Two rival card payments handlers have hiked the amount for cashless payments to alleviate worries of people touching keypads to insert their PIN numbers amid the coronavirus scare, as card use rises in supermarkets, food deliveries and pharmacies.
Payments to hotels and travel agencies are next to nil, according to officials at the two card clearing companies.
JCC Payment Systems, the banks-owned credit card clearinghouse, and RCB’s Merchant Acquiring Services, have both increased the amount for contactless payments at point of sale (POS) terminals from €20 to €50 this week.
JCC announcement the measure first, earlier in the week, having secured the all-clear from its member banks.
RCB started accepting up to €50 in contactless payments as of Friday “to support health and safety, both for those who are at the frontline servicing customers as well as for the consumers”.
“This action aims to provide further convenience for faster payment checkouts without the need for PIN to be inserted in the machines,” said RCB in a statement.
Merchants hardly ever ask for identification for contactless payments up to €20, with worries of fraud or using stolen cards expected to rise, now that the cap has been raised to €50.
Trade data showing the spike or drop in card usage after the curfew was imposed on March 24 is not yet available, with JCC officials saying they have been overwhelmed with work, and statistics expected at the close of the month.
JCC, 75%-owned by Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank, has had a near six-year monopoly in the card clearing market, after its only contender IMSP collapsed when parent Federal Bank of the Middle East was shut down over US-imposed money laundering charges in August 2014.
At the time, IMSP had a 4% market share.
RCB is expected to be very close to a 10% market share, signing up merchants who are frustrated by the services offered by JCC or its parent banks.
However, JCC took the competition up a level when it announced on Thursday that it was also waiving the monthly rental by merchants for POS terminals for three months.
“This shall be applicable to both channels of acceptance of card payments i.e. face-to-face and electronic,” JCC said in an announcement.
It also issued a guide on how to safely clean POS terminals as some merchants are worried that excessive use of alcohol-based cleaning material will damage the equipment.