Why and How to Implement QR Code for Payments

by Mila Slesar

If you are a fintech company or business owner seeking to improve your customers’ experience, here you may find a feasible solution – implement QR code for payments into your app.

The QR (Quick Response) type of barcode was created by the Japanese company DENSO in 1994. Initially, they were used during the production and shipping of cars but gradually gained traction worldwide for applications that included item identification and marketing. 

QR codes became widespread during the 2000s when camera phones became commonplace. Several years ago, iOS and Android platforms integrated the ability to scan QR codes into their default camera apps, paving the way for the QR use explosion.

Among other uses, QR codes have become a popular mobile payment method. The increasing penetration of smartphones and high-speed internet promoted its massive adoption, especially in emerging markets like Africa and the Indian subcontinent. 

China can be regarded as the champion of QR code payment app development. The Chinese online payment giants Alipay (owned by the largest retailer Alibaba) and WeChat Pay started using QR codes for payments via their applications in 2011 and 2013, respectively. With 92% of consumers using these digital wallets, the feature gained popularity quickly. In 2016, one-third of payments in the country were already occurring with the help of QR codes.

Over the past decade, standardized QR code payments have become the norm in countries like Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

QR code mobile payments took longer to become widespread in the West. Although well-known in the UK, Scandinavia, US, Canada, and Australia, they are still in the early stages of adoption.

A major boost came when COVID-19 made contactless payments and data sharing a preferred method of interactions between merchants and consumers. By September 2020, around 65% of people had used a QR code to make a payment. By April of 2021, the number had risen to 83%.

A study from Juniper Research predicted the total number of QR code payment users to exceed 2.2 billion in 2025, equating to 29% of all mobile phone users. The report predicts much of this growth within emerging markets, where access to traditional banking companies is limited, cash is unreliable, and smartphone adoption has significantly outpaced the adoption of credit cards.

Although US merchants don’t use QR codes as widely as in China, the increasing adoption of payment apps like Cash App and Venmo that use QR codes may change this soon. The country can expect a growth of 240% in user numbers between 2020-2025.

The growing need for cashless payments and recognition of their benefits will facilitate customer demand and implementation among merchants worldwide. Online payment companies that aim to provide more convenient and safe customer experiences shouldn’t fall behind. 

In this article, we will explain:

  • how a QR code works for payment processing
  • the benefits of implementation of QR code-enabled payments
  • where they are applied successfully
  • how to implement QR code for payments

How Do QR Code Payments Work?

A QR code is a pattern of black squares arranged on a white background grid representing machine-readable information. Three small squares are present in the lower and upper left corners and upper right corner; occasionally, there’s also an image.

The QR Code Generation Standard allows for encrypting:

  • 7,089 digits
  • 4,296 Latin letters and numbers
  • 1,817 hieroglyphs
  • 2,953 bytes of binary code (i.e. 2,953 Cyrillic letters in Windows-1251 or 1,450 in UTF-8)

The number of squares per side can vary, e.g., 33 x 33 or 177 x 177. The more squares, the more information the code contains. For example, 177 x 177 squares can contain 4,296 characters or 23,648 bits.

A QR code can be scanned, read, and decoded by imaging devices, such as:

  • a barcode reader that can scan QR codes
  • a tablet or smartphone with an in-built QR code scanner in its camera (it’s worth mentioning that not all Android phones can recognize QR codes by default)
  • a mobile device with an installed dedicated QR code scanner app

Another essential technology is deep links. Software developers need to generate a link that will open a specific webpage or screen in a particular app on the phone and allow the user to input some data.

The payments can be made within one payment application, and a code generated by one app most likely will not be valid for a transaction via another. So, businesses that implement QR code for payments need to choose a popular payment platform and a mobile app that supports this payment method. (Usually, a country would have either a single dominant payment app or a compatibility agreement between the two dominant apps.)

Suppose a merchant uses WeChat Pay to accept QR payments. If they want to charge $90 per item, they need to create a database entry consisting of:

a) the amount – $90

b) the account to transfer the amount to

c) the product or service sold (and any other information)

This record in the database is assigned a number, from which a QR code is generated. When a customer scans this QR code with the same WeChat application, the program would decrypt the QR code, refer to the database, use the number to find the record with details, and thus find out how much to transfer and to whom.

