This Tip From the CDC Will Make Running Your Errands Faster and Safer

Touchless payment lowers your risk of contracting COVID-19—here's how to use it.

The coronavirus pandemic has made almost every facet of modern life more difficult, including paying for things. You may have already moved away from using cash to run your essential errands. It's widely understood that currency carries all kinds of germs, and science shows that the coronavirus can live on paper money for several days. But newly released guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for staying safe promote ditching swiping your credit and bank cards as well. No, that doesn't mean that you have to limit your spending to shopping exclusively online. During this uncertain time, touchless payment is the safest way to pay for things in person—and it can make running errands faster and easier.

The CDC advises in its "Daily Life and Coping" section of its COVID-19 hub that consumers pivot to using touchless methods of payment if at all possible, as they prevent you from having to touch cash or keypads or handing anything to the person at the counter. There's also the added benefit of speed—not having to deal with a keypad or waiting for change means that you can be out of the store just a little bit faster, limiting your exposure to others.

So what is touchless (or contactless) payment and how do you know if you have it? Well, it's exactly what it sounds like. There may be a chip embedded in your credit or bank card that allows it to communicate with a payment system just by holding it over a sensor. Some financial institutions issue fobs or mini cards that you can carry on your keychain that serve the same purpose. You may also be able to use your device for touchless payment, if you have Google Pay or Apple Pay. Both of these services involve connecting your credit card number to your account, and then pulling up the app on your phone to "tap to pay." You can also have multiple saved cards to choose from for each purchase.

Credit card with contactless payment symbol
Shutterstock/Alexander Yakimov

Most cards with a contactless payment chip will have a symbol on the back that looks like radio waves. You'll see a similar symbol at stores that accept these types of payment—there may also be a hand holding a card up to the waves. And if you're not sure whether a store accepts contactless payment, just ask. That's the other half of the equation, after all—not only do you need to have the chip or app on your end, the vendor also has to have a payment system that can receive the signal.

If your current card has no chip, you can reach out to your bank to see if you can get a new one that's enabled for touchless payment. Alternatively, you can sign up for either Google Pay or Apple Pay, with which you can use pretty much any kind of card. So the next time you stock up on groceries or run an errand, you can just wave your card or device and be on your way! And for more about unnecessary risks, This Is the One Thing the CDC Says You Shouldn't Do This Summer.


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