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The Rise of QR Codes as a Payments Tool

Long considered old-school tech, QR codes are rapidly re-emerging with a new purpose as small businesses—from restaurants to retailers and even service-based businesses—look for a way to accept payments while keeping a safe distance from their customers.

Let’s take a look at what they are and how your business can quickly and easily use QR codes to complete your sales.


What are QR codes?

A QR code (short for Quick Response code) is a souped-up bar code with a pattern of squares arranged on a grid. Invented in the 90s by the Japanese auto industry, QR codes can store up to 100x more information than conventional barcodes. For example, if a conventional barcode only contains an auto part number, the QR code can contain the part number, the manufacturer, the lot number, the date of purchase, the arrival date in inventory, information to repurchase the part, etc.

About 20 years ago, marketers started putting QR codes on just about everything—products, packaging, advertisements, posters, etc.—as a quick way to direct people to a website or other online destination. Yet they never really caught on, mainly because the technology available provided a disappointing customer experience.

Little did we know that the QR code was a solution in search of the right problem.


A touch-free way to accept payments.

Widely popular for years in Japan and China, QR codes are finally getting a second look in the U.S. and Europe as businesses investigate ways to accept payments in an era of social distancing.

When using QR codes to accept payments, there’s no need to handle cash or cards and no need for customers to interact with a point-of-sale (POS) device to enter a PIN or sign a receipt. Instead, accepting payments is as simple as aiming a smartphone camera at a displayed QR code.

All you need to do is generate a unique QR code, print it out, and post it wherever your customer is going to pay. For example:

  1. Post your QR code in your store window. 
    If you have a physical storefront and offer takeout, print out your QR code and put it in your store window. Your customers point their smartphone camera at it and are taken to a webpage where they enter the amount they owe and tap to finalize the payment.
  1. Attach your QR code to packages. 
    If you’re offering curbside pickup, print out your QR code and attach it to the bag or box containing your customer’s items. Customers can point their smartphone camera at it through their car window to pay you.
  1. Post a QR code at your checkout counter in your store. 
    If your physical place of business is still open, you can still take advantage of touch-free payments by posting your QR code at your checkout counter. Instead of physically interacting with your POS terminal, customers simply scan your code.
  1. Attach a QR code to deliveries. 
    If you’re offering delivery to your customers, attach your QR code to the packages being delivered. Customers can scan the code at a safe distance from your delivery person. They can even add tips for the service delivery.


Ideal for face-to-face interactions.

Using QR codes to take payments could be a good solution for just about any business that physically accepts payments from their customers, like:

  • Businesses with a physical storefront: Restaurants and bars, grocery and convenience stores, and most types of retailers.
  • Businesses offering deliveries or pickups: Restaurants and bars, delivery services, movers.
  • Service-based businesses: Gardeners, handymen, housepainters, housekeepers, babysitters.


The many other benefits QR code payments.

Clearly, in the current Coronavirus era, the main benefit of accepting payments via QR codes is that it truly is a touch-free way of accepting payments and limiting physical interaction with your customers. However, there are some other compelling benefits it offers:

  • No special equipment: There’s no need to purchase a costly terminal or other POS equipment. All you need is your smartphone to scan or show your code.
  • Convenient: QR codes are a fast, simple way to transfer payment information between your customer and your business. They last indefinitely so you only need to create one code and let your customers scan it to pay.
  • Safe: You don’t need to see any card or banking information. Plus, your customers don’t need to carry around their cash or credit cards.


Get started with your own QR code.

Generating a unique QR code for your business is quick and easy— It only takes a few minutes. PayPal has a QR code generator in our PayPal Business app. We walk you through the process in this article. Get started today with a way to accept payments at a safe distance.


The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.


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