Coronavirus: Calls for contactless paywave business fees to be waived during pandemic

Are banks listening?
Are banks listening? Photo credit: Getty.

There are calls for merchant fees on paywave transactions to be dropped during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic in order to limit the public's need to touch potentially infectious surfaces.

The coronavirus has now infected more than 220,000 people worldwide, including 28 in New Zealand. In order to stem the spread of the virus here, authorities are calling for people to be vigilant in limiting potential exposure. Although the virus is primarily spread through droplets in the air after someone sneezes or coughs, it can remain alive on surfaces for potentially hours.

That's caused concern for some using EFTPOS machines at stores which don't allow contactless card transactions and therefore force customers to touch the device, which may not be frequently cleaned. 

One of the primary reasons businesses often don't enable paywave functions is that for every transaction, there is a merchant fee, made up of several fees, including ones from the cardholder's bank. These charges can differ. For example, credit cards often generate slightly larger fees than for debit cards.

Among those suggesting banks could waive the fee during the pandemic, encouraging businesses to go contactless, are former Paymark boss Mark Rushworth and Punakaiki Fund director Lance Wiggs.

"Request: Will the people who run payWave in NZ please remove all fees so that we can do hygienic touchless retail during this Pandemic," Wiggs tweeted.

A post on Reddit calling for the change has also received hundreds of comments and reactions, with many users in support of waiving the fee.

It appears at least two of New Zealand's main banks is making changes.

ANZ says it is "waiving the fee for contactless debit transactions until June 30 to help eligible small business customers prevent the spread of coronavirus. There's more support for small business to come".  

Westpac said in a statement they are supporting small businesses by waiving contactless debit fees for eligible existing customers for six months.

Westpac NZ General Manager of Experience Hub, Karen Silk, said the bank recognises the increased demand from both consumers and businesses for contactless services in the current environment.


“We’re working hard to help people affected by Covid-19 and this is one way we can offer some relief,” Ms Silk said.

BNZ told Newshub it is "hearing the feedback" and looking at what could be done. It noted that contactless payments are made up of many different components, of which only some the bank has control of. 

Newshub has also contacted ASB for comment. 

According to Retail New Zealand, in 2019, the average merchant fee for a contactless debit card transaction was 1.1 percent of the transaction's value and 1.5 percent for a credit card. In Australia, for comparison, it was 0.6 percent for debit and 0.8 percent for credit.