CVS is adding another kind of touch-free payment: PayPal and Venmo QR codes

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CVS is expanding its payment options by teaming up with PayPal to use its QR codes as another touch-free form of payment at the retail pharmacy chain. PayPal and Venmo users can pay with money that’s already in their account instead of having to pay with a credit card, and Venmo users can also use Venmo Rewards to pay for items, all “without needing to touch a keypad or sign a receipt.”

CVS says the new QR codes will arrive at 8,200 of its US stores in the fourth quarter of 2020. Since we’re in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, it’s not the most ideal to be touching in public, so if you don’t have tap-to-pay on your phone or simply don’t use it, it’s another way to do touch-free payment at stores.

CVS has already offered touch-free payment options through NFC since 2018, such as Apple and Google Pay — but for several years, CVS rejected NFC support and pushed QR code services such as CurrentC or its own app as a touch-free payment alternative.

While both NFC and QR codes allow you to pay for things contact-free, there are pros and cons. With QR codes, you need to unlock your phone and open a specific app to scan a square pattern, but any phone with a camera should generally work; NFC-based services like Apple and Google Play offer speedy tap-to-pay built into your phone’s OS, but some older phones may not have NFC and your bank needs to be partnered with these providers.

CVS says it will be the first nationwide retailer to accept PayPal and Venmo QR codes at checkout without fees. Previously, PayPal charged sellers 1.9 percent and $0.10 per transaction when a user paid using a QR code, though the company temporarily waived the fee until September 30th due to the negative impact of the coronavirus on businesses.

The US has been slow to adopt QR codes as a form of payment in many stores, but overseas, QR codes have become popular in countries like China, after mobile payment platform Alipay introduced a system in 2011 that allowed offline stores to partner with them to accept real-time, contactless payment. Other industries in China, such as public transportation, also use QR code payment services like WeChat to pay for fees. By the end of 2017, more than 65 percent of the population were using QR codes as a form of payment, according to the South China Morning Post.

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