What Is Tap to Pay?

What is the most convenient way to pay for a purchase? Most of us don’t think about how we pay for what we buy. But if we asked you this question, your answer would probably be - Visa Tap to P
Mykhailo Glodian
Mykhailo Glodian
Head of Growth @ MeaPay
What is tap to pay?
What is the most convenient way to pay for a purchase? Most of us don’t think about how we pay for what we buy. But if we asked you this question, your answer would probably be – Visa Tap to Pay!Tap to Pay is the process that occurs when tapping a credit card or mobile phone against a payment terminal. Just a wave of your card and behold!! Your payment has gone through.
Visa Tap to Pay has become the go-to way to make in-store payments over the last few years. It’s a super-fast, no-fuss method for paying for your goods and services! All without the hassle of inserting a card, punching in the PIN, and waiting for your transaction to process. And the technology behind it could change modern living beyond just streamlining in-store purchases.
But just what is Visa Tap to Pay? And how does it work? Today we’re going to cover the ins and outs of contactless card and mobile payments, and why we think it’s the future of all electronic payment methods.

What is Near Field Communication?

Visa Tap to Pay, Tap and Pay, or simply ‘tap,’ are just a couple of different names for contactless payments. But the technology behind every kind of contactless payment can be summed up in one name: Near-Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a wireless technology that allows different types of electronic devices to exchange data and information over a short range, usually 4cm (1.6 inches) or lower.
NFC-enabled devices can communicate with each other simply by touching each other physically (tapping) or passing by one another within about an inch or so. This prompts a transaction between the NFC chips or tags installed in both devices. This is how payments can be made between a terminal and your card or cell phone. That’s right – if you use Google or Apple Pay to pay by phone, then you’re already familiar with NFC tech.
Despite how NFC has streamlined these everyday processes, it isn’t as cutting-edge as it sounds. It’s very similar to other wireless radio communications systems such as WiFi and Bluetooth. And in fact, it’s extremely similar to radio-frequency identification (RFID), where smart tags and chips are used to send encrypted data to a “reader,” or active device.
Think of the ID badges and keys people often use to enter their workplace or gym. These are RFID-enabled tags, and their activity is “data” that can be logged and stored in a system. NFC works similarly.
What is Near Field Communication?

The History of NFC

The starting point for NFC was RFID, which operates on the same principle of short-wave wireless communications, though it has a much shorter range. In 2002, tech giants Phillips and Sony joined forces and announced their technical outline for NFC.
Over the next two years, various manufacturers began to take an interest in this new technology, and in 2004 the Near Field Communication Forum was established. This was a nonprofit organization heralded by Sony, Phillips, and Nokia, as a platform to bring awareness of NFC to the public.
By 2006 the structure of NFC technology had been fully outlined, and interested parties began to take notice. A year later the world’s first NFC-enabled mobile phone was on the market courtesy of Nokia, and over the next few years, 100s of projects utilizing NFC were being greenlit around the world. This included NFC-enabled mobile wallets such as Android Pay and Google Wallet.
By 2015, thousands of merchants across America had switched to NFC-enabled software and payment terminals. This signaled the birth of contactless payments as a mainstream service. Many around the country were asking “what is Tap to Pay?” And their questions were about to be answered
Today, virtually no one is asking “what is Tap to Pay”! Cards everywhere have their own NFC chip, and Tap to pay is an option for everyone. And since then, NFC technology has been adapted for other sectors. Let us explain…

It’s More Than Just Tap to Pay

NFC is best known today as the function that allows us to make convenient contactless payments, but there is a huge variety of important uses for this technology outside of consumer and retailer transactions. These include:

  •   Airline Boarding Passes: As early as 2014, major airlines in Japan and France have allowed their passengers to use NFC-enabled devices as a replacement for boarding passes. This has been shown to significantly reduce the time it takes to board a full commercial flight, compared to scanning paper boarding passes.
  •   Public Transport: Currently, the primary use for NFC technology is public transport access. Many countries including the US, Canada, China, and many European countries use NFC chips as a substitute for paper bus and train tickets. Passengers can simply ‘scan on’ with a wave of their mobile phone against a ticket terminal!
  •   Hospitality Sector: NFC has also made a breakthrough in the hospitality and hotel industry, as hotels can manage how their customers access rooms and facilities without keys or key cards. Some hotels have opted for wristbands, badges, key chains, and more. One hotel in the Bahamas, The Cove, even created a temporary tattoo embedded with an NFC chip!
  •   HVAC: Some companies that manufacture heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning technology (HVAC), have incorporated NFC to streamline the process of installing and configuring their equipment. By moving the user interface from the usual LED/LCDs with a keypad to an app on a smartphone, it becomes easier and more intuitive for customers to use their products.