Two types of QR codes are distinguished:

1 ) Static QR codes

This type of QR code contains the URL of the actual destination website and holds only the details of an individual digital payment account. When scanned with a smartphone, it will launch a browser tab and navigate to a webpage that contains a shopping cart or payment information. The payer needs to input the amount to transfer to the merchant.

Static QR codes are reusable and often come in the form of stickers placed in areas where customers pay for goods and services.

2) Dynamic QR code

A dynamic QR code is generated at the time of a transaction, includes encoded details of a particular payment, encrypts a number determined by the time, and has a limited service life, for example, 30 seconds. The number recognizes the website and the application on the phone linked to the site. The phone owner is thus the only one to know the code.

Dynamic QR codes offer a better experience to the merchant who can issue multiple codes for different items and enjoy greater control over the payment amount.

There are two distinct ways to pay with QR code: merchant-presented and customer-presented modes.

1. Merchant-presented mode

This process requires merchants to generate a QR code that their customers will scan to pay for goods and services with their smartphones.

The QR code can be displayed:

  • at the shop’s check-out
  • at restaurant tables, hotel rooms, etc.
  • on printed menus, marketing materials, outdoor signs, etc.
  • on individual products
  • on the website’s payment page
  • on a paper bill or electronic invoice
  • on the merchant’s phone
  • on the point-of-sale (POS) terminal that automatically generates the code for a total being charged to a customer

The steps and components of the payment process vary, depending, among other things, on whether the merchant and the customer use the same payment app. However, it always begins with

1) scanning a QR code for payments with a smartphone’s camera or a dedicated mobile app

2) Decoding the QR code. (It can be done on the device, but without Internet connection, you can’t do anything with the information.)

If the customer uses the merchant’s app, a payment page will open within that app, e.g., Alipay, WeChat Pay, SumUpiDEAL, etc. For example, they may see a form with the automatically filled-in data on the purchase. They just have to accept the transaction in their application. 

If not, the customer would usually see a push notification first; if clicked, it would take them to a payment page. This page may suggest paying with Apple Pay or Google Pay or input their debit/credit card details, like Hips Merchant App does, for example. Otherwise, the customer may be prompted to download the merchant’s app in their mobile web browser.

Typically, a POS generates a dynamic QR code after the customer rings up their items for purchase. Otherwise, the merchant may tell the sum to type and confirm. If a store-specific application is used, offers and loyalty points may be applied, and sometimes, payers can change the amount to give a tip or make a donation. It’s essential that the POS terminal and the app on the customer’s phone belong to the same bank; otherwise, the flow will not work.

Once the customer has clicked ‘Pay,’ a transaction request is issued to a card issuer or mobile wallet while transmitting the transaction details to the merchant. After the payment is processed, the amount is deducted from the customer’s account and added to the merchant’s current balance. Both see the payment completion notification, and the customer may receive an email receipt.

2. Customer-presented mode

In this model, the merchant’s POS system features a scanner with which they can scan a customer’s QR code to proceed with a transaction.

Customers need to have a relevant company or payment app installed on their mobile devices. When the POS system confirms the total transaction amount at the check-out, the customer must display a personal QR code in the app to identify their card details. The scanner will read it and send an appropriate payment request through the payment app.

Businesses need not necessarily choose between the two modes. Many modern QR-enabled POS terminals can both generate and scan QR codes. Companies operating in different markets and handling different transactions may favor one method over the other.

EMVCo, the organization that facilitates worldwide interoperability and acceptance of secure payment transactions, has issued standardized guidelines for both methods.

Now, let us list some of the reasons why consumers opt for and businesses implement QR codes for payments in their workflows.

The Benefits of Implementing QR Codes for Payments

Customers tend to consider three factors when deciding on a payment method: ease of use, simplicity, and security. If the software developers build the necessary architecture correctly, using a QR code for payment can meet all three criteria and offer other advantages to consumers and businesses alike.

Greater appeal to customers

A practical and user-friendly in-store or ecommerce check-out implies that a customer can choose a preferred way to pay for a service or goods. The greater variety of payment options, the better the customer experience, and the more customers can be served.

For example, businesses catering to tourists accustomed to QR code mobile payments can benefit from accepting such payments through digital wallets like Alipay or the Indian Paytm.

