What are NFC payments?

The Norman Knight Card Machine

What are NFC payments?

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NFC stands for Near Field Communication, which is the technology at play during contactless transactions. 

So essentially, NFC payments are those made contactlessly using an EMV chip card, Apple Pay, Android Pay (aka Google Pay), or Samsung Pay. 

Fun fact: EMV chip cards are credit or debit cards that have a small silvery computer chip in the corner. Sound familiar? Yep, it’s a technical name but chances are you’ve got one in your purse or wallet!

How do they work?

To complete an NFC payment, the payment device and the NFC reader must be in close proximity, typically within two inches of each other. 

The two devices then connect wirelessly using radio waves, similar to those used in Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) labels used in other wireless tracking applications. 

The technical bit: a specific RFIC radiofrequency is used in NFC chips of 13.56MHz, which only operates when the two chips are very close to each other. 

Are they safe?

NFC payments are one of the most secure methods thanks to the following measures:

  • When making an NFC payment using a mobile device (i.e. smartphone or smartwatch), the payee must unlock their eWallet using either face recognition, fingerprint recognition, or by entering their screen lock code.
  • Payment systems capable of accepting NFC payments can only connect to one NFC payment device at a time. This means there’s zero chance a customer in close proximity could accidentally pay for someone else’s purchase - it’s simply impossible thanks to the technology.
  • Consumers can add multiple payment methods to their NFC-enabled smart device, allowing them to carry a single device rather than multiple cards or cash - increasing their personal safety. 
  • Smartphones and watches set up for NFC payments (such as Apple and Android Pay) use something called tokenisation which is a method of encrypting consumers’ banking and card details for their safety. Tokenisation is pretty complicated but in a nutshell, it substitutes consumers’ sensitive data with a non-sensitive alternative which has no exploitable value. 
  • NFC payments carry the same PCI security standards as all card transactions. 


Are NFC payments capped?

If you want to make an NFC payment using a contactless-enabled debit or credit card, yes. Contactless payments are capped at £30 to reduce the amount of damage that could be done if someone’s debit or credit card got into the wrong hands. 

For NFC payments made using a smart device, the rules are less clear cut. There’s no spending cap imposed by the providers themselves, and that’s because of the added security measures in place (i.e. code, fingerprint, face recognition). 

Having said that, some retailers put their own limits on how much can be spent in an NFC transaction. So, while it’s possible for customers to spend as much as they wish using their smart device, it generally varies from retailer-to-retailer - and you’ll be in charge of yours.

Should I accept NFC payments?

Research shows 63% of British consumers are already using contactless payments, and the number of consumers using Apple, Android and Samsung Pay weekly is on the rise, so having the systems in place that allow your customers to pay you the way they want to will give you a competitive edge. 

Convenience is top of the priority list for shoppers, and NFC payments are super quick and straightforward. Plus, the numbers show that as many as half of shoppers would abandon a purchase if they couldn’t pay the way they wanted to, so ensuring your payment systems are up-to-date is key. 

How do I start accepting them?

In order to start accepting NFC payments, you need a card machine that’s set up for them. The good news is, all of our card readers - portable, mobile and countertop - accept NFC payments as standard, including contactless, Apple Pay and Android Pay. They also come with the latest security features and are PCI DSS compliant.

Ready to take the plunge and start accepting NFC payments? Reach out to our experts today on 08082 393660. 

Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce


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