Touchless Payment Systems: 5 Things to Know Before You Buy

Prepare your business for faster, future-proof transactions


Settling up at the end of a night of fun and food with friends has long been a stumbling block for even the most modern and elegant food service businesses. It takes up valuable time for servers and customers alike to run cash or cards back and forth from point-of-sale stations, and anything that can speed up the process is a welcome development. That’s why touchless payment systems make so much sense for everything from fine dining establishments to casual eateries.

While any food service business will likely benefit from making the upgrade to touchless payment systems, you’ll be all set to hit the ground running if you have some key info about them ahead of time.

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What are touchless payment systems?

Touchless payment systems are means of accepting payments from customers that do not require direct contact with a form of payment, as is the case for cash, magnetic stripe, and chip transactions. Touchless payment cards are equipped with near-field communication chips that allow them to broadcast payment information to restaurant POS systems using a combination of magnetism and radio signals.

Mobile devices with payment information saved to them can also communicate wirelessly with these same payment spots, allowing Apple Wallet, Google Pay, and similar apps to be used in much the same way as a dedicated card. Touchless payment systems can also include using scanning QR codes for payments through private services such as Venmo or publicly backed infrastructure such as India’s widespread scan-and-pay system, though these kinds of touchless payment systems are less common for business purposes in North America.

What to know about touchless payment systems

Key features Touchless payment systems Traditional payment systems
Speed Average transaction takes 12.5 seconds Average transaction with signature takes 48.4 seconds
Cost Transaction fees the same as swipe and chip payment Typical transaction fees range from 1.5% to 3.5%
Availability Increasingly common around the world First payment processor to start deprecating magnetic stripes in 2024
Compatibility Many models support stripe and chip payments Cannot accept touchless card or mobile proximity pay

Touchless payment systems support faster transactions with technology that more and more customers already carry in their pockets. But using a touchless card or digital wallet to close out a restaurant bill still carries many of the same frustrating inefficiencies for both diners and businesses. Fortunately, the next step forward is already here: ExpressCheck by CityCheers.

5 important things to know about touchless payment systems

Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of touchless payment systems, let’s get into the specifics of what they’ll mean for your business.

They’re the fastest way to take payment

We’ve mentioned that touchless payment systems are faster than their predecessors, but let’s put some numbers to that: According to an early study, the average transaction time for a contactless payment was 12.5 seconds. That’s about a quarter of the time it takes to do a transaction with a signature (48.4 seconds) and less than half the time required for a card transaction without signature (26.7 seconds). If your business handles about 50 transactions daily, touchless payment systems could save your wait staff up to a half hour of card handling time every day.

They typically cost the same to use as other card payments

It’s natural to be concerned about how a new payment method may eat into your bottom line, but the good news is that touchless payment systems typically cost the same to use as magnetic stripe or chip card transactions. The transaction processing fees may vary from processor to processor, as is the case for any card, but you won’t pay a cent more for offering customers a touchless payment option than older equivalents.

They’re well-understood by consumers

While touchless payment adoption rates were already climbing before the pandemic, hygiene concerns related to directly handling cards and POS terminals gave them a massive boost — and the public shows no sign of wanting to go back to the old ways of making payments. Since the same touchless payment systems support paying via mobile device as well as card, making the switch means your business will be prepared for the fact that more than half of smartphone users are projected to use proximity mobile payments by 2025.

They’re backwards compatible

Not all of your customers will be ready to adopt the latest payment tech, but that doesn’t mean you have to leave them behind. Many touchless payment systems offered by a variety of vendors also include insert slots for chips and swipers for magnetic stripe payments, meaning older cards will work too. Keep in mind that MasterCard has announced plans to phase out magnetic stripes starting in 2024, with the legacy form of payment completely absent from the company’s cards starting in 2033. Others are likely to follow suit soon.

They can be even more convenient

Touchless payment systems are powerful, and proximity mobile payments mean customers can even leave their wallets at home — but why not take the next step forward in settling tabs? ExpressCheck allows customers to pay their bill when right from their phone as soon as they’re ready, allowing wait staff to focus on providing better service and on turning over more tables for higher revenue. ExpressCheck also easily integrates with the restaurant POS systems that power America’s eateries. 

The best part? It’s free to use for dining establishments, all as part of the free CityCheers platform and app that also helps keep you connected to your best customers. Book a demo today to see what we can do for your business.