Now is the time for contactless payments

4 mins read

COVID-19 has challenged all of us globally with an entirely new reality. Many of us are housebound and international borders and public transport systems have been heavily curtailed. People are limiting the amount of time they spend outside and are more sensitive to areas or surfaces that could be exposed to many people. 

What has not changed is that people still need to spend on essentials such as groceries, medicines and the like. Merchants also need to serve their customers and communities while protecting both customers and staff. As everyone looks for ways to meet these needs without compromising on physical distancing and hygiene practices, we are seeing an even greater appetite for fast and secure payment systems that reduce the need for physical contact. While eCommerce is a boon for the burgeoning delivery economy, contactless payments offer a welcome solution in the face-to-face environment. 

As the payments industry thinks about how to collectively move forward, Al Kelly, CEO of Visa, says “The new global consciousness about the migration of germs – not just within a household or workplace, but within a local community, state, country and across the world, will continue to impact the way societies at large go about their daily lives. We are adjusting how we shop for groceries, greet a family member or friend, or ride public transportation.” Kelly said he expects “consumers will demand more ways to pay that are safer and avoid physical contact, such as contactless payments. Whether it’s with your car, phone, fridge, or with your card, contactless is not only an easier experience, it’s safer, too.”

For consumers, contactless payments offer an easy, fast and secure experience, especially as smart phones and even smarter contactless enabled wearable devices are now commonplace. For merchants, tap to pay technology speeds up queuing times and reduces the burden of handling cash. We have reached a point where one in every three face-to-face transactions that run over Visa’s global network is tapped, versus one in every four in Q1 FY19.

There are now almost 50 countries where contactless payments represent at least a third of all face-to-face transactions, and in CEMEA that figure is even greater, where more than 7 out of every 10 transactions are already made using contactless cards or devices. Meanwhile in Georgia that figure is 9 out of 10.

Visa Driving Contactless in Georgia

For many years, Georgia has maintained its position as a leader of the adoption and use of payment innovations. Consumers in Georgia are quick to embrace the benefits of tapping to pay with contactless cards and digital wallets. Georgia’s contactless penetration is now over 95% in domestic transactions. 

While we at Visa recognise the popularity and need for contactless payment technology among consumers and merchants, we want to make it even more accessible. Visa has been actively working to improve the checkout experience for consumers by introducing the speed, convenience and security of contactless payments.

Key milestones of Georgia’s contactless payment journey over the last 10 years: 

  • 2009Together with Liberty Bank, Visa completed the first Visa Contactless transaction in the CISSEE region;
  • 2013Jointly with Bank of Georgia, Visa launched contactless acceptance at McDonald’s restaurants across the country;
  • 2013 TBC Bank initiated a large-scale deployment of contactless POS terminals and issued a series of iconic Visa contactless card designs and stickers. Later, TBC Bank cemented these achievements by enabling the 1st Visa Contactless mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solution;
  • 2015 VTB Bank Georgia launched host card emulation (HCE) technology enabling mobile payment services – to enable payments just by tapping a mobile phone to any contactless POS terminal;
  • 2016Together with Bank of Georgia Visa launched Visa Token Services, to accelerate disruptive innovation in eCommerce and mobile payments;
  • 2019 – Georgia became the first country in the Caucasus where Apple Pay was launched; 
  • February, 2020 Georgia reached number one globally by contactless penetration.

Tap-to-pay for larger purchases without the need to enter a PIN

One of the most significant moves Visa has made through collaboration with the government and industry partners is that Visa has increased the limits of the cards. Whereas previously Visa cardholders needed to touch a checkout terminal to complete any transaction exceeding 100 GEL, now this limit has increased to 160 GEL and consumers can do a single purchase without having to enter a PIN code for their card, mobile phone or contactless wearable device.

The Visa Card Verification Method limit was raised in 26 countries within the Central Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) region, including Georgia. In many countries, we are raising the limit by 50% or more. 

By raising limits, we can help to deliver this fast, easy and secure way to pay to more customers and further support merchants and front line staff. Our priority at this time is to maintain operational stability, security and resilience of the Visa network so that cardholders and merchants can get what they need with peace of mind. 

In addition to that, Visa provided guidance to merchants, issuers and acquirers for operations with expired cards during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that if one’s card was about to expire, there is no reason to worry, because we have got you covered and all Visa cardholders in Georgia and in the region can use their cards for payments without interruption.

Visa Tap to Phone

As contactless payments rise and gain more popularity with consumers, we’re looking into expanding a contactless payment acceptance infrastructure and making it easier for merchants – big and small – to start accepting contactless and offer their customers a new, consumer-friendly, fast and convenient experience. One of the technologies which can boost contactless acceptance is Visa Tap to Phone. This solution makes it easy for sellers to start accepting payments via Android smartphones without any additional hardware. It’s as simple as downloading an app. This means millions more sellers everywhere will be able to accept contactless payments using current-generation mobile devices. Visa has already launched a number of test Visa Tap to Phone programs with some of the key client-banks and partners in the region.  In Georgia we run a test program with Bank of Georgia. When fully launched, the Visa Tap to Phone pilot project would enable customers to make payments in seconds by simply tapping their contactless card, phone or watch to the seller’s tap to phone-enabled smartphone.

Contactless technology when used with a mobile phone or wearable device has additional layers of security as that uses protocols such as tokenization to ensure sensitive payment information cannot be compromised. Contactless cards also use the same dynamic EMV® Chip security as contact chips, and each transaction includes a unique one-time code, to ensure that stolen information cannot be used to create counterfeit cards.

Contactless payments provide consumers with the confidence to make essential purchases while at the same time delivering a consistent and secure experience. The collaboration and support across the industry for raising limits, including Visa’s work with government entities, shows the importance and need for the right solutions. Visa remains committed – now and always – to supporting consumers, merchants and clients during these challenging times.

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