we have been advised to avoid contact with keypads, gas station pumps, door handles, gym equipment, shopping carts and cash. That is a pretty tall order unless you carry a load of rubber gloves and hand wipes.  Safe to say that our behavior with interacting with common touch points will be forever changed after the current pandemic.

How dangerous are contaminated surfaces?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says most flu viruses only survive on human hands for 3-5 minutes – which implies it is difficult to catch a flu even through touching a sick person, but the coronavirus may be different. Some early research results suggest it survives four hours on copper, a day on cardboard packaging, about three days on plastic and steel and 48 hours on bank notes. If true, anything frequently touched by other people could be a very serious risk.

Coronavirus is neither the first, last or only disease we need to worry about. Busy airlines and the diverse climate of the USA make it a comfortable home for many kinds of pathogen. The Centers for Disease Control also constantly monitors for hantavirus, leishmaniasis, malaria, Chagas disease, dengue fever, west Nile virus, pertussis, Zika, ARS, Escherichia coli, babesiosis, bird flu, swine flu, and MERS.

LendEDU, a financial marketplace, conducted research into the germs on ATMs in New York. The actual card readers proved to be the dirtiest components, with keypads second and touchscreens last. By implication, store payment terminals are another significant hazard.

Touch-free payment

Touch-free payment methods were already on a steep rise in popularity before coronavirus warnings were issued. All types of proximity payments in the U.S. (including both card payments and mobile wallet apps on cell phones) increased by 9.1% in 2019. MasterCard’s data shows a 40% surge in contactless payments in the first quarter of 2020 alone. Mastercard reports that 51% of Americans now use contactless payment methods to some degree.

Not all Americans have a card capable of making payments without insertion in a terminal and a typed PIN, but a third of those surveyed (and 43% of the under-35s) say they have actively sought out a new touch-free payment card.

The future of zero touch payments

Without a contactless capable card, many Americans turn to their smartphones. Just a few of the many digital wallets and payment apps available include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Chime, Zelle and Venmo. Using a mobile payment app has become one option to make  payments safe in this present world of coronavirus but not everyone has a smartphone and devices are costly.

Furthermore, the lack of technology access and resources for vulnerable people in society remains challenging. To overcome digital exclusion, an innovative approach towards touch-free payments is required without the need for expensive devices.

The solution is a biometric payment card which incorporates a fingerprint biometric sensor directly into the card itself. The card can only be used when it is literally in the hands of the legitimate owner and, as a result, spending caps can be safely removed. This is a speedier and more secure means for customers to authenticate payments than traditional cards and bridges the gap of digital exclusion.

With none of the disadvantages of smartphones and avoiding the exclusion of vulnerable members of society, biometric cards are the future of touch-free payments.