Pay It Safe by Using Cards not Phones during COVID-19

With many FECs and arcades preparing to reopen after the COVID-19 shutdown, incorporating upgraded sanitation and customer safety programs is essential. To assist in this effort, Intercard is offering free educational materials that call attention to the health risks of using smartphones and mobile devices for contactless payment until there is a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.

“Guests are taking an unnecessary risk of exposure to COVID-19 by paying with mobile phones at an arcade,” says Scott Sherrod, CEO of Intercard. “Informing consumers that credit cards and game cards are less likely to spread germs and viruses than mobile phones is crucial as operators get ready for a return to business. As CEO my priority is to make sure my customers and their guests are safe and the Pay It Safe campaign can help do that” says Sherrod.

“Pay It Safe” is the slogan featured on artwork that Intercard is making available free to all amusement operators so that they can warn their guests about the greater risks of using cell phones and mobile devices for payment. Operators can print Pay It Safe posters to display in their facility and post the message on their websites and social media accounts.

Scientists, physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have highlighted the risk of germ and virus transmission by mobile devices. “Cell phones are like an organ of your body, an extension of your body,” Canadian microbiology specialist Jason Tetro, author of “The Germ Files,” told The Canadian Press in April. “So you have to think of it in the same way that you would think of your hands or feet or something along those lines.” Tetro goes on to say that “the risk is really high that a contaminated phone could lead to you having exposure.”

“Mobile phones are now mobile germ devices,” says Dr. Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. “You get a germ on your hand, and you use your phone. Then you go wash your hands later, but the germs are still on your phone.”

The CDC has issued guidelines recommending that retail workers “minimize handling cash, credit cards, and mobile devices, where possible.”

Although known as “contactless payment,” in actual use phones and cards often touch the payment device and germs and viruses can be transferred between devices. Cards are safer because people are much less likely to touch their face with a card whereas everyone touches their phone to their face. While both can be sanitized, a simple wipe or spray with disinfectant will clean a card. Greater care must be taken when cleaning phones and mobile devices to avoid damaging their surfaces or electronics.

“Even though Intercard’s cashless systems can accept mobile devices we feel that the responsible action is to discourage payment by phone at this time. Game cards and credit cards are better and safer choices. Using lanyards for cards and wearing gloves during game play are additional precautions players can take to reduce contact with high-touch surfaces,” says Sherrod. “In the future phones will have a larger place in contactless payment, but right now that place is in your pocket until there is a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19.”

Intercard customers can also benefit by using the e-commerce feature of its software, which allows FEC customers to buy game cards online in the safety of their home. “The customer then prints out a paper receipt with a QR code that is scanned at the arcade’s iTeller kiosk to receive the game card,” says Sherrod. “There is no need for interaction with a staff member and the paper receipt and card are disposable.”

Alberto Borrero, Intercard vice-president of international sales, says “using mobile phones for payment has gained in popularity all over the world for many years and is most popular in Asia. Although there is no research that says paying using mobile phones may have been a factor in the spread of COVID-19, I can’t in good conscience advise any of my customers to use their mobile phone payment features at this time.”

The “Pay It Safe” artwork will be available on the Intercard website at https://www.intercardinc.com/pay-it-safe/ or contact an Intercard sales representative.