How to expand by letting customers pay contactless

Let your customers find you anywhere

In this article, you’ll learn: 

  • What contactless payments are

  • How contactless technology and NFC works

  • The safety of contactless pay

  • The different ways to make a contactless payment

  • How to use contactless payments in your small business


Contactless payment is a way for consumers to pay for products or services without ever coming into contact with the payment receptacle. You can tell when a payment terminal will accept contactless payment because you’ll see a symbol that looks like the sign for Wi-Fi turned on its side, usually at or near the top of it. 

In some cases, contactless payments can be done without involving a payment terminal at all. Remote payment options exist that utilise smartphones, computers, or another device with internet access.

The transaction limit on contactless payments in Ireland was recently raised from €30 per transaction to €50, so it’s safe to say the method is getting more popular with Irish customers. In fact, 2.4 million contactless payments were made per day in June 2021, and this is the result of a steady yearly increase in contactless payments (Source: moneyguideireland.com).

When did people start paying contactless? 

Contactless payment is fairly new technology. The first instance of it only goes back about 25 years, when South Korea introduced YouPass in 1995. This was a quicker way for people to pay to use public transport. 

Though Mobil introduced a device to allow customers to pay for petrol without using cash or card, the transportation industry is what made contactless payment as popular as it is today. In 2014, the London underground started offering travellers the option to use contactless credit or debit cards to pay for tickets. 

How do people pay contactless? 

There are two important pieces of technology that make contactless payment using a card terminal work. They are radio frequency identification (RFID) and near field communication (NFC) technology. 

RFID technology uses radio waves to passively identify a tagged object. It requires a microchip or something similar with data stored on it, an antenna, and a scanner. 

There are two basic parts to this technology: tags and readers. The reader gives off radio waves and gets signals back from the tag, and the tag uses radio waves to communicate its identity and the information stored on it. The chip or scanner needs to emit enough electricity to allow the data to be read. 

NFC technology is a type of extremely short-range wireless communication between two devices. It’s used by smartphones, tablets, and certain credit and debit cards. NFC transfers information between two devices, allowing you to do things like pay your bills, download coupons, and buy groceries. 

NFC technology works by transmitting data through electromagnetic radio fields. Both devices need to have NFC chips to communicate with one another, since the transaction happens from a very short distance. The devices need to either physically touch or be no more than a few centimetres apart to communicate. 

So what does this mean for contactless payment? When someone wants to pay contactless at a card terminal, they simply touch their RFID-enabled card (also called a chip card) to the contactless payment symbol on the machine. Then, information is transferred via the chip from the card to the bank. 

Is it safe to pay contactless? 

To put it simply, yes. The risk of an accident or case of fraud when paying contactless is very low. First of all, the NFC technology driving the payment method means that in order for a payment to be made, an action needs to be taken. You can’t accidentally pay for something just by stepping in range. 

All data sent by the card to the contactless payment machine is encrypted, and each transaction uses a different encryption, which makes stealing it difficult. Contactless payment cards also can’t be duplicated, since your name, billing address, and card verification code are not transmitted during payment. 

The only danger left is if someone physically takes your card, which is not a problem with contactless payment specifically. Even in case of theft, when you contact the card issuer, you’ll almost always receive a refund and not be held liable for charges you did not incur. 

What are the different ways to pay contactless?

Contactless payments are often made using chip cards, but there are other methods. The introduction of mobile wallets has made it possible to pay by phone. 

All you need to do is store your credit or debit card information on your mobile phone, and then you can pay with it the same way you would your card. Your data is protected the same way it would be in any other contactless transaction. 

Mobile wallets also allow you to authenticate payments using FaceID or a fingerprint, so you don’t even need to tap your card. You can also pay for things online using a mobile wallet application. 

The second common way to pay contactless via mobile is through apps. Services like PayPal let users save their card details and complete transactions with one tap. You could be hundreds of kilometres from the product you’re buying and it wouldn’t matter. 

How can SumUp help people pay contactless?

As a small business, the first step to accepting contactless payments is to get a contactless card reader. At SumUp, all our card readers have contactless capabilities. Your customer just needs to tap their card on the device and the payment is made. 

Though the transaction limit for contactless payments in Ireland is €50, that doesn’t mean customers paying contactless can only spend €50. It just means that any transaction higher than that will need to be authorised by the customer, with a signature or a PIN. 

Contactless transactions using our card readers are processed the same way as any other transaction. You’re only charged 1.69% of each transaction. What’s more, this is the only fee you’ll ever pay after purchasing a reader from us. 

When you use SumUp, you also have access to a host of fully remote contactless payment methods through the SumUp App, which is free for all mobile devices. Your options for getting paid are: 

  • Payment Links

  • QR Codes

  • Invoices

  • Online Store

Payment Links

With Payment Links, send your customer their bill any way you like, whether it’s over social media, email, or SMS. Just open the homepage of the App and select ‘Payment Links’, then enter an amount. 

Once you know how much you’re charging, send the link to your customer. They can open it wherever they are and will be redirected to a webpage so they can input their payment details. 

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QR codes

Like a payment link, you can send QR codes to customers on any channel you want. Simply select ‘QR codes’ from the App’s homepage and then ‘Add QR code’ You can set a price or not; if you don’t, the customer enters the price themselves.

As well as sending QR codes remotely, you can also print them out. That way, you can put them in various parts of your physical store, like at the checkout counter, and customers can scan them with their phones. This keeps the lines moving faster and gives your customers more options. 

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Invoices

With SumUp Invoices, it’s easy to keep records of customer payments, and give them an easy way to make those payments. Issuing an invoice only takes a few seconds. All you need is your customer’s name, email, and VAT ID, and the item you’re charging them for. 

Once you hit ‘send’, your customer will get an email with a link where they can pay you online. You’ll be able to see the status of your invoice and their payment in the ‘Invoices’ tab of the SumUp App. 

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Online Store

If you want to sell to customers remotely, SumUp makes it easy for you to set up an Online Store where you can display all your products. Right from the App, you can have your store up and running in just four steps. 

Online Store lets you sell your products any time without worrying what time it is or what country you’re in. Once your store is live, customers can browse and purchase whenever it’s convenient for them, without you sending them anything. 

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SumUp has been dedicated to helping businesses have an easier time doing what they love, and giving you the power to go contactless is part of that. Contactless payment has been soaring in the Irish economy, hitting record levels in recent months. It’s clear where the future is going, and we want you to be going there too. 


Summary: 

  • Contactless pay is a way for customers to pay with no or little physical contact. 

  • It’s possible because of RFID and NFC technology, which makes it safer than past payment methods. 

  • There are many kinds of contactless payment, including paying by phone.

  • SumUp helps merchants go contactless with our range of remote payment services. 

Find the right payment solution for your small business today.

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With SumUp, you can quickly and easily accept credit and debit card payments with your smartphone or tablet.

*Price excluding VAT. 30-day-money-back-guarantee from date of delivery. Further conditions apply.