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The future is frictionless

By Matthew White, chair of The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO) and director of catering, hotel and conferencing at the University of Reading

According to Statista, in October 2019 there were a total of 761 million contactless transactions in the UK, although this number is expected to be much higher in 2020 as a result of Covid-19 and the need to keep contact to a minimum for safety. For consumers, it offers a frictionless payment process that is simple and can speed up transaction times, and for those yet to embrace it, there has never been a better time.

Given the convenience, it is easy to see why contactless payments are on the increase and with advances in wearable technology, consumers can now tap and pay with a variety of devices such as mobiles, jewellery and even watches. Apple Pay, which is available on both watches and mobiles, is said to be responsible for 10 billion transactions globally in 2019 alone.

For many universities, contactless payments are offered as standard throughout the shops, cafés and bars on campus. They represent an important additional revenue stream but could be further maximised.

For example, loyalty schemes are prevalent for consumer shops, and although less commonplace on campus, they can encourage students to spend a bit more time and money on university grounds, the profits of which can then be reinvested back into university facilities. Consider adding a loyalty scheme that is points-based, enabling promotional offers – for example, a free coffee on your eighth contactless transaction.

If your university wants to go further, it could also consider creating its own payment card for use on campus. Similar to a student bank account, it could have loyalty built in for any spends made on campus, and also benefit from financial caps to help limit over-spending. As universities can earn per transaction, any spends outside of campus can also generate revenue for the university. By linking this with a mobile application, students can also see how much they are spending and when to keep a better track on their personal finances.

Yet, like many payment methods, there are still some downsides, such as concerns around theft and fraud. To combat this, it’s likely we’ll see a future of contactless payment being integrated with biometrics.

This could include paying with your fingerprint or even facial recognition. Back in 2016, Mastercard announced it was letting online shoppers verify their payments with a selfie, although widespread adoption may be a little way off, as consumers grapple with the balance of privacy for convenience.

Although the method of making a contactless purchase is likely to evolve and change over the coming years, it has certainly been accelerated by Covid-19. We are definitely heading for a frictionless payment future.


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