6 ways to pay without touching anything

Jun 6, 2020

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As we all work to slow the spread of coronavirus by practicing social distancing, we’re taking a look at some other best practices to consider going forward.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus is a respiratory virus that primarily spreads through droplets of saliva and mucus, which can be generated and spread when we sneeze, cough or even breathe and talk. It causes the disease COVID-19.

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But that doesn’t mean you have to be sneezed on to contract the virus. You can get these micro-droplets on your hands by touching surfaces an infected person has recently touched and then touching your face. Considering there are studies that say the average person touches their face 23 times an hour, consistently washing your hands and limiting the possibility of coming into contact with the virus at all is important.

If you’re using your credit card when you do have to go out for essentials like groceries, that’s another potential touchpoint.

One way to minimize the number of surfaces you come in contact with is by utilizing contactless payments.

By limiting the amount of cash you handle — or by avoiding your physical credit card and wallet altogether — you’re not just preventing yourself from coming in contact with someone else’s germs; you’re keeping others safe from yours as well.

Here are ways you can pay without pulling out your credit card or cash.

Pay ahead online or in-app

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

This is something you’re probably used to when ordering online from places like Amazon. Your cards are saved and all you have to do is check out. This is certainly one of the easiest and most common contactless payment methods. Many restaurants have already adopted this order-ahead method as the new norm. It eliminates contact while also streamlining the whole process.

Use mobile payment services

photo by brendan/TPG

Mobile payment services like Venmo or PayPal allow you to safely transfer money directly from your bank account to third-parties with a simple touch of a button. This eliminates the need to pull out cash or your card, which can be full of germs. And frankly, these services make the whole payment process much more seamless. Many businesses like Seamless, GrubHub and UberEats have started to accept Venmo. It’s also an option at many small, local businesses. PayPal is often an option during checkout at online retail stores.

Related: How to clean your credit cards

Use a mobile wallet

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Mobile wallets work similarly to tap-to-pay cards, minus the credit card. Not to mention, this method can sometimes be more rewarding. For instance, Apple tries to incentivize Apple cardholders to utilize Apple Pay by offering an extra 1% cash back on mobile payments. Another perk of Apple Pay is the fact that you can load other loyalty programs into it, like Walgreens for example, so you don’t have to punch in your phone number on the dirty payment terminal.

Altogether, this eliminates the hassle of getting your wallet out, while also minimizing the spread of germs. Cellphones are much easier to clean than wallets, so it’s a win-win.

Related: Your guide to contactless payments — and the many benefits of using them

How other countries approach contactless payments

The U.S. has been unbelievably slow in adopting contactless payments. It wasn’t until 2015 that U.S. retailers were required to accept EMV cards (i.e., credit cards with chips). Europe had been using the more secure technology for years before that. And it took even longer for U.S. banks to issue dual interface cards — a.k.a. the feature that allows for contactless payments.

Now many U.S. issuers have begun issuing dual-interface cards with contactless payment capabilities. I can say from experience that our payment terminals are far less efficient than those in countries like Australia and China, who have been utilizing this method for years now. However, with the new expectation of less contact due to coronavirus, we will likely begin adopting these efficient practices from leading countries. Here’s an idea of what we could expect:

Related: Best contactless credit cards: Tap-to-Pay

QR code payments

(Photo by Ethan Ste
(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

QR code payments are a popular payment method in China. This method allows customers to easily complete payments without any sort of contact. TPG’s Ethan Steinberg, who lived in China until recently, shared the photo above from a food stall in Xi’an. All you have to do is scan in line and then pay while they make the food — it only takes a few seconds.

Tap-to-pay everywhere

On a recent trip to Australia, I was amazed at how seamless every payment was. I never once swiped my credit card. Instead, I tapped my Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the transactions were completed within seconds. I was also pleasantly surprised with how widely accepted credit cards were. I’m so used to carrying around some extra cash for those cash-only spots, but I didn’t run into that issue anywhere in Australia.

While the complete elimination of cash is a different issue on its own, I did appreciate how efficient the Aussies were with their payments. This is something that I hope is adopted here in the U.S. in the coming months.

Widespread adoption of tableside payments

We could soon see the elimination of the checkbook at restaurants here in the U.S. — when they reopen again for guests — and more widespread adoption of tableside payments. Checkbooks are probably one of the germiest parts of dining out — multiple people touch it, there’s a mixture of cash and credit cards and it constantly travels between the kitchen and the dining room.

By eliminating the checkbook and implementing tableside payments, guests could easily tap-to-pay and avoid contact with various other surfaces. This is something that many restaurants in Australia and countries in Europe currently implement. Not only is it super-efficient, but it’s also much more secure for customers since you never lose sight of your card.

Touchless options in the travel sector

Many travel merchants are implementing touchless platforms throughout the guest service experience. For example, Hilton has long offered digital room keys but will further enhance the mobile app to enable touchless temperature controls, TV, lights, and more.

Major hotel chains have already begun removing literature from guest rooms in order to eliminate the spread of germs. In-room dining has been expanded at hotels that have been forced to shutter restaurants, with paper menus replaced by digital menus accessible via QR codes.

With air travel taking a huge dive, airports are less crowded but concerns are already arising about how to maintain social distancing once air travel resumes. A company called Quenergy is at the forefront, offering technology that tracks how many people are in a given area and sets off alerts when social distancing is not maintained.

Things will certainly look different post-pandemic, especially in the travel sector. However, these technologies can help expedite the road to normalcy – or some version of it.

Additional reporting by Ariana Arghandewal.

Featured photo by Getty Images.

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