NFC contactless payments: how they work and why you need them

NFC contactless payments: how they work and why you need them

We’ve all probably added debit or credit cards to Apple Pay or Google Pay digital wallets at least once. Most of us have shifted to making in-store purchases with our smart devices rather than physical bank cards. But have you ever wondered how NFC technology really works and what is needed for this? Today Genome prepared in-depth material on NFC contactless payments and their security. Read on to find out what stands behind your daily safe transactions. 

NFC contactless payments: what are they

While this name may seem complicated and odd at first, the reality is much more simple. Every time one holds their smartphone or smartwatch close to the POS terminal or card reader to pay for something – they’re making a transaction with the help of Near Field Communication technology. What’s more, if you’re buying something on the website and choose Apple Pay or Google Pay digital wallets as your payment method, you’re also using NFC.

Let’s now have a closer look at why and how NFC technology ensures safe transactions.


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NFC contactless payments: how they work

As the name suggests, these financial operations are only possible at small distances. The maximum area of reach for NFC technology is up to 4 cm, to be more precise. Apart from payments, NFC is also used for wireless device pairing (such as headphones and iPhone or any other smartphone (like Samsung, Xiaomi, Meizu, etc.), scanning QR codes, etc. 

When it comes to financial operations, two sides participate in payment processing. On the side, there’s a payer who will need an NFC-equipped smartphone (if they’re using a mobile application) or a bank card with the encrypted microchip and antenna. On the other side, there’s a merchant who accepts a payment. A retailer has a POS terminal or a card reader with NFC technology to process safe transactions. They also need to enter the purchase amount so that you can approve it before initiating a payment. If you hear a beep sound, a POS terminal or card reader has already exchanged information with your card, and the transaction has been finished and processed successfully. 

For in-store NFC contactless payments, you just need to hoover a card or gadget over the card reader. A unique one-time-only number is generated for every transaction – it’s called a dynamic cryptogram. That is why you cannot be charged multiple times for the same purchase. 

To make safe transactions with your gadgets (smartphone, smartwatches, tablets), you will need to download a special application. The next step is to add a card – it only takes a few seconds. Then, the card details are encrypted, and instead, you’re using a randomly generated token rather than real card information for all the payments. 

Before NFC became widely available, chips on cards and magnetic stripes were used to pass card details during payments. That is why you had to actually insert a card in the reader to scan all the necessary information. Now, all this happens wirelessly and without any physical contact due to NFC technology. 

So, what about safety? NFC contactless payments are fast and convenient. However, some people can be concerned that their card details can be stolen or intercepted during contactless payment. There’s no reason to worry here. As we’ve mentioned before, a dynamic cryptogram ensures safe transactions. Even if your card information is intercepted, the thieves won’t be able to use it because the token is generated every time for every new payment. 

NFC contactless payments with Genome

Genome is a financial services provider that specializes in opening personal, business, and merchant online accounts. We know how important quick and safe transactions in USD, EUR, and GBP are for our users. Our physical and virtual cards, both on business and personal accounts, are Google Pay-compatible for the financial flexibility of our clients in the USA, EU, and worldwide. 


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Do contactless cards use NFC?

Yes, most debit and credit cards have a special microchip and antenna to transmit card details when making NFC contactless payments.

Can I pay contactless with Google Pay without NFC?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible as the NFC technology is the basis for NFC contactless payments with Google Pay or Apple Pay mobile applications. In other words, they are just functional tools actually to make use of the NFC technology. If your iPhone or any other device is not equipped with NFC, you won’t be able to make safe contactless transactions.

Can I use NFC for payments?

Yes, the NFC technology has numerous applications, and NFC contactless payments are one of them. To make purchases with the help of NFC, you can use multiple devices such as smartwatches, tablets, and, of course, smartphones. Most large device companies (like Samsung, Meizu, Xiaomi, and Apple) support NFC contactless payments because it’s the most popular and widely used way to make safe transactions not only in the USA or Europe but all over the globe.

Do you need Wi-Fi for NFC contactless payments?

No, an Internet connection is not required for this financial operation. NFC technology is a way to communicate information at a close distance without Internet access.