Peter Park: Pay Parking Fees Cashless

Cashless Payment Is Becoming Increasingly Important, Not Least Since the Corona Pandemic, and Now Also Plays an Important Role in Parking Management. How Does This Payment Method Work and What Advantages Does It Offer?

Pay Parking Fees Cashless - Image source: Shutterstock

Beyond cash, the new world of cashless payment is just opening up: in the Netherlands, Japan, and the USA, it has already become established, in Germany, it is just starting: cashless payment has picked up speed in the Corona pandemic and is becoming increasingly popular. For parking operators, too, this is a development to which they must respond. In the pandemic, more than 20 percent of respondents tried contactless payment for the first time. According to a survey by Bundesbank, the most popular means of payment here is a contactless checking or credit card.

Learn more about how payment methods work and their benefits so you can make well-informed decisions about which options to offer your customers.

What Is the Difference Between Cashless, Contactless, and Mobile Payments?

Basically, a distinction is made between three different payment methods without cash:

Cashless Payment

Cashless payment means that no cash is involved in the payment process. This includes contactless payment, mobile payment, payment by QR code, and other forms of payment.

Contactless Payment

Contactless payment describes a cashless payment option in which, in principle, no contact is required between the means of payment and the terminal. NFC is often used as the technology here, but the use of QR codes is also possible. Examples of contactless payment are contactless card payment and payment by smartphone or smartwatch.

Mobile Payment

Mobile payment is a payment method that is also carried out using a smartphone (or smartwatch). It is a subtype of contactless payment. NFC technology can also be used here, as well as QR codes or in-app payment.

Cashless Payment Options

The options for cashless payment are diverse and are primarily characterized by the development of 5G and NFC technology. The following highlights the functionalities, special features, and associated advantages of the various payment options.

1) NFC for Cashless Payment

What is NFC?

NFC plays a major role in cashless and especially contactless forms of payment. NFC stands for "near-field communication" and is an international transmission standard for the contactless exchange of data over short distances via radio. This requires a chip in a card or smartphone on one side and an invisible radio antenna on the other. The two communicators, i.e. the chip and the antenna, have to be very close to each other during the payment process, as communication only works up to a maximum distance of four centimeters.

How Does NFC Work?

For example, if a card with an NFC function is held up to the NFC symbol at a payment terminal, the card and the terminal communicate with each other using NFC technology. The card number, expiration date and amount to be paid are exchanged within a few seconds. Once this process is complete and successful, this is displayed on the payment terminal and the payment process is complete. The NFC function is marked with four small white radio waves. These can be found on payment terminals as well as on checking or credit cards.

Are Payments with NFC Secure?

Thanks to a variety of security mechanisms, payments with NFC are just as secure as payments at the terminal where the card is inserted.

Security mechanisms of NFC payments

  • Complex encryption algorithms - The transmitted data is secured by tokenization, in which customers' card numbers are replaced by a proxy number. This deputy number is then used for the payment. Data is encrypted using algorithms such as the CVC3 algorithm with 112-bit encryption. This keeps the account or credit card numbers secret. Even in the unlikely event that data is read, this data is usually not sufficient to cause any damage. In principle, no personal data is transmitted during the transfer. For example, online stores ask for the check digit on the back of the card, which is not transmitted with NFC, or a 3D Secure procedure is used in which an additional TAN is requested.
  • Short distance - The short communication distance between the chip and the antenna makes it difficult for data to be intercepted at all.
  • Secured payment terminals - Like data transmission, payment terminals must also comply with certain security standards, which are separate from the security standards of data transmission. According to these, the terminals are approved. The transactions are additionally protected by the fact that each transaction is activated individually and a transaction is aborted as soon as more than two radio signals are registered at the same time.

2) Girocard for Cashless Payment

The conventional Girocard can be used for both cashless payment and contactless payment. The contactless payment process is then carried out using the NFC technology explained earlier. You can see whether a Girocard can be used for payment using NFC by the small white radio symbol. Without a PIN, you can then make contactless payments up to €50; for higher amounts, the PIN is required. In general, contactless payments can be made up to the card limit. The amount paid is then debited from the current account, as with a normal card payment with insertion.

