Visa Turns Android Phones Into Contactless Payment Terminals

Visa has a new solution for shops wary of handling cash. On Wednesday, the financial services company unveiled a new “Tap to Phone” product that can turn Android smartphones into contactless payment terminals.

“The partners that we have, through our Visa Ready program, are able to download an app to their device and create, basically, a payment terminal or an acceptance device for contactless payments, pretty much on the fly,” Mary Kay Bowman, global head of buyer and seller solutions, Visa, told WWD.

Visa Ready is essentially the company’s developer program. Participating partners — including merchant services providers and technology platforms — can use Visa’s tools to create new Tap to Phone products for retailers. Tests have already begun in more than a dozen markets, and now those solutions can graduate to official launches.

That means independent sellers and mom-and-pop shops will be able to accept any popular tap-to-pay method that works with Visa, including Apple Pay and Google Pay, without having to invest in terminals, dongles or other hardware equipped with Near Field Communication technology.

For now, the only requirement is an Android phone that supports NFC, though Visa is working on bringing the tech to iPhones at some point in the future.

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Workers just simply download the mobile app and start an account or register to link to the main business account, and they can use the phone to accept payments from modern Android devices or iPhones.

Shoppers who aren’t even comfortable allowing their phones to touch another one, even briefly, may note that NFC works by simply bringing the devices near each other.

The mobile nature of this tech would make for helpful retail efficiencies at any time, but in the age of COVID-19, they seem critical. Orders placed via telephone for curbside pickup could transact on the spot, without customers even leaving their cars. At stores that have opened with social distancing policies, workers could work their way down a checkout line, mitigating the potential for crowds.

And, Bowman added, Visa has noticed an uptick in service providers pivoting to at-home services.

“One of the interesting use cases that came from one of our pilot customers was a hair salon in Hong Kong, where they are no longer doing some of their services in salon, but are available to go into client’s homes on a one-on-one basis and in a compliant manner,” she said. “But that way they can take you know, they don’t have all of the setup of their point of sale.“

Although Tap to Phone is geared for smaller merchants, the Visa executive noted that the system may benefit larger retailers looking to rapidly deploy mobile or contactless payments.

The more stores, perhaps the better. Handling cash has never been the most hygienic affair, and that can be concerning in general. But during a highly contagious pandemic, some find it downright frightening. Recent Visa data backs that up.

According to its latest Back to Business report, demand for contactless payments is growing. At 63 percent, nearly two-thirds of consumers said they would switch to another business that offered contactless payments. Almost half of global consumers, or 46 percent, see contactless payments methods as being one the most important safety measures for stores. Nearly half, or 48 percent, would refuse to shop stores whose payment methods required contact with a cashier or a shared device.

Tap to Pay launches immediately in 15 markets that have tested the solution, including regions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Next month it will be available to sellers in Brazil, Italy and the U.K., with the U.A.E. to follow shortly thereafter, making Tap to Phone available just in time for the holidays. As for the U.S., the company plans to roll it out for American merchants next year.

Initial participants of Visa Ready for Tap to Phone include Cellfie, Center of Corporate Technologies M4Bank, Digitsecure, GeoPagos, IBA Group, MyPinPad, PayCore, Phos, Quest, Rubean, SmartPesa, SoftPos, Soft Space and Techno.

Additional Visa-approved technology, acquirer and government partners include Alfa Bank Kazakhstan, Banco Popular, BPS Sberbank Belarus, CIMB. FirstData, FT Technologies, Halyk Bank, Hong Leong Bank, Kazpost, MagicCube. Maybank, Niubiz, Oschadbank, Payments Sense, PostePay, Priorbank, Promerica, Russian Standard Bank, Sberbank Kazakhstan and Symbiotic.

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