What are NFC mobile payments and are they safe?

April 7, 2021

Today people can pay with cryptocurrencies, digital wallets and over 200 other payment methods…so it can be hard keeping up with the latest trends!

If you are using contactless card payments or scanning your phone on a payment terminal, there’s one thing you will be using: NFC mobile payments.

NFC payments are one of the most convenient, accessible and secure ways to pay. It’s also why, as a merchant/retailer, you’ll want to accept NFC payments if you want to provide your customers with the smoothest payment process.

Here's what we'll cover in this post:

  1. What is an NFC mobile payment?
  2. How do NFC payments work?
  3. Top NFC mobile applications
  4. Are NFC contactless payments safe?
  5. How to accept NFC payments with your phone
  6. NFC FAQ

What is an NFC mobile payment?

NFC stands for near field communication. It allows NFC devices within close proximity (approximately 2-4 inches apart) to interact and exchange information. NFC chips are used in contactless cards, mobile phones, checkout terminals and other payment devices.

If you’ve ever used the tube in London, and tapped your bank card to tap in and out - that’s NFC technology in action.

This new payment technology is designed to make payments a lot more convenient. Instead of inserting a card and inputting a PIN, you simply tap your debit/credit card onto the card terminal.  

But NFC mobile payments take it one step further. The technology allows you to accept payments via a tap of your phone or wearable on any POS system. A number of big brands are already using NFC based contactless payments, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.

Read more: 5 Reasons to use a mobile point of sale (POS)

How do NFC payments work?

The tech behind NFC tap and pay is actually pretty simple. Mobile devices utilise radio frequency waves that only work at very close distances. NFC is an advanced form of Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which was invented in the 1980s to perform very basic tasks like tracking products and preventing theft.

This type of contactless payment works well through mobile phones because it can only connect with one other device at a time. There are a number of security features in place so that when people use different credit or debit cards on their mobile device, there is no chance of paying twice or mistakenly paying for someone else’s item.

The mobile terminal and your mobile device pass encrypted data back and forth. This enables the purchase to occur seamlessly and quickly.

Read more about the technologies that underpin contactless payments

Top NFC mobile applications

There are a number of digital wallets and payment options that utilise NFC payments.

1. Apple Pay

Apple Pay was introduced in 2014, and since the release of the iPhone 6 enables all its iPhones and Apple Watches to take contactless payments.

Apple comes with a Touch ID function as well as tokenization (which ensures no card details are exchanged), making it one of the most secure contactless payments.

Read more: is Apple Pay safe?

2. Google Pay

Formerly known as Android Pay, Google Pay powers all Android NFC mobile payments. Customers pay by tapping on their phone through their Google Pay mobile wallet. They can also use mobile wallet payments to send money to friends and family.

Read more: is Google Pay safe?

There are other applications such as Visa payWave and Mastercard PayPass, which aren’t as commonly used. So long as you have NFC payments enabled on your card reader or phone, you’ll be able to accept all types of NFC mobile payments.

Having the option to take payment via NFC makes the selling process frictionless for customers. Not only that, but practically everyone already owns a smartphone. We’ll likely see this payment method overtake cards because of its accessibility.

Are NFC contactless payments safe?

Yes, NFC mobile payments are just as secure as EMV and Chip and PIN credit/debit card payments. They are safer than magnetic stripe cards which are more susceptible to fraud. Whether you have an NFC payment app like Pomelo Pay or you’re utilising contactless technology that is native to your mobile, the security aspects remain the same.

Here are a few reasons why NFC payments are one of the most secure payment methods:

  1. Mobile devices encrypt your payment information in order to protect you against fraudsters. What’s even more impressive, however, is the fact that these encryptions are changed upon every NFC transaction.
  2. Then, there is a second layer of security: the passcode or fingerprint lock. So, even when a phone is physically stolen, the biometric and passcode measures mean the device is inaccessible at this level of authentication.
  3. Finally, with tokenization, the full card number is never revealed. This means that if there were to be an interception, the fraudster would not be able to access any card information.

Combine all these security features with a licensed payment provider like Pomelo Pay, and your customers will enjoy higher levels of security when accepting payments. That’s because Pomelo Pay is regulated by the FCA, has PCI Level 1 security certification, and is also a principal member of Mastercard.

Learn more: what is the most secure payment method?

How to accept NFC payments with your phone

In order to accept NFC payments, you must have an NFC reader. In the past, this meant buying expensive hardware or card machines.

At Pomelo Pay, we’re one of the first payment solutions which allow merchants to accept NFC payments with their phones.

That means that you and your staff can start accepting contactless payments almost immediately, without paying monthly fees, terminal fees and set up fees - because you just need your smartphone and an app.

The process is simple:

  1. Download the Pomelo Pay app on your phone.
  2. Open the Pomelo app and enter the amount you want to charge.
  3. When you see the in-person payment methods you can use - select Tap to Pay.
  4. Present your screen to your customer so they can see what they’re paying.
  5. Your customer just needs to tap their card or phone on your device to complete the sale.
  6. An email receipt can then be sent to the customer.

Tap to Pay is cutting edge technology and is likely to revolutionise the way businesses accept payments - as well as drastically decrease the cost of fees.

It’s important to note that NFC payments can only happen on Android phones. That’s because Apple blocks NFC payments and only allows users to pay with Apple Pay. If you use Pomelo Pay, you’ll be able to accept NFC payments through your Android phone. However, if you have an Apple device, you’ll need to purchase a dongle or other hardware to take NFC payments.

You can always accept Apple Pay payments by using QR code payments instead.

Learn more about Tap to Pay

tap to pay pomelo pay


Can I use Google Pay without NFC?

Google Pay only works with NFC enabled payment terminals. If you do not have access to NFC technology, paying within merchant mobile apps is one alternative.

Can I turn off NFC?

Yes, in fact, NFC is usually turned off until it is required. NFC purchases typically occur inside an app (which means that it is only turned on when you open the app).

Can I make my phone NFC compatible?

You can’t add NFC compatibility to every mobile device. Some providers offer add-on NFC kits, while others come with NFC compatibility automatically, such as Android phones. If you have an iPhone, you’ll need to buy a separate dongle or hardware to accept or make NFC payments.