Apr 16, 2020

Why Contactless is the Future of Fuel Payments

Things are going to change post-COVID-19. Everyday tasks consumers used to complete without a second thought will now be scrutinized for cleaner, safer, faster ways to complete them. At the fuel pump, where self-service systems are touched by new hands each time a transaction is made, something will have to change. As retailers move to invest in EMV solutions, they should keep in mind consumer’s shifting priorities and preferred methods surrounding the payment process.

Jessica Dickler notes in this article posted on, that while cash has a “dirty” reputation, credit cards actually carry more types of bacteria than coins or cash. For that reason, and many more, interest in contactless payment solutions are on the rise. Vaduvur Bharghavan, CEO of Ondot (a digital card services platform), quotes in the article by Dickler, “In the US, an event like this (COVID-19) is likely to be the trigger point to cause that inflection point, in terms of growth (of contactless payment). It starts with a trickle, and then you have an avalanche.”

How does Contactless Work?

On today’s EMV contact payment systems (where a card is inserted), card holders must insert and leave their cards for a short duration and risk touching part of the card reader in the process. Additionally, cardholder verification methods (CVMs) like a PIN number, signature, zip code or CVV require the cardholder to use a keypad, pen or touchscreen to verify their identity. With a contactless EMV transaction, consumers can hold their payment source (whether it be a contactless-enabled card or smartphone) one quarter to one half of an inch away, and the contactless reader will start the payment process without touching or leaving the card in the device. If a consumer conducts an EMV contactless payment with their smartphone wallet with a properly configured EMV contactless system, it is possible that consumer verification can be completed using the smartphone’s biometric capabilities using fingerprint, facial recognition, or a passcode. If a consumer is paying with a contactless debit card, they may still need to enter in a PIN or additional CVM. Overall, the process of using EMV contactless payment can significantly reduce the amount of touch needed, is faster from start to finish, and is more secure.

Smartphones pave the way for improved contactless transactions.

Investment in the EMV contactless payment ecosystem is well underway, and in the meantime, smartphones continue to be the superior host for contactless transactions. In a smartphone’s wallet, credit cards can be added for contactless transactions even if the credit cards themselves do not support contactless functionality. As noted above, smarphones wallets are designed with other capabilities like fingerprint/facial recognition or an on-screen passcode to verify if a card owner is present at the time of a transaction (a consumer verification method), without the consumer ever having to touch anything other than their phone screen. Additionally, many smartphone implementations have enhanced security mechanisms (like one-time use tokenized card information) to further limit fraud exposure for the card user and the retailer. This means a better payment experience for the consumer, and less payment fraud exposure for site industry, a win-win.

Retailers Benefit from Contactless, Too!

Let’s review the current benefits of contactless payments we’ve discussed so far,

  1. Less touching of payment systems for consumers means a better customer experience
  2. Payment transactions are completed faster
  3. Added security means reduced fraud, especially when transactions are conducted through smartphone wallets

In addition to the above, the maintenance spend for a contactless reader (especially in outdoor environments) is significantly less than for that of a contact reader. This is because of the physical wear that takes place with the physical chip on the card making contact with the internal reader, coupled with the added stresses and conditions of an outdoor environment. Contactless readers avoid this stress as there are no points of contact between the card and the reader, and the device itself is completely enclosed and protected from the outdoor elements. Additionally, giving consumers the option to pay using a contactless reader means reducing the overall wear on your contact system as customers divide their transactions between your two devices.

Sounds Great, how do I get Contactless?

Retailers who are looking to implement contactless payment in conjunction with an outdoor EMV upgrade should evaluate all the EMV upgrade options and pricing options. Historically, many vendors of outdoor EMV offerings charge significantly more to add contactless payment (and even barcode readers) as an option. Thankfully, new alternatives have entered the market with pump EMV retrofit options that include contactless payment AND 2d barcode reading as standard … no extra charge. Furthermore, these options are included in an EMV-as-a-service offering available as a monthly fee, so you do not even have to pay a large upfront investment to get contactless payment or 2D barcode readers.

The world will change post COVID-19, look for solutions that get you a better ROI for you outdoor EMV investment and are aligned with the future of payment.