The ability to pay with a QR code will also appeal to the younger generation of ‘digital natives.’

Convenience and safety for customers

A QR code provides a simple interface for a quick payment anywhere and at any time. A person doesn’t have to carry or even own a payment card; if they do, there is no need to share any bank account or card details, keeping the information safe from theft. 

Even after the pandemic, customers and businesses are increasingly comfortable with socially distanced payments. Using QR codes for payment transfers also eliminates the need to handle cash, fostering a safer, more secure, and comfortable environment for all.

Security and reliability

Making payments using either QR code presentation mode allows for greater data security than traditional systems. When a consumer’s card data or other payment information is not read by a merchant’s POS system, exposed to the personnel, or stored on ecommerce companies’ servers but is retained on a private device, the risk of fraud or a security breach is reduced.

QR codes also reduce the possibility of errors. Built-in integrity checks make it possible to read even a partially damaged or obscured QR code. Each payment requires the payer’s final approval to be completed.

Faster service and payments

Modern customers have the patience neither for lengthy check-outs nor for waiting. Payments using QR codes are faster as compared to other modes. Typically, users only need to open the necessary app, scan the QR code, and confirm the payment. This way, QR codes placed outside a restaurant or street food stall, for example, solve the problem of queues because customers don’t need to wait to order and pay for their food.

High internet speeds allow for nearly instant payment processing, so it takes 1-3 seconds on average to complete payment. 

Without queues, interpretation, fumbling around for change, etc., the entire process of serving customers can become more efficient. This helps speed up sales, increase the number of customers a business can serve, and focus on providing the best customer experience.

Greater convenience and efficiency for businesses

Merchants can accept QR payments on the go, using their phone, without having to share bank details, and even without being present there.

It’s much easier to set up QR code for payments than to operate cumbersome manual POS card readers. It’s enough to have a smartphone with an installed payment app and a printed or electronic QR code. If several employees are in different locations, each employee just needs to download the app on their phone to accept payments. All payments will be deposited into one account and displayed on one dashboard, facilitating their management from one location and reducing the number of systems and Excel spreadsheets to handle.

QR codes can help track store visitors’ movements and collect customer data, such as when and where they made the purchase. Knowing more about their customers, businesses can personalize their services, e.g., making special offers or adjusting the reward programs.

Accessibility and affordability

QR codes are democratizing payments for businesses: with the right mobile payment provider, anyone can accept payments through Visa, Mastercard, Google Pay, and Apple Pay wallets with their smartphone. A business doesn’t need to invest in expensive POS terminals or other hardware, pay monthly fees, and commit to a contract that may be too expensive for a small retailer. Smartphone-based QR payments also eliminate the ‘invisible costs’ associated with:

  • cash payments, such as security and physical transportation costs
  • credit cards and prepaid money, such as transaction fees and card reader maintenance costs.

Here are some examples of businesses that successfully implement QR codes for payments.

Use Cases for QR Payments 

Ordering food

Coronavirus has been especially tough on the food and hospitality sectors. Since early 2020, QR codes have been facilitating online orders and socially distanced payments at takeaway pickup points, street food stalls, restaurants, cafés, bars, and other hospitality venues so effectively that some managed to grow and increase revenue during the pandemic.

A QR code can be placed on each table so patrons can scan them to launch a browser window with the menu, pick the dishes they want, and pay for the order from their phones. Diners can also scan a QR code outside the venue, on posters or printed flyers distributed on streets, or on a website to view the menu, make bookings, and pre-order meals to collect upon arrival. When the personnel doesn’t need to take orders manually, it becomes easier and faster to prepare and deliver meals and serve more people in less time.

The process can be even more efficient and touch-free for street food retailers and patrons. A customer would scan a QR code on a market stall, place their order, and pay from a safe distance with their phone. The cook receives the order request instantly through a mobile app. Once the meal is ready, the customer simply needs to pick it up.

Travel and transportation

QR codes enable travelers to book tickets for buses and trains or pay for public transport services on the spot with a few clicks on their phone.

QR codes also make it simple to launch an app for renting a scooter or parking a car and pay for a service on the go. For example, a user would search and book a parking space through a mobile application and then scan the QR code at the parking garage to make the payment.

Toll payment wallet apps coupled with QR codes at toll booths facilitate quick and simple toll payments. Similarly, fuel retail wallet solutions may use static or dynamic QR codes to make payments easier for patrons.