These are just some of the many uses that NFC has, but much more is possible. Only the future can prove whether or not this technology will meet its full potential.

How Does NFC Work?

Near-Field Communication uses electromagnetic radio fields to transfer information between targeted devices, or one primary device and an NFC tag. The radiofrequency current is generated by the active device (also known as a reader or interrogator) that can set up contact between itself and the target NFC-enabled device or tag.
NFC is an evolved version of the radio-frequency identification (RFID) system and acts very similarly to this technology. When two devices have an NFC chip, the active device will activate the second device’s chip so it can collect small and specific data. This is what occurs when any NFC-enabled terminal interacts with your credit and debit card, and device.
This system is incredibly simple to use, which is part and parcel of why it’s become so popular. And unlike Bluetooth and Wireless connections, there is no need for passwords, PINs, or device discovery. You simply bring your NFC-enabled device into that 4cm range, and the information will be transferred in milliseconds!
But not all NFC interactions are equal – naturally, any financial transaction needs extra levels of security. Every time a transaction is made with your credit card or mobile phone, their NFC chips will create an encrypted code with limited payment information. This code can only be used by your bank, and a unique code is created for every individual transaction.

Cool Things You Can Do With NFC

Many people don’t realize that NFC tags can be bought, programmed, and used by anyone who wants to harness the potential of Near-Field Communication. These smart, circular tags can be easily purchased online and used to automate your everyday processes.
To do this you will need:

  • A smartphone with NFC capabilities
  • Your chosen NFC tags
  • An NFC tag writer app. Many different tag writers exist and can be found through the Google and Apple store, such as NFC/RF Reader and Writer and NFC TagWriter by NXP. Both are simple, easy to navigate, and can write code for a variety of tags.


NFC Tag Types

Speaking of tag varieties, there isn’t one standard NFC tag – there are multiple! Some are simple and inexpensive but have less useful functions. Others are more sophisticated in their uses but more expensive to purchase. We recommend something in the middle that has enough functionality to perform most basic tasks but won’t break the bank either. Click here for more information on NFC tag types.

What You Can Do

Here are some simple but awesome ways you can utilize the same technology that Tap to Pay uses, but for your everyday tasks.

  •   A Better Alarm: We’ve all been there before – your phone alarm goes off, so you smash that snooze button and go straight back to sleep. Luckily, there are phone apps you can use to link an NFC tag with your phone alarm. Simply place your tag on an object on the other side of the room.

Setting up your alarm this way means you need to leave your bed to wave your phone over the tag and deactivate the alarm. By the time you’ve done it, you’re already up and moving.

  •   Set Up Phone Shortcuts: Simple tasks like opening your phone camera, calling a friend or family member, and launching a streaming service or music app can be done instantly with an NFC tag.
  •   Connect To WiFi Instantly: By writing your WiFi password onto an NFC tag, anyone can tap their phone against your tag and instantly gain access to your WiFi network. This is an unbeatable timesaver for you and your visitors, especially if you have a particularly cumbersome password.
  •   Business Cards: If you’re a business owner, NFC-enabled business cards should be in your future. With a simple tap of their phone, your potential customers can get instant access to all of your business information in seconds.

These are just a few of the ways that Tap to Pay technology can be used to automate your everyday actions, saving you time and energy. But there are endless opportunities for harnessing the power of NFC, you just need to look for them! For example, this video has even more creative ways to use NFC tags for home automation:

Why You Should Use Tap to Pay

When it comes to Tap to Pay, you may be wondering why you should use it over other electronic payment methods. There are a few fantastic features that make the Tap to Pay function the likeliest method for spending in the future. And there are many benefits for both the customer and retailer.

It’s faster

The speed of Tap to Pay is undeniable, and something worth considering in the fast-paced urban environments many of us live in. Time is money, and Tap to Pay is the fastest payment method on the market. Outdated chip readers lag so much that they just can’t compare.
Not to mention if you’re using Google Pay or Apple Pay on your NFC-enabled mobile phone, you won’t waste time digging through your wallet looking for your cards. It’s as simple as pulling your phone from your pocket and waving it over the payment terminal.
It’s the fastest and easiest way to make a purchase, and the other customers waiting in line will thank you for it.

It Won’t Wear Out Your Magnetic Strip

Remember those magnetic strips on the back of your credit and debit cards? Those strips hold all of your card’s details, and they’re the reason you’re able to make transactions in the first place. The more you swipe and insert your card, the more worn out that strip will get over time.
Tap to Pay solves this problem because you never have to use that magnetic strip. You only need to use it with retailers and merchants who don’t offer Tap to Pay technology. With Tap to Pay, your credit and debit cards might survive to their expiration date!

