Stop touching money: Coronavirus boosts rise of contactless payment


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  • Saturday, 04 Apr 2020

Paying without touching any surface seems more sensible than ever, given that the World Health Organization and other health officials are pointing to a risk – albeit low – of the coronavirus surviving on objects like coins passed between you and a cashier. — dpa

There's never been a better time to switch to contactless payment, be it by card or with an app on your phone.

Paying without touching any surface seems more sensible than ever, given that the World Health Organization and other health officials are pointing to a risk – albeit low – of the coronavirus surviving on objects like coins passed between you and a cashier.

As more and more countries add wireless payment options by card and smartphone, the upper limits of such transactions are now also being increased in some countries to reduce the amount of cash that gets passed around.

Contactless payment, seen as the most hygienic form of payment, is now poised to edge out other forms of payment.

Even in Germany, a country known for its love of paying in hard cash, the amount of contactless bank card transactions has increased from 35% to 50% since the start of the year, the Association of German Banks says.

The advantage is that you only need to put your card or mobile phone close to payment terminal in order to pay. There's no need for your phone or card to physically touch any surface – it's enough for it hover near the terminal.

Both Britain and Germany have increased the maximum amount you can pay before needing to enter your PIN – and dirty your hands by touching a surface used by countless others.

In Germany, card-holders can now contactlessly spend not just €25 (RM117.65) but €50 (RM235), while Brits can spend £45 (RM240) instead of just £35 (RM187).

The European Banking Authority has meanwhile called on European Union countries to facilitate such payments by increasing contactless spending limits.

To cover even greater sums without having to enter a PIN, you can install a wireless payment app on your phone, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay, all of which will require your phone to be unlocked for a payment to take place.

Depending on availability in your country and your bank, these payments can come straight from your account, a PayPal account or a VISA card.

Health experts say the germ load on banknotes and coins is similar to that on door handles in public toilets and grab bars in public transport, although only a fraction of them normally stick to your fingers.

While there are no known cases of a person contracting the coronavirus from touching a surface, preliminary studies have suggested that the novel coronavirus may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days.

Contrary to popular belief, the copper in coins doesn't kill off anything that might be infectious. Copper ions can prevent the growth of some germs, but they can't kill them. — dpa

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