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The Rise of Contactless Payments Amidst COVID-19

Updated on Mar 19, 2020
Contactless Payments

COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). And so far there have been 230,652 confirmed cases resulting in 9,390 deaths worldwide. Due to the nature and scale of this pandemic, COVID-19 is likely to cost 2.7 Trillion dollars in the lost output according to Bloomberg Economics.

International Money Transfers and coronavirus 

Countries around the world have had a significant economic downturn as countries struggle to contain the outbreak of COVID-19. Read more about it below -

Although economies around the world have had a significant impact, the volume in remittances has remained resilient. One of the reasons cited for this resilience is diversification of risk and investment in an earlier study conducted by Sanket Mohapatra and Dilip Ratha on the Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Migration and Remittances



Secondly, the journey of most remittance originates from developed countries destined for developing countries. And one of the most important factors a remitter considers before sending money internationally is the exchange rate. Even as the US economy is struggling, it still enjoys a high exchange rate. Check USD to INR, USD to PHP, USD to MXN on CompareRemit today.

International money transfer brands stepping up

Here are some of the companies stepping up during the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Skrill has waived off all fees and foreign exchange charges for anyone sending money to Italy through their platform
  • Western Union and the Western Union Foundation announced a USD $1M global matching challenge to help fight COVID-19 worldwide which will go toward supplies, equipment, and frontline medical aid
  • Safaricom, Kenya's telco waived Transfer fees for all person-to-person transactions below KSh1,000 ($10) for the next 90 days.

Traditional ways of sending money are not only expensive and slow, but options like cash also carry the risk of being contaminated with viruses. Sending money contactless is the future and the unlikely consequence of physical and social distancing has contributed to the uptick in its adoption.

Sending money online is cheaper, faster, and more convenient. Whether you are at your home, office, or in quarantine, as long as you have access to the internet, you can send money. Compare exchange rates, transfer fees, and speed offered by the top money transfer companies on CompareRemit for free.

The Rise In "Contactless" Payments 

Germs on Notes

Banknotes are germ-infested and dirty. A typical $5 and $20 bills have an estimated lifespan of 5 years and 7 years respectively, according to the US Federal Reserve. Imagine how many hands would have touched a regular dollar bill by the time it has reached you.  

How long can COVID-19 survive outside the human body is not known yet. However, studies of similar coronaviruses, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, concluded that human coronaviruses can remain infectious on hard surfaces for up to nine days at room temperature.

The virus can be made inactive by the use of common disinfectants and when exposed to higher temperatures. 

Amidst the rise of the deadly coronavirus COVID-19, an increase in the popularity of contactless payments is an unlikely consequence. In a recent study conducted by the Futurist Group, consumers saying they do not need contactless payments has fallen from 41% in March 2019 to 33% in March 2020.

Importance of Contactless

The Telegraph published an article quoting a World Health Organisation(WHO) Spokesperson advocating for people to use contactless payments whenever possible to reduce the risk of transmission.

A Bank of England spokesman added that the risk of handling banknotes is no greater than touching any other common surfaces which come into contact with a large number of people including handrails, doorknobs or credit cards.

In Ireland, Minister for Finance requested the banking industry to increase the limit on contactless payments to €50 in a press conference addressing concerns and measures related to COVID-19. 

The Reserve Bank of India issued a press release urging the public to use non-cash digital payment options that are available 24/7  to facilitate all financial transactions to limit the fallout of the outbreak. 

In China and Korea, officials began disinfecting using ultraviolet rays and high temperatures to treat used banknotes as part of their effort to curtail further spread of the infectious virus.

In Turkey, contactless payments saw a 23% increase compared to last month, according to the Interbank Card Center (BKM)

Federal Reserve has also increased the minimum holding period for bills coming from Asia and Europe by five days to a 10-day minimum as a precautionary measure.

The US has been a traditional payment method driven economy. In other words, cash and plastic dominated the payment industry enjoying over 70% adoption compared to other wallet payment methods like Apple Pay, Venmo, etc.

Payment Methods

Source: Bain & Company


If we avoid touching cash, plastic and payment machines, the alternative is contactless payment. And if cash is the only way for you to send money or your family members to receive money, do speak to your loved ones about washing hands and sanitizing immediately after handling cash.

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