It’s Readily Available

A few years ago Tap to Pay was only available at a limited number of stores. People were still adjusting to the novelty of it and had few opportunities to use it. But these days, Tap to Pay can be found virtually everywhere. Whether you’re visiting the supermarket or a small mom-and-pop convenience store, Tap to Pay is ubiquitous in many countries.

Less Contact in Public

It’s obvious that contactless payments require “less contact,” but in the current climate this simple fact takes on more important meaning. In the time of Covid-19, many people are wanting to reduce the amount of physical contact they’re making with the outside world, particularly in public spaces.
With Tap to Pay, you can go out into the world and make virtually any payment without having to touch a payment terminal. The fewer public surfaces you need to touch, the more at ease you can be during these tumultuous times.
In fact, since the spread of Covid-19 in 2020, several banks have begun raising the withdrawal limit for contactless payments to help limit contact-based transactions in stores. In the UK for example, contactless payment limits are set to increase from £45 to £100 as of October 15, 2020.

Online Purchases Are Easier Too

If you have an NFC-enabled mobile phone then your online payments are about to get easier! Both Apple Pay and Google Pay have made it so their users can harness NFC to make purchases online and in certain apps. By simply using an encrypted number tied to your account, you can make online payments without having to scramble for your credit card or wrack your brains for old passwords.

Is Tap to Pay More Secure Than Other Payment Methods?

When you think about your payment information being transferred through the air into other devices, it can set off alarm bells. After all, cybersecurity threats seem to advance at the same rate as the technology they attack – what’s to stop someone from intercepting your information? Let’s look into the security side of Tap to Pay technology.

Your Bank Details Aren’t There

Thankfully, having your bank details stolen isn’t a real issue with Tap to Pay. As we mentioned, your account number is sent between two devices and is encrypted with a unique code that only the active device will be able to read.
Not to mention, only your account number is sent – not your billing address and card verification code. Even if a “hacker” could somehow intercept the Tap to Pay transmission AND encode the transaction, most of your bank details simply wouldn’t be accessible.

Safer Than Swipe or Insert Methods

Using Tap to Pay is generally more secure than using the traditional swipe or insert method. Take the magnetic strip on the top half of your credit card – this little strip of ferric oxide is encoded with all your ID information. And hackers have developed devices known as “skimmers,” devices that can be implanted into ATMs or POS (Point of sale) devices, the ones you swipe your card through to make payments.
Once your card is swiped or inserted into the machine, the skimmer device can then retrieve ALL of the information stored on your card in that tiny magnetic strip. That includes the credit card account number, expiration date, and your full name. And once they have that information they can use it anyway they please.
This is something you never have to worry about with Tap to Pay transactions because the encrypted code that is transmitted via radio waves cannot be read by a skimmer or any similar device. And because ATMs all over the world are starting to incorporate NFC technology in their transactions, you’ll be able to withdraw cash without fear of having your details stolen by hackers.
Safer Than Swipe or Insert Methods

Don’t Lose It

Tap to Pay is a reliable and secure way of making payments with your debit card, credit card, and mobile phone. But like any transactional technology, it isn’t fool-proof. The one clear flaw in Tap to Pay is that your money is up for grabs if you lose your card since it doesn’t require a PIN or signature to make payments. This can put you in a vulnerable position if your card is stolen or you lose it.
It isn’t as much of an issue with Google Pay or Apple Pay, since both employ an automatic lock screen that needs to be unlocked before these systems can be used. But if a thief can somehow unlock this screen, they will then be able to use your phone to make payments.
Neither of these situations is the end of the world. If your card goes missing it’s simple enough to cancel it once you realize it, making the card useless to any would-be thieves who want to spend your money. Not to mention, many credit card companies will reimburse customers for any purchases made through fraudulent transactions. That way, even if you do lose money before canceling your card, it will likely be returned.
All in all, when it comes to payment security, NFC is a great alternative. It’s not foolproof (no method is), but it’s certainly a step forward for the safety of electronic payments.

Final Thoughts

It’s undeniable that Tap to Pay is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to make purchases all over the world. And it’s not hard to see why – it’s faster, more efficient, more convenient, more secure, and the ideal way to make safe in-person payments in a post-Covid world.
After all, what is Tap to Pay if not a more advanced way of making purchases? There’s a reason most major retailers are implementing this technology. And Near-Field Communication isn’t going anywhere! You can expect to see more sectors picking up this simple and useful technology to streamline products, services, and industry procedures in years to come.
It’s safe to say that Tap to Pay, and NFC technology in general, is the way of the future. Before reading this article you might have wondered why you should use Tap to Pay at all? But the better question would be… why not?

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