Contactless Parking Payments Play Significant Role in Curbing Spread of COVID-19


Contactless Parking Payments Play Significant Role in Curbing Spread of COVID-19

With the aggressive spread of COVID-19 across the world, governments have advised citizens to minimize social interactions and do their best to shelter in place. Unfortunately, most have to eventually go out into public to shop for groceries and other essentials, and that inevitably involves parking, and paying for parking. In instances where shopping is necessary, best practices in social distancing and limiting the touching of potentially contaminated surfaces is critical, particularly during the payment process, and especially if the shopper is paying with cash or using a PIN pad. 

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization recently recommended the use of contactless payments whenever possible.

Alternatively, contactless payments can play a vital role in minimizing the risk of infection. In fact, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization recently recommended the use of contactless payments whenever possible to reduce transmission possibilities through the exchange of banknotes.

Four benefits of contactless payments as related to COVID-19

1- No need to physically touch a payment terminal. This removes another potential infection touchpoint for drivers.

2- No handling of cash, getting bills from your wallet or taking change. This reduces the potential to spread the virus from one driver to another.

3- No delay messing with bill validators and no need to enter a debit card PIN, means faster transactions.

4- Minimizes social interactions during this time of social distancing.

With so many benefits to contactless payments and with the stakes so high, it’s not surprising that there’s been an increase in contactless usage in the UK and most countries in Europe. To facilitate this increase in usage and support prevention efforts, most European countries have increased their contactless payment limits between 25-400 percent. The U.S. is fortunate to already have a $100 contactless limit in place, which means contactless payments can already be used for most parking transactions where the equipment supports it.

Apple Pay, Google Pay, and COVID-19

Despite its high contactless limit, the U.S. continues to lag behind much of the world when it comes to the number of contactless cards in circulation. A more immediate resolution for Americans is the use of contactless payments using a smartphone or watch equipped with near-field communication (NFC). 

And while the standard usage instructions are to “tap to pay,” it’s important to note that, in reality, drivers can bring their device close to the pay station or meter without actually making contact. 

Drivers using Apple Pay or Google Pay mobile wallets can now pay parking transactions using their phone or connected watch. If the operator specifically supports smartphone payment, much higher limits than the normal contactless limit apply. 

The exact limit depends on the merchant and the card type that is registered with the smart device, but in most cases the limits can extend into the thousands. Higher limits are possible because Apple Pay and Google Pay use biometric data as a CVM (Cardholder Verification Method) – deeming them secure. 

For payment terminals not configured for Apple Pay, the contactless limits apply because the transaction is treated as a normal contactless payment — similar to tapping a physical card. 

In these uncertain times, exchanging notes and coins or using a PIN pad when paying for goods and services does create unnecessary risks. Thanks to the increase in contactless limits, we now have a greater ability to safeguard ourselves, loved ones, and fellow citizens.

Peter Alcock is the head of Product Marketing for NMI. He can be reached at

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Peter Alcock
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