3) Credit Card for Cashless Payment

Just like the girocard, the credit card can also be inserted or used contactlessly via NFC. The credit card must also have an NFC function for contactless payment, which is also indicated here by the white radio symbol. NFC is integrated with Mastercard and Visa via Paypass or Paywave. Just as with the Girocard, contactless payment without a PIN query is possible for up to €50 and is debited from the reference account. If contactless payments are made several times in succession without a PIN, the PIN is usually requested after the fifth contactless payment for security reasons, regardless of the amount to be paid. The number of payments previously made is determined individually by each bank. A PIN can also be requested after a contactless payment amount of more than €150.‍

4) Smartphone for Cashless Payment

Cashless, contactless payment is also possible via smartphones. Just as in checking or credit cards, smartphones nowadays have an integrated NFC chip that can communicate with payment terminals.

Payment via App

In addition, to pay with the smartphone via NFC, you need an app on which the card is virtually stored, such as Apple Pay on iPhones and Google Pay or Samsung Pay on Android devices. The credit card account or the Paypal account is linked in the respective app. In order to be able to use these apps at all, cooperation between the app operator and the respective bank is a prerequisite. Once the card or Paypal account has been loaded into the respective app, the payment process looks like this:

  1. Unlock the smartphone
  2. Activate the NFC function
  3. Open the app
  4. Hold the cell phone to the checkout terminal

The payment is authorized at the terminal and debited from the corresponding linked account. As an alternative to the offerings from Google, Apple, Samsung, etc., it is also possible to pay via cell phone using customer apps such as the "Mobiles Bezahlen" app from Sparkasse or "Digitales Bezahlen" from Sparda Bank, in which a checking or credit card is also stored. As part of customer loyalty programs, many retailers also offer customer apps with the option of in-app payment. This does not require an NFC function. One advantage of this is that purchasing behavior and the associated customer data can be collected in order to analyze customers and increase their loyalty to the company.

5) Smartwatch for Cashless Payment

Payment with a smartwatch works very similarly to smartphone payment. These must also be equipped with an NFC function. Examples of smartwatches with NFC function are Apple Watches with Apple Pay, Samsung Watches with Samsung or Google Pay, Garmin with Garmin Pay, Swatch with Swatch Pay, and Fitbit with Fitbit Pay. The card to be used is likewise loaded into an app. To make a payment, all you have to do is unlock the smartwatch, open the app and hold it up to the terminal.

6) QR Code for Cashless Payment

The term QR code stands for "Quick response code" and can also be used for payments. The code is able to store a lot of data and is considered more secure than barcodes because the information is encrypted. The code on a printout or screen is scanned by a cell phone camera or barcode scanner, decoded, and transformed into a string of characters. This string can then trigger various commands, including payment instructions. There are various ways in which QR codes on smartphones can be used to make payments.

The most relevant method for parking operators is this one: The code will be scanned on a bill or screen at a cash register by an app that supports QR code payments, such as apps from banks. The price may still need to be confirmed to complete the payment.

In another method, the personal, unique QR code that exists in a payment or business app can be scanned. The account or card data is stored in the app and the QR code is scanned at the checkout using the barcode scanner. However, this code can also be scanned by other people with their smartphones.

Advantages of Cashless Payment Options for Parking Operators and Customers

These payment methods are becoming more prominent and popular in parking management. Increasingly, thought must be given to whether and which payment methods operators want to support. For this, it is important to think about the advantages of cashless payment methods for the companies themselves and their customers. In this way, payment options can be offered that both support the operator's business model and optimally satisfy the needs of parkers. A selection of the benefits of cashless payment is given here.

