During the coronavirus pandemic, cash is out and touch-free payments are in.
Adding to that trend, PayPal on Tuesday announced a new feature in its mobile app that will let customers make payments at stores, farmers' markets and just about anywhere else using QR codes. You can scan a code -- either from a printout or on a screen -- using your phone's camera.
Payment QR codes are already fairly common, with a bunch of companies providing similar features, including Visa, Mastercard and Walmart. The biggest difference is that many existing QR code features are marketed to retailers, while a PayPal account is free to open and hundreds of millions of people already have one. That difference means more small merchants can now provide contactless payments in their stores without needing to buy new equipment and second-hand sellers on Craigslist and OfferUp can do the same thing.
This feature will be available in the latest version of the PayPal app starting Tuesday in 28 countries including the US, UK, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Australia.
PayPal's new feature is part of a growing movement to enable more touch-free services at stores to give customers more peace of mind and potentially reduce the spread of the virus. One feature that was already starting to roll out in the US and is now getting ramped up during the crisis is contactless payments using tap-to-pay cards or services like Apple Pay. Added to that, demand for online grocery delivery, curbside pickup and even delivery robots have all increased to allow more people to practice social distancing from others.
The new QR codes are also another way PayPal has been working to bring its services into stores, which included integrating with Google Pay and Samsung Pay, and offering a cash card.
One form of payment that is losing interest now is cash, even though the World Health Organization has said it's fine to handle banknotes so long as you wash your hands afterward. Despite that, 51% of US consumers said they are using cash less often or not at all since the pandemic started, according to an April survey from Mastercard.
To help spark adoption of the new feature and help merchants during the crisis, PayPal said it's waiving its standard seller transaction fee on any sales using QR codes for a limited time.