Waze Launches Contactless Payment at Gas Pump

Avoid touching that gross credit card slot on the gas pump

Key Takeaways

  • Move was inspired by COVID-19 safety concerns.
  • 81% of Americans now own smartphones.
  • US lags behind other countries in adopting contactless payments.
Making a contactless payment with a mobile phone at a gas station.
Extreme Media / Getty Images

Waze, Google’s third-party navigation app, helps us maneuver the highways and byways of America. Now, the app has added a feature that allows users to make contactless payments for fuel at ExxonMobil and Shell gas stations.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) suggests using contactless payments or gloves and a disinfectant at the pumps.

“There are ways motorists can minimize touching surfaces when filling-up: using gloves/plastic bags or contactless payment are two options to consider," said AAA spokesperson Jeanette Casselano in an email.

"Regardless, when touching the pump (and screen), we suggest using gloves or plastic bags as a barrier to touching the surface, using disinfecting wipes/hand sanitizer after filling up, wipe down the card as well. It’s up to the consumer to decide the best option when at the pump.”

Drivers using the Waze app receive a notification prompting them to securely pay for their fuel using either ExxonMobil’s or Shell’s payment apps. If they don’t have those apps installed, Waze will direct them to download them.

Waze showing multiple nearby gas stations

The integration, according to Waze, is designed to cut back on time and contact with screens and pin pads at the pump, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In the current environment, we understand that our customers may wish to limit interactions and touch points during their fueling experience," said Iris Hill, Shell's US marketing technology manager, in a statement. "The integration with the Shell app enables a secure, contactless, and rewarding payment experience so the Waze community can save on every fill-up with the Fuel Rewards program and get back on the road quickly and safely."

Both ExxonMobil and Shell customers will also be able to earn loyalty rewards in their respective rewards programs using this method.

75% of Consumers Prefer Contactless Payments

A survey of 1,000 cardholders by card technology specialist Entrust Datacard found that 75 percent of cardholders prefer contactless payments to swiping a card, mobile payments, inserting a chip card, or paying by cash.

“Today’s consumers cringe if you ask them to use a keypad to type their phone number for loyalty program identification,” said Jerry Cressman, chief financial officer at Paytronix in a statement. “That physical component raises a safety concern, forcing consumers to decide whether the loyalty reward is worth the risk.”

Despite the acceptance of contactless payments by American consumers, the US lags behind other countries in adopting contactless payments. According to payment gateway NMI, just three percent of payments in the US use contactless technology. Nearly all US cards use chip-and-signature and chip-and-PIN methods.

The banking industry was mandated to issue EMV-compliant (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) chip cards by late 2016, but most chose the single interface chip cards with no contactless antenna.

Do Tech Applications Discriminate?

In an age of heightened awareness about social and economic equality, some ask if further advances in technology are widening the gap between the haves and have-nots in American society.

The Pew Research Center says the vast majority of Americans (96 percent) own cell phones and 81 percent own smartphones, up from 35 percent in 2011, when Pew conducted its first survey of smartphone ownership.

Chart showing the percentage of US adults who own cellphones and smartphones
Pew Research Center

The numbers, however, drop when income is factored in. Pew says the percentage of smartphone ownership drops to 71 percent for those earning less than $30,000 per year. Pew says Americans with lower incomes are particularly likely to have concerns related to the digital divide.

According to Healthify, smartphones have become a vital tool in helping the country’s most vulnerable populations: the low income and homeless. Since 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has advanced its Lifeline program for providing no-cost or low-cost phones and cellular programs.

“With a smartphone, homeless not only have access to find resources for housing, they have immediate and accessible means to manage their healthcare schedule, and to contact emergency health and safety services when needed. The phone also allows caregivers to connect to homeless clients to confirm or reschedule appointments, and for off-schedule wellness check-ins that can’t always, or do not need to be done face-to-face,” said Julia Burkhead, with San Jose’s Community Technology Alliance (CTA) in a statement.

CTA also distributes free smartphones to those in need through a program called Mobile 4 All.

Unfortunately, regardless of how contactless payments and other tech advancements will make our lives easier, there are still millions of Americans who won’t be able to participate in the advance to the future. They’ll continue to get a busy signal.

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