Advantages for Companies

  • Efficiency, speed, and easier handling: Contactless payment in particular is on average five seconds faster than paying with cash, as there is often no need to enter a PIN. Cashless and contactless payments are therefore fast and efficient, resulting in shorter queues at parking machines. There is also less work in accounting, administration, and auditing, as there are fewer sums to transfer or track. Deposits are automatically documented and some accounting tasks are eliminated as a result... This is also beneficial when filing taxes, as all transaction data is organized and immediately available. Cash handling efforts are also reduced, as there is less cash.
  • Lower costs: Working time is saved above all. Less time has to go into transmitting the cash to the bank and the accounting department saves time due to the easier handling. As a result, fewer human errors happen and correspondingly less time will be needed to correct them. In addition, printing costs for receipts or parking tickets are reduced and, if there is already a machine with card payment, there are no additional charges for contactless payment.
  • Greater security: Cashless payment contributes to a lower risk of robberies at kiosks and cash transport to the bank. Likewise, human errors caused by cash counting, loss of coins, or the like are reduced. The damage caused by counterfeit money and fraud is also minimized. If payments are made electronically, the intermediate step of depositing cash is also eliminated. This increases payment security, as the amount paid ends up directly in the business account. In addition, the ease of use via card or smartphone minimizes user errors at the vending machine.
  • Sustainability: Cashless, contactless, and mobile payments often make paper receipts superfluous, as invoices can be issued electronically. In addition to saving on paper, ink, and printers, this minimizes the environmental footprint.

Advantages for Customers

  • Convenience and satisfaction: Cashless, contactless, or mobile payment reduces the duration of the payment process by eliminating the need to enter a PIN, wait for change, or even pay at the machine in general. If everything runs smoothly, this increases customer satisfaction and leads to a high probability that customers will come back. After the fact, customers also have a better overview of their spending through their account statements or credit card statement.
  • Fewer obstacles: Cashless payment reduces inconveniences such as long lines, not enough cash on hand, bills that are too large, or not enough coins to pay. Even the challenge of finding an ATM in remote locations such as swimming lakes or ski resorts is no longer a problem.
  • Hygiene: Contactless and mobile payment sometimes mean that a checkout machine no longer has to be touched at all, making the payment process hygienic. This is also of key importance in the wake of the Corona pandemic, but it also minimizes the transmission of other diseases.
  • Confidence and security: If customers do not have to carry large amounts of cash, this strengthens their sense of security, as less money can be lost and less cash can be fetched in the event of a robbery. The ability to block cards with just one call also contributes to an increased sense of security. In addition, neither the card nor the cell phone is taken out of the hand during contactless payment.

Implementation of Cashless Payment Methods in Parking Areas

Even though cash is still the most widely used means of payment, accounting for 60 percent of transactions, a shift toward cashless payment has been observed since the Corona pandemic. The number of cashless transactions increased by 51 percent from 2010 to 2020. Changes in purchasing and payment behavior are leading to a desire on the part of consumers to be able to make contactless payments.

Supplement to Cash Payment

Nevertheless, Germany is not yet ready to offer services only on a cashless basis, as this will exclude many potential customers, such as the elderly. Parking operators need to address these multiple payment options in their long-term planning, incorporating their knowledge of their clientele and offering a choice of payment methods. This is because limiting customers to one or two payment options prevents growth, especially if the options offered are not adaptable to new developments.

In addition, thought must also be given to cooperations with parking apps such as PaybyPhone, easyPark, ParkNow, Parkster, or Handyparken. The coverage of different payment options as well as cooperations thus appeals to as many customers as possible, increases convenience and thus customer satisfaction and the attractiveness of the parking offer.

Innovations Influence Payment Transactions

Likewise, new developments and innovations are to be kept in mind in order to adapt the offer accordingly on the one hand and to coordinate the payment options on the other. One example is electric vehicles and the parking challenges that arise with them, such as charging and battery infrastructure and use, as well as payment for them. Another example is connected vehicles: a digital account is linked to the vehicle, which is identified by license plate or facial recognition and automatically debits the payment. This eliminates the need for much-used kiosks. A future in which payment is made only through a collected app, facial recognition, or license plate recognition is conceivable. Through such and other innovations, payment methods are changing continuously.

Cash is still important in Germany, but cashless and contactless payment methods are rising steadily every year. Parking operators must adapt to the current change and respond to the needs of their customers. This means that cashless, contactless, and mobile payment methods should be offered in addition to paying with cash.

About Peter Parkpeter park 

Peter Park is a digital parking system that eliminates the need for parking tickets, barriers, and parking discs. Peter Park System GmbH transforms parking lots into mobility hubs by providing parking lot operators and municipalities with automatic license plate recognition and cloud-based management software. The system from Munich was launched in 2019 and is already available in Germany and Austria.


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