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What are NFC Payments?

Whether you’re a business owner or a customer, odds are you’ve already heard of Near Field Communication (NFC) payments, also known as contactless payments. That’s because more and more businesses are adopting this ‘tap and go’ technology, whose speed and simplicity enable a seamless payment experience, with the added benefit of shortening queue times.

So—how does it work?

NFC technology uses electromagnetic radio fields to allow two electronic devices, within about four centimetres/two inches of each other, to communicate and exchange data in mere seconds.

What are common types of NFC payments?

Apple Pay and Android Pay are digital wallet services that allow users to pay directly from their smartphones, after having programmed in their bank details (these are masked for security).

Debit and credit cards can also be NFC compatible, and are identified by a printed-on signal icon. These cards will generally include an EMV chip, and therefore can be inserted into non-NFC card terminals.

How do businesses accept NFC payments?

To accept NFC payments, businesses use a contactless card reader. SumUp Air is such a device, accepting Apple Pay, Android Pay, and NFC-enabled debit and credit cards. Additionally, it can process simple Chip & PIN payments as well as Swipe & Sign. The contactless terminal was designed to be both accommodating and convenient—customers can pay the way they want, and business owners will never have to turn away a sale.

Furthermore, SumUp Air uses Bluetooth low energy, meaning it has considerably reduced power consumption while maintaining the same standards of communication and range. The card reader can be charged via USB and runs on rechargeable Li-ion batteries for extended life.

How secure are NFC payments?

To ensure security, NFC uses encryption when handling sensitive information, such as credit card numbers. It’s also dynamic, meaning that it’s always changing. On a magnetic stripe, for example, the data is localised on the card itself, unchanging, and is therefore more vulnerable to being read.

Apple Pay and Android Pay use tokenisation to protect sensitive data, like bank details—which are replaced by a string of randomly generated numbers known as the “token.” Therefore, this data cannot be cloned in an intelligible way by criminals.

Furthermore, Apple Pay uses Touch ID fingerprint technology. Users press their finger on their smartphone’s screen to unlock it and authorise an Apple Pay transaction. As fingerprints are unique, this poses a massive barrier to thieves.

How much do NFC card readers cost?

NFC terminals can cost hundreds of dollars. And, many of them can only be rented, incurring high monthly fees and contractual obligations.

SumUp’s contactless terminal is a one-off payment of £59 + VAT—and the card reader is yours! There’s also no contractual lock-in. The transaction fee is a low 1.95%, with no need to meet complicated sales quotas within a sliding fee model.

Keep your business up-to-date and order your SumUp Air today.


Christine Lariviere