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How Tap-to-Pay Works

From Apple iPhones to New York City subway turnstiles, tap-to-pay use in everyday life is growing, thanks in part to its security and ease of use.

But Tap-to-pay and its small NFC antennas are more complicated than they look.

Tapping to pay uses short-range wireless technology to make secure payments between a contactless card or payment-enabled mobile/wearable device and a contactless-enabled checkout terminal.

When you tap your card or device near the Contactless Symbol, your payment is sent for authorization.

Your contactless card or payment-enabled mobile/wearable device just needs to be within 1 to 2 inches of the Contactless Symbol to initiate a payment.

At the Heart of Tab to Pay is a Technology Called NFC or Near Field Communication Which is a Specific Form of RFID or Radio Frequency Identification You Might Be Familiar With It as a Way to Unlock Your Hotel Room for Example NFC Relies on Those Little Wires Which Are Actually Antennas the Antenna Kind of Looks Like a Race Track and Its Sort of a Coil of Different Wires and That's What's Used to Basically Transmit the Radio Frequency on Both Sides

Your Credit Card is Passive and the Reader is Active because it has the power it's searching for a Passive source to initiate the transaction further.

This Chip One Thing Stores is What's Known as Static Data Meaning Information That's the Same Every Time You Use Your Card That's Things Like the Account Number and Expiration Date It's What's Sent From Your Card's Magnetic Stripe When You Swipe but Your Chip Doesn't Just Send That Static Data When You Tap It Also Sends Something Called a Cryptogram is a Unique String of Numbers the Issuers Used to Verify That Your Card is Valid What the Card is Doing is It's Collecting Information From the Reader About the Transaction About the Reader Specifically and It's Combining

The Card Information Using Its Cryptographic Key to Create a Unique Number for That Transaction That's What Makes It Really Hard to Replicate a Card Fraudulently is Because the Card Needs to Have a Cryptographic Key That Lets Them Generate That Like Secret Code Information is Fed Through

This the Payment Board Which Sorts the Data That Needs From the Card and Puts It All Into an Encrypted Package That Package Then Gets Sent Off to the Main Board Which Then Sends That on to the Our Servers Which Then Send It on to the Networks Like Visa Mastercard Mx Which Then Send It on to the Issuer and Then Back With the Approval Message Once You Get to This Board It's All Encrypted and Protected Information.


Experts say that this is also more secure than other ways you can use your card unlike swiping your static data is better protected during that communication and because it doesn't have contact with the reader it's not susceptible to malware that can affect ship insert transactions on rare occasions this tap to pay technology has taken off in the last few years in part because of the push for contactless during the pandemic

Square says such payments tripled between the beginning of 2020 and the end of 2022 while other countries like the UK have had contactless integrated into public transportation for years it's taken the U.S more than a decade to get here for a whole new way to pay MasterCard introduces pay pass U.S first started issuing tap-to-pay cards in the 2000s

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