Local taxi business 

In the taxi industry, not offering a preferred payment method can result in missing out on several hires every shift or losing a particular customer for good. QR codes provide a handy way for small to medium taxi businesses to accept mobile wallets and card payments without buying a card reader for each taxi.  

The drivers of a local taxi business can turn their smartphones into card machines by installing a dedicated payment mobile app. The business owner needs to add drivers to the company’s account in the same app. When required, the driver would enter the total price on the app, which would turn it into a QR code. The customer would scan it with their phone, input their card details or use Apple/Google Pay, and complete the payment. 

The payment goes directly into the firm’s account. The business owner doesn’t have to spend hours gathering the drivers’ earnings at the end of the week and can easily track all transactions on their dashboard. It makes the paperwork, financial, and staff management easier. In return, they need to pay a modest transaction fee.

This model can be handy for any business that needs to manage several employee accounts but can’t afford expensive equipment for all.

E-ticketing services

Events and ticketing services widely use QR codes. Scanning a QR code outside of a venue, such as a cinema, theater, stadium, museum, amusement park, etc., people can access the schedule, book a ticket with their phone, and pay for admission on the spot.

Street vendors and small businesses

Street vendors with minimal goods range often have a static QR code displayed on the counter. It reveals a single product’s description and price and demands a payment confirmation or requires entering the price of a particular product and clicking ‘Pay.’

Otherwise, a merchant can generate an invoice and a QR code for paying the particular amount and display it on their smartphone. The patron would scan the dynamic QR code and pay from their mobile wallet app.

Larger businesses with several vendors can print a QR code for each, indicating the cash register location and other details. When a customer scans a vendor’s QR code, the cash register sends the receipt to the customer’s smartphone. The customer confirms the payment.

In-store payments

QR codes’ ability to combine payments and loyalty makes them ideal for retailers seeking to leverage valuable transactional data. Walmart launched its branded QR code-based mobile payment app as early as 2015.

Customer-presented QR codes are widely used in China by large retailers like Starbucks and McDonald’s.


As retailers increasingly encourage patrons to pay with QR codes, more and more consumers will expect online stores to provide the same check-out experience. It reduces the risk of missing out on sales when a debit or credit card is unavailable while facilitating an easy payment from a desktop PC.

You can display a QR code for payment on the check-out page. When the visitor scans it with a mobile device, they will be able to pay using their mobile banking app, Google Pay, or Apple Pay.

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Online stores must choose a payment gateway or ecommerce solution that supports QR payments. For example, Stripe supports QR codes generated for use with the AlipayBancontact, and WeChat Pay apps. 

These are only several examples of applications of QR code payments. You may wish to integrate this payment method into your unique business or build a QR code payment app that an entire industry would adopt. It’s time to learn how.

How to Implement QR Code for Payments

Alternative-spaces’s specialists can help you integrate QR code payments into your business in many ways. For example, we can:

  • Create a vendor’s QR code with the encrypted number of the card to which customers should transfer money after decrypting it with a specific banking app.
  • Develop an ecommerce website with QR codes for payment at the check-out. They will include an encrypted link to the payment system website, the amount due, and the recipient.
  • Add QR code for payments into your app for iOS or Android devices.
  • Build a retail/grocery mobile app with an integrated QR code that contains the user’s encrypted card data or other information they may display at the check-out.  
  • Develop a scanner app for QR codes.
  • Build a QR code generator.
  • Develop a mobile payment system employing QR payments. 
  • Advise on how to solve a business problem using this technology.

We will start with identifying the business goals and problems, figuring out a solution, and formulating clear product requirements. This step is necessary for optimizing the budget and ensuring that the client and the development team have the same understanding of the project.

Alternative-spaces’s UX/UI experts can help you create an efficient, user-friendly interface for the QR payments feature or the whole application.

Developers experienced in creating QR code payment solutions will select the optimal technology and implement the QR code feature to ensure excellent usability, performance, and fintech security.

Wrapping Up

In China, QR-enabled mobile payments take over as the preferred payment method at street food stalls and luxury department stores alike. The necessity for contactless payments and the low-cost nature and other benefits of QR code payments will facilitate their growth, bringing a touch-free cashless world closer. Global spending via QