Covid-19

Paywave ‘contactless’ threshold may lift to $200

A bank tells its customers they're following the lead of their counterparts across the ditch in trying to make thousands more transactions contactless

More keypad-free transactions might be coming as part of a measure to raise the paywave threshold to $200.

The announcement was made a little early by an eager ANZ customer service representative on Twitter. It is understood discussions are under way to raise the cap on contactless transactions from $80 to $200. 

Several sources have told Newsroom the official announcement could be made before Easter.

ANZ revealed the plans in response to a customer who asked if the paywave limit could be lifted during the Covid-19 pandemic. The virus can survive on hard surfaces like keypads for several days.

"We are increasing the paywave limit from $80 to $200 temporarily to assist our customers at this time. A lot of work goes into increasing the limit not just within ANZ but the wider banking industry," ANZ's NZ Twitter account replied.

A spokesman for ANZ directed queries about the tweet to Payments NZ, which said it couldn't comment. 

As a country we currently lag behind Australia on contactless paywave measures. In Australia, after supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles successfully lobbied the government, card companies and banks to raise the paywave limit, the Australian Payments Network agreed to increase the PIN limit for contactless card payments from $100 to $200.

That was back on April 3. Over here an $80 limit remains in place.

It's complicated

Raising the paywave limit is understood to be complicated by anti-fraud security measures on the cards themselves, and within the computer systems of banks.

Some credit and debit cards have the $80 paywave limit hardcoded into the actual card. Others require the back end of computer systems be changed. 

That's why the limit might be lifted in a trial-type arrangement first to see if it works.

Contactless not fee-less

ANZ, BNZ, ASB and Kiwibank removed paywave fees on debit card payments until the end of June; Westpac went further and waived fees for six months.

However, as Newsroom previously reported, those fees remain in place on credit cards. That's why smaller retailers like dairies still slap 'no paywave' signs on paywave-capable machines.

Paymark has launched a contactless alternative to paywave where retailers can perform contactless in-store transactions with customers who carry mobile banking apps on their phones. Four banks have signed up: ASB, Kiwibank, Co-op Bank and Heartland Bank. 

The scheme will carry no monthly fee and retailers will instead pay a fee of 1 percent on each transaction.

Paymark CEO Maxine Elliott said customers didn't need to have a credit card to go 'contactless'.

“Retailers are starting to explore alternatives to their traditional shopping model and this is a critical component of the retail world during lockdown," Elliott said.

A spokesman for Paymark said it was early days for the scheme but noted retailer interest had been running "steady all day long".

Still wash your hands

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government had done work on how more payment transactions could be made contactless. 

"We have thought about that," Ardern said.

"Regardless of whether contactless payment existed more widely, there will still be people who wouldn’t use it," she said.

Ardern said supermarkets had made strides in creating a sanitary shopping experience, but washing after shopping trips would still be important regardless of whether transactions were contactless or not. 

"Every time you go outside. When you return, wash your hands," Ardern said.

"I cannot say that often enough," she said.

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