A Guide to NFC Terminals: Overview, Security, and Our Top Picks
Gone are the days of “cash is king.” Studies show consumers now use credit cards for 57% of their purchases, up from 54% two years earlier. And due to the pandemic, cash accounted for 20% of payments in 2021, down from 26% in 2019, with 28% of people completely giving up on using cash.
But businesses aren’t only seeing a rise in debit or credit card payments. Recently, contactless payments using NFC technology have become increasingly popular. In fact, more than 80% of consumers have used NFC contactless payments, and 67% of retailers have provided at least one form of contactless payment in 2021, up from 40% two years prior.
While NFC payments are undoubtedly the latest evolution in accepting payment methods, many retailers and business owners may be unfamiliar with what exactly NFC transactions are and how they work. That’s why we’ve created this guide on what you should know about NFC terminals, including how they work, their advantages, and the top ones on the market.
- NFC stands for “near field communication”; it’s a type of technology that lets two devices in close proximity to exchange data and communicate with each other.
- In order for NFC payments to work, merchants need NFC-enabled point of sales/POS system (with wifi) and the consumer’s smartphone or card.
- NFC payments are just as secure, if not more so, than paying using an EMV card.
What are NFC Terminals and How Do NFC Payments Work?
NFC stands for “near field communication”; it’s a type of technology that lets two devices in close proximity to exchange data and communicate with each other. For NFC payments, the devices are the NFC point of sales/POS system (which must have wifi) and the consumer’s smartphone or card.
With a phone, the customer needs to start the payment process (usually by selecting the card from their digital wallet or holding their phone close to the NFC POS) and then authenticate the transaction. For example, on an iPhone using Apple Pay, this can be done using Touch ID or Face ID. The NFC technology then exchanges (encrypted) information between the phone and payment system to complete the transaction.
The process is similar when using a smart card: the customer simply needs to wave or tap their card on the NFC terminal, and the transaction will be completed. In some cases, the customer may need to confirm the transaction on the terminal, or enter their PIN code if it’s over a certain amount, but both methods take far less time than traditional payment methods.
It’s common for merchants or retailers to confuse NFC-enabled cards for EMV cards or RFID technology. While there is some overlap, it’s good to know the differences between them.
EMV credit cards and payments vs. NFC cards and payments
- EMV cards, which stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa, are chip-enabled credit cards (note that they’re not chip-and-signature cards). They allow users to dip their cards into a card reader and make payments, and are more secure than the older magnetic stripe cards.
- Meanwhile, NFC payments allow customers to pay by simply tapping or hovering their card or smartphone near a payment terminal, using a form of RFID tech, and generally takes less time to complete a purchase.
RFID technology vs NFC technology
- RFID stands for radio frequency identification and is a contact-free technology using radio waves to transfer data via tags or cards.
RFID tags typically communicate one-way only, usually from the tag to the reader, and cannot transmit large amounts of or complex data. That said, it has a range of a few hundred feet and is mostly used for access cards or in warehouse inventory and asset tracking.
- NFC technology uses a subset of RFID technology, operating on one of the same frequencies RFID tags use. It allows for two-way communication and can transmit more complex information, making it ideal for NFC payments, but has a very limited range, or proximity, of under four inches.
Why Businesses Should Use NFC Mobile Payments
Retailers that don’t keep up with evolving consumer demand may find themselves losing customers and revenue, so it’s imperative to stay ahead of the curve, especially with studies projecting that 87% of debit cards will be contactless by the end of 2022.
In fact, industry data shows that over half of Americans use at least one kind of contactless payment, and 51% of consumers either use cash less or not at all.
Another factor to consider is speed: all the buyer needs to do is wave or tap their card, significantly streamlining up the purchasing process, which improves the buyer’s experience. Plus, it can help make your business’ operations more efficient, particularly if you have a high amount of transactions.
There’s also a major advantage we haven’t spoken about yet that we’ll get into in the next section: security.
How Secure Are NFC Terminals?
Good news: NFC payments are just as secure, if not more so, than paying using an EMV card. In fact, there are three key features in particular where NFC terminal security shines.
As mentioned earlier, NFC cards only work in a range of under 4 inches. This makes it hard for hackers or fraudulent users to intercept your transmission, as they would need to be in that range to do so.
To complete an NFC transaction, the buyer needs to start the process by bringing their card close to the NFC terminal, or opening their mobile wallet app (like Samsung Pay). This means a hacker can’t trigger a fraudulent transaction remotely. Additionally, most phones require an additional form of authentication, such as a fingerprint, PIN code, or facial recognition.
Secure element validation
Just like EMV cards are validated each time a transaction is made through the chip, NFC payments have a similar process. The smart card will validate the transaction and cardholder’s identity after establishing a connection using the Secure Element chip, while digital wallets use tokenization for extra security.
What Are the Best NFC Terminals On the Market?
There’s no shortage of available NFC POS systems available on the market, all with different features, selling points, and advantages. No idea where to start? Here’s our pick of the top 5 NFC terminal providers available today.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one payment processing platform, look no further than the contactless payment solutions at Stax. Whether you’re a medium- or large-sized business that needs NFC terminals, we provide the hardware and software to streamline your checkout process and payments reporting, all while providing world-class security.
And since Stax Pay comes with transparent, straightforward pricing, you’ll never be hit with unexpected fees when you let us help you modernize your business.
Square is a popular credit card processing alternative for smaller businesses, as they offer low rates, a free POS app, and flat-rate pricing models for their Square Credit Card Reader. However, there are no discounts for higher-volume businesses, so it might not be the best choice in the long run as your business grows, and there have also been some complaints of users having their funds placed on hold.
SumUp offers easy-to-use NFC card readers at extremely low prices and no ongoing costs. It’s one of the most popular options for contactless payments for micro-businesses, especially in international markets. However, in exchange for their low prices, they offer limited customer service, and their overall ranking online from reviewers is rated “poor.”
PayPal also offers an NFC card reader through PayPal Zettle, targeted at early-stage businesses with low fees and quick setup times. There’s no long-term contract, but they charge substantial transaction fees, and don’t offer 24/7 live support, which could be a deal breaker for some businesses.
Offering a wide range of POS features for online or in-person payments, PayAnywhere is a popular option for low-volume businesses with low fees and a free reader. Their focus is on contactless and EMV payments, but they charge fairly high transaction fees and aren’t the best option for higher-volume merchants. Plus, they have fairly low online reviews, so that’s something to take into consideration.
It’s undeniable that allowing your customers to make NFC payments when checking out offers a more seamless purchase experience, all while futureproofing your organization. By finding the best NFC card reader and payments provider tailored for you, you’ll be able to grow and scale your business for the long run.
Stax’ contactless payment solutions help businesses of all sizes modernize their business in no time. With Stax Pay, you get an all-in-one online and touch-free payments solution provider with upfront and transparent pricing. To get an NFC reader contact us today and we’ll walk you through your options.