Payments based on QR codes went live Monday at 8,200 CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide, the largest such deployment so far in the U.S. market and a major step forward for PayPal Holdings Inc., which announced in July its plans to enable the technology for CVS and other chains.
With the new payment alternative, customers who have PayPal or Venmo mobile wallets may use them to present a QR code at the cash register to trigger payment from a selected card, bank account, or stored PayPal or Venmo balance, or from PayPal Credit or the Venmo credit card.
The new program arrives as merchants scramble to introduce contactless payment technologies to reassure customers who want to avoid touching publicly available devices such as point-of-sale terminals and PIN pads. It also marks a major step forward for QR codes, a relatively recent contactless alternative to near-field communication technology for in-store payments.
PayPal indicated earlier this month that it has signed 10 “major” merchants including CVS to process QR code transactions, among them Nike and Bed and Bath, & Beyond. In addition, the company expects half a million small and micro-merchants will be accepting the codes by year’s end.
In the CVS deployment, which is live at the pharmacy’s standalone stores, customers who don’t have a PayPal or Venmo account may sign up and link a payment method “usually within minutes,” according to the CVS announcement. Transactions flow to InComm Inc., an Atlanta-based processor, and then to PayPal. Customers can invoke the codes by choosing “scan” in the PayPal or Venmo app and enabling the “choose to pay” option, which allows them to choose a payment method and scan their code at the register. The program also allows customers to apply rewards from CVS’s ExtraCare program.
The new contactless payment method aligns with consumer fears of infection during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is surging in many parts of the country, but also satisfies a long-term shift in consumer preferences toward digital options, CVS said Monday in announcing the QR code option.
The chain is using in-store signage and kiosks as well as email marketing to raise awareness of the new QR code alternative, a CVS spokesman tells Digital Transactions News. “We’re also collaborating with the PayPal and Venmo teams on some exciting social-media communications throughout the holiday season,” he adds.