Visa worked with the National Football League, banks and merchants to fast-track a plan for a cashless Super Bowl, making sure the technology would be in place to meet the increased demand for contactless payments during the pandemic.
The card brand’s original goal was to create a cashless Super Bowl by 2024. During lockdown, the nationwide effort to convert key merchants to contactless was so broad that Visa can guarantee all future Super Bowls it sponsors will be cash-free, with cash-to-card kiosks available at stadiums so patrons who prefer cash can still transact.
“Due to COVID-19, people developed a greater aversion to paying with cash, which put banks and merchants into a new gear and accelerated the NFL’s timeline to going cashless in stadiums,” said Douglas Mearkle, TD Bank’s head of sales for merchant solutions.
TD Bank dramatically sped up its efforts to help small businesses across the U.S. — particularly restaurants — quickly adopt contactless payments for the first time for drive-thru and curbside food pickup, a phenomenon Mearkle could never have foreseen without the pandemic.
“Before COVID, the problem was lack of consumer demand, but the pandemic reversed everything so that merchants were now responding to customer demand and we raced to meet their needs,” Mearkle said.
Visa seeded the ground in Tampa, Fla., which is hosting Super Bowl LV, with contactless payment acceptance and merchant awareness through a nationwide marketing effort that began last July, a Visa spokesperson said. The cash-free zone in Tampa encompasses parking, the Super Bowl Experience fan event outside the stadium and nearby shops, Visa said.
Marketing representatives from Visa visited 150,000 small businesses — including 2,500 in Tampa — explaining how to make the shift to accepting digital payments with educational resources and POS materials. Super Bowl LV will accept a reduced crowd of 25,000.
Visa has long used sporting championships to promote new payments technology, including past Super Bowls and Olympics. Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta two years ago had 30 cashless checkout points throughout the stadium, with a contactless express lane in the NFL shop.
A year ago, Super Bowl LIV in Miami offered contactless payments in the NFL shop and in many of the lines for food and beverages, but the event wasn’t fully cash-free.
The pandemic-driven acceleration of contactless over the last year has enabled Visa to set new goals for getting more small businesses to accept digital payments online with a Super Bowl Sunday offer.
The one-day offer permanently waives the monthly fee for new online merchant accounts signing up through Visa’s Authorize.net division, along with waiving transaction fees for the first 100,000 transactions.
“One of the most important stories within the digital payments revolution is small businesses,” Mearkle…