Your customers don’t want to touch your credit card machine.
It’s nothing personal, they don’t really want to touch anything that they don’t have to these days. Luckily for those of us that still use hand held or counter top credit card machines to either swipe or dip the chip to accept payment, contactless solutions are easy and inexpensive to implement. Chances are, the machine you currently have already has the hardware required to do this, so it might just be a matter of calling your merchant services provider to get instruction on how to enable it and allow your customers to utilize their contactless payment methods on it.
Contactless payment methods come in three common forms. Your customers will either have a smart phone, a smart watch, or an NFC enabled credit card. All of these use NFC, short for Near Field Communication, as the underlying way to perform the transaction. How exactly NFC works is beyond the scope of this article, suffice it to say, it allows your device or card to talk to a properly configured credit card terminal so long as it is within about 1 inch of the reader. It’s easy, it works reliably and it’s reasonably secure.
You might be wondering, ‘if all you need to be is an inch away from a reader, isn’t it possible for someone to get close to my customer and steal their card information?’ Yes and no. While it is technically possible to intercept the signal, the hacker wouldn’t be able to do much with the information. Smart pay devices like Apple Pay do not directly transmit sensitive card holder data in the transaction. Instead, they submit a unique one-time pass code to the credit card reader, which then sends that pass code to a very secure data center operated by your bank. The bank is then able to communicate with Apple to retrieve the actual card information. A process that happens within a fraction of a second and is completely out of scope of the interaction of the customer with the payment device itself.
To start allowing your customers to use contactless payments, start by checking if you’re already setup with it. The best way to check is to read the wording of the credit card machine when it comes time for the customer to give their payment. If it only says “swipe, dip or enter card” when it is ready to accept payment, it might not be setup for contactless. If you see the word “tap” anywhere, you’re already good to go. Find a customer that wants to use their phone, watch or NFC enabled credit card and try it out. It’s nothing more than holding the device within an inch of the face of the credit card machine.
If you don’t see the word “tap” and holding an NFC enabled payment method near the machine does nothing, you still likely do not need to buy a new machine. Now is the time to call your merchant services provider. Either you have a machine made in the last 5 years and it’s just a matter of asking customer service to help you get it enabled, or you’re due for a new machine. Most providers will provide a free terminal replacement. If they don’t, get a new merchant services provider. They fight fiercely to acquire and retain customers, so the relatively small cost of replacing your terminal for free is worth it to them to keep you as a customer. If not, there are plenty of providers out there that will happily give you a modern terminal if you switch to them.
As consumer sensitivity to sanitary habits in the retail environment continue, NFC is a great way for you as a retailer to make sure your customers continue to feel safe making purchases. The security of the payment itself, coupled with the fact that any would-be coronavirus’s can’t make the 1 inch jump through thin air, make NFC the go-to choice for payment acceptance. It’s either already ready to go, or you have a couple of free options to get it setup, you’ve got nothing to lose.