Contactless Payments Can Keep You Safe – and They’re Here to Stay

Do you wonder how many infections could be stopped if we kept our cards — and our germs — to ourselves? According to a study conducted by finance site LendEDU, debit and credit cards are dirtier than cash and coins. In fact, the sanitation monitoring device used to calculate their “germ score” by measuring the number of bacteria on a particular surface found that our payment cards beat out public train station bathrooms! For obvious reasons, contactless payments are an excellent alternative!

Are you new to contactless payments? Trust us — you’re not alone. Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payments in the first quarter of 2020 as the global coronavirus pandemic worsened. The trend is being driven by consumers looking for quick ways to get in and out of stores without touching anything. Mastercard also thinks the contactless payment trend will continue well after the pandemic.

Most of us carry our smartphones with us everywhere we go, and we’re sanitizing them frequently as advised by medical professionals across the world. Thankfully, if you carry your smartphone, that also means you likely carry Apple or Samsung Wallet with you too. By using contactless payments, we avoid exposing our physical payment cards to droplets at one cashier counter, and the next, and the next. Plus, we avoid having to touch the physical terminal at all to punch in our PIN.

Unsure if this form of payment would be offered where you shop? Keep your eyes peeled for the Contactless Payment symbol — similar in appearance to a WIFI symbol turned on its side. Look for this symbol the next time you visit your favorite restaurant or retailer or ask an employee if you’re unsure. You might be surprised just how many places now offer contactless payment. Hold your phone out the window at the drive-through or curbside pick-up now, and after the pandemic has been quelled, keep using it to avoid contact with machines where other cards have been dipped or swiped.

In case you’re worried about transaction security — contactless transactions leverage near field communication (NFC) technology to establish a wireless connection with the cashier’s terminal. Linking credit cards to smartphones makes it much harder to steal a user’s payment information for several reasons.

  • The smartphone must be unlocked first
  • The correct payment app must be open
  • The phone must be very close to the terminal

Payments made through card-connected mobile devices or other wearable technologies benefit from the most fraud protection. Your physical card number is not saved in your smartphone wallet. Instead, a device account number is created for your card on your particular device. This number is separate and unique to your phone and different from your physical card number. Because legacy, contactless, and EMV (chip) credit cards can all be linked to NFC-enabled devices, this technology is not only secure but also the best in-person payment method to reduce the spread of a virus.

One thing to note is that merchant services processors categorize their payments by “card-present” and “card-not-present” when analyzing the risk of the payment. While the terms seem self-explanatory, a transaction is considered “card-present” only if electronic data is captured at the time of the sale. That means that hovering your phone above a contactless-enabled terminal constitutes a card-present transaction — meaning the store saves on processing costs compared to an order taken over the phone, on a website, or using electronic invoicing!


This week’s blog was written by Schooley Mitchell Strategic-Partner Jill Lowry. You can visit her at for a free consultation if you’re interested in setting up contactless payment for your business or reducing your various business expenses.