As the public wrestles with actions to take in light of the coronavirus outbreak, attention in some cases has turned to digital payments.
While experts continue to focus on primarily on limiting person-to-person contact, practicing good hygiene remains a concern as well – which includes attention on the items that people touch regularly.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has included the suggestion that businesses encourage digital payments and limit their handling of cash among other guidelines for preventing spread of the disease.
“People default to what’s familiar, unless there’s something to jolt you out of it,” Jodie Kelley, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association, told CNBC. “Contactless payments have come up as a new option for consumers who are much more conscious of what they touch.”
The Reserve Bank of India issued a statement encouraging the country’s consumers to use digital banking and payments from home to avoid social contact.
“In the context of the efforts to limit the fallout of the corona virus pandemic by avoiding social contact and visit to public places, public can use these modes of digital payment from the convenience of their homes through online channels like mobile banking, internet banking, cards, etc. and avoid using cash which may require going to crowded places for sending money or paying bills,” the bank said in a press release.
Similarly, the central bank of the Philippines has encouraged social distancing through the use of digital payment and banking services. The State Bank of Pakistan also announced measures to encourage the use of digital banking and payments.
As governments and businesses limit cash usage, the outlook for digital payments companies remains mixed.
Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal all adjusted their guidance early in the outbreak, in part because of an expected reduction in spending. PayPal cited anticipated negative impact from a reduction in cross-border ecommerce transactions.
In India, payments providers, including PF Pine Labs, have seen a drop in transactions as retailers and restaurants close. PFs Razorpay and CCAvenue told The Economic Times that travel payments account for 25% of all of their online transactions, and that those payments are down 35 to 40%.
“March and April see customer demand for travel. This (virus) posts a cloud on future transactions through the sector which brings nearly 30% of the payments for the online payments industry,” Vishwas Patel, CEO of CCAvenues, told the publication.
Razorpay’s CEO, Harshil Mathur, echoed the travel concerns.
“Aviation, which contributes nearly one-fourth of all online digital transactions, has seen a fall of nearly 40% due to cancellations and refunds because of restrictions on international travel,” he said. “At the same time, we have seen increased online spending in segments such as utility, groceries and food delivery services.”
Paytm, on the other hand, reported 20% growth in transactions.
“There has been a massive surge in repeat transactions for various use-cases like fuel stations, utility payments among others,” the company told ET.