Preparing Local Businesses to Re-open


April 21, 2020

Bringing Social Distancing to Payments in America

Executive Summary: Everywhere payments are taken, new social distancing is required.  Payments must shift from close physical proximity with cashiers and frequent contact with germ-spreading shared payment devices to a “zero contact” payment model that achieves social distancing during every transaction.

The unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic has brought the US economy to a standstill.  Record numbers of individuals are unemployed and the systems to support them are overloaded. The necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of communities will require significant changes to how business is transacted now and in the future. Economic recovery is a key initiative for government, business and community leadership. On April 16, 2020, the Federal Government published guidelines for a phased approach to state and local re-opening. At the top of the list for businesses is maintaining social distancing.

Social distancing is an essential Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention (NPI) that every local business must implement for a safe and successful re-opening. A critical new area of focus is achieving social distancing in the payment process.

Adapting Business for Social Distancing

Many essential businesses that have remained open during the stay-at-home order have adapted operations in an effort to achieve social distancing; from grocery stores with one-way shopping aisles, to vet clinics that require owners to stay in the parking lot while pets go inside for care. However, the payment process typically violates social distancing requirements.

Current Payment Methods Violate Social Distancing Protocols

Payment in the physical world has always included close contact with people and shared devices that pose health risks. From paying with cash to handing over a credit card, or using a terminal, payment in the real world includes close proximity to cashiers and contact with shared devices that can potentially carry the virus.

Seven California counties have already issued Social Distancing Protocols mandating contactless payment and disinfecting payment terminals, dongles, and pens or styluses after each use. This is sound advice given the National Institutes of Health finding that the virus which causes COVID-19 remains on plastic surfaces like credit cards and payment terminals for up to 3 days. An infected card used in a payment terminal can spread contact with every store patron and employee.  

Moreover, existing contactless payment is usually not “Zero Contact,” as terminals, credit cards, buttons, screens and pens are frequently touched and must be disinfected after each use.

Most current payment interactions are in direct violation of social distancing guidelines and pose health risks through contact with shared payment devices. COVID-19 has changed the way we need to interact to keep employees, customers and our communities safe. All future physical payments must become Zero Contact and maintain social distancing.

Zero Contact, Social Distancing Payment – A Definitive Solution

Businesses re-opening to customers need a solution that allows them to take every payment at a safe, social distance with zero contact amongst employees, and customers while completely eliminating the payment terminals, dongles, pens, tip screens and styluses that can be vectors for spreading the virus.

We cannot rely on disinfecting terminals between each use; a better way to keep communities safe as businesses re-open is to enable and even require social distancing and zero contact payments that by their very design do not spread germs.

Due to valid health concerns, the world will not return to exactly the same processes and procedures we had prior to sheltering-in-place.  Long-lasting and permanent changes to the way we live, interact and work will be required to avoid health risks.

Providing safe distance, zero contact payments is one of the few definitive solutions to help businesses safely re-open.   Safe Distance Pay is a timely update to physical payments to keep employees, customers, and communities safe.

With Safe Distance Pay, customers view bills and complete payments on their mobile phone and do not require proximity to a cashier or payment terminal. Whether in store, at curbside pick-up, delivery, or a drive-thru, customers and employees can always maintain social distancing.  Customers simply scan a code with their camera or tap a secure SMS pay link to receive their bill and pay.

Safe Distance Pay works alongside every Point of Sale system and requires no integration or expensive investment in hardware. Consumers can use the built-in capabilities of Android and iPhones, and do not require an app. There is no start-up cost to businesses, but the health and safety benefit of adding Safe Distance Pay is inestimable.

For local businesses considering taking phone orders or customers wanting to pay from outside of a storefront, Safe Distance Pay is safer, faster, easier and more secure than reading a credit card number over the phone. Merchants simply enter the customer’s mobile number and a secure pay link is automatically sent to the customer via SMS.  Safe Distance Pay enables all types of local businesses to re-open with social distancing at the point of payment, an operational improvement that will protect the health of employees, customers, and communities.

Additional Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions for Re-opening

There are several additional non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) that local businesses can adopt as they prepare to safely and successfully re-open after a COVID-19 closure. Washing hands, particularly after being in a public place, sneezing, blowing one’s nose, or coughing is an important NPI for employees. In environments where soap and water are not easily accessible employees should use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol.

Businesses will need to take new care with cleaning and disinfecting. Disposable gloves should be made available for employees who do any cleaning, including taking out the trash. Frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs, countertops, phones and keyboards should be cleaned routinely. To avoid needing to clean payment terminals after every transaction businesses need to add a zero contact payment solution like Safe Distance Pay.  

A final NPI to understand is face covering. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing a face cover when in public. Local businesses that include close interaction between employees and customers should provide face covers for employees. However, the CDC is adamant that face covering is not a substitute for social distancing, “It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus, even during payment.

A Better Re-opening with Safe Distance Payments

We must work together to bring common sense as well as technological innovation to government, business, and community leaders. It is important to overcome anxiety and uncertainty with actionable, best practice solutions that are the right way forward. Our stores and businesses will not be the same when we re-open, but in every way possible we must endeavor to be not only different but better. Better for employers and employees, better for customers and communities. And safer for everyone. Safe Distance Pay enables a better and safer re-opening for businesses and communities.  

Everywhere payments are taken, new social distancing is required.  Payments must shift from close physical proximity with cashiers and frequent contact with germ-spreading shared payment devices to a “zero contact” payment model that achieves social distancing during every transaction. is a proven solution that can be deployed broadly in every store, alongside existing technology, requires no startup costs and can be live in about 1 business day.