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Cash and Contactless payments during COVID-19

By Alicia Moses, Content Specialist – Consumer Education Department, Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA)

The world has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in many countries announcing lockdown measures to reduce the spread of the virus and flatten the curve. 

On 1 June, the South African Government announced that the country would move from a COVID-19 lockdown level 4 to level 3. Under lockdown level 3, wholesale and retail trade, including spaza shops opened. This also included the sale of liquor and some schools also opened their doors to grade 7 and 12 learners. On 19 June, the country progressed to an advanced level 3 lockdown which meant that general lockdown 3 rules still applies, however a number of business would be allowed to re-open. Advanced lockdown level 3 will also see the opening of restaurants (allowing for sit-down meals), accommodation facilities, conferences and business meetings, cinemas and theatres, casinos, hairdressers and personal care services as well as non-contact sports.  With the economy being opened in a phased approach there will be more and more people out and about which will result in increased daily financial transactions. 

Using cash or credit, debit and store cards, tap services, ATM’s and merchant owned devices which require a signature, or a pin entry are all contact points for contracting COVID-19. 

What we do know is that COVID-19 is very contagious. It is spread when an infected person sneezes or coughs and omits small droplets from their nose or mouth onto another person or onto surfaces. It is then spread if you touch that contaminated object or surface and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose. Some current studies confirm that COVID-19 can survive for up to three hours in the air and even longer on hard surfaces such as plastic or stainless steel. 

Because of the risks mentioned above and the current increased infection rate, consumers and businesses are encouraged to make use of contactless means to make and receive payments during this time. 

This can be done in one of the following ways:

  • Online payments (Electronic Funds Transfer -EFT , immediate transfer)
  • QR code/Zapper payments (scan a code and it syncs to your bank account or credit card which allows you to make a payment)
  • Using banking apps to purchase services, clothing or groceries online
  • Mobile payment apps (which can be store specific)
  • Digital wallets or other smartphone-based payment interfaces (your store card is loaded onto your phone as a digital card. When you pay using your digital card you will scan your phone at the till point).
  • Tapping your card at pay-points.

If you have to withdraw cash, it is important to practice caution at an ATM. While there is currently no cure for COVID-19, you can still try and keep yourself safe from criminal activity. Check your surroundings to see if it is safe to make a transaction. If you notice suspicious persons around the ATM, rather leave and use another ATM or come back later. Try and use an ATM within a store. Do not get distracted by persons pretending to assist you at an ATM. Do not give anyone your card and pin number. Make sure that when you leave the ATM that you have your card and your cash in your hand. You also have the option to withdraw money at some supermarkets as an additional safety measure. 

Remember 

  • Wash your hands before and after handling money, especially after using an  ATM or a paying at a shop through  devices that requires you to input your pin. 
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth after being exposed to money and ensure that you clean objects and surfaces that you touch often. 
  • Wear a face mask, sanitise with alcohol based sanitisers if you are unable to wash your hands and 
  • Practice social distancing, especially when queuing at ATMs or pay points in shops  

By minimizing the physical contact of the same object by multiple persons and, we can reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for thousands of people living in South Africa.  Contactless payments (give and receive) can limit the spread of the pandemic. 

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