The global economy is in a state of flux, and nobody can afford to make any unnecessary slip ups when it comes to trading. For this reason, reports coming out of Australia’s national science agency are all the more concerning given that they raise questions about the viability of cash in a world post COVID-19.
There’s no doubt that the use of physical money was already in decline when the coronavirus hit, but these findings could be a death knell for cash as retailers and traders of all kinds try to settle into the new normal. With research from GoCompare Money indicating that a third of UK adults are avoiding using cash due to COVID-19 fears, we take a look at how contactless technology is filling the void.
What’s the story?
In a recent study conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), it was found that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19) could survive on smooth surfaces for up to 28 days. Among the most concerning repercussions of these findings is the fact that plastic bank notes are some of the worst offenders for coronavirus survival times.
According to deputy director Dr. Debbie Eagles of the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness, scientific efforts have shown that the coronavirus is
“extremely robust, surviving for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as glass found on mobile phone screens and plastic bank notes.”
This compares to the 17-day survival figure of traditional flu, showing just how significant these findings are in the battle against coronavirus. As cash is passed around, the chances of somebody touching the money before touching their nose, mouth or eyes increases – significantly boosting their chance of contracting and then spreading COVID-19. It’s why persistent handwashing is a crucial element of the scientific guidance issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), but that alone is not necessarily enough.
What are the solutions?
As with anything in the field of public health, deciding on the best way forward involves more than just picking solutions at random. There are multiple ways of reducing or eliminating the risk of COVID-19 transmission from physical money, but two stand out.
Bank note cleaning: sounds obvious at first, but it comes with its own difficulties attached. This is the approach that has been taken by The People’s Bank of China in direct response to the risks posed by cash, and it’s seen them disinfecting money from infected regions before locking it away for up to two weeks prior to re-circulation.
Now, this might sound like an easy fix, but it certainly leaves a lot of room for scepticism. For one thing, cleaning bank notes is not a particularly scalable solution since you would need to take swathes of currency out of circulation. This action could also come too late in the day as notes that harbour the coronavirus could already have passed it around several times before the bank comes calling. UV cleaning comes with a catch too – that it could put the public in danger. In a BBC feature published during April 2020, UV Light Technology professional Dan Arnold made his thoughts on the move perfectly clear – stating that “UVC is really nasty stuff – you shouldn’t be exposed to it.”
In contrast, contactless technology has seen no end of proponent’s surface during the coronavirus pandemic. As some retailers choose to ditch cash altogether to avoid COVID-19 contamination, tap-to-pay tech has truly stood up to the challenge with Statista reporting a total of 519 million contactless transactions across the UK during June 2020 alone. At a time when people clearly wish to avoid touching cash and coins where possible, the question stands as to whether contactless could provide a safe way for the public to pay.
The benefits of contactless payments
Contactless is a well-established payment method, but many people don’t understand just how beneficial this technology can be. As a fully integrated cashless solution, contactless payments stand to help merchants that are looking to make their premises COVID-secure at minimal cost. What makes contactless even better, however, is the fact that it can speed up transaction times and limit the need for extensive employee ePOS training as many of the usual card machine functions are rendered unnecessary when customers simply need to hover their card over the machine to pay.
Aside from the obvious hygiene benefits, retailers that invest in contactless capabilities can expect greater transactional efficiency. Contactless payments can be completed in just seconds and much faster than their normal card counterparts. All of this means that there’s less processing for staff members to do, cash handling is limited, and sales turnover can be increased to ensure that queues don’t build up in your store. These features of contactless payments are even more beneficial now that social distancing is on the radar of retailers, making it all the more important to limit the number of customers that are in store at any one time.
Another advantage of contactless payments is the ease with which businesses can adapt to this technology. With reputable merchant services providers such as UTP Group offering contactless-enabled card readers at low costs, retailers can gain all of the benefits of this technology without breaking the bank.
The bottom line on contactless
The COVID-19 pandemic has sent global businesses scrambling for solutions, but one of the most effective might just have been under their noses the whole time. Contactless is an efficient and hygienic way to pay for goods and services, and with the British Retail Consortium having increasing the spending limit on contactless cards to £45, it’s clear that this technology is paving the way for the safe and secure transactions of the future. Couldn’t your business benefit from a new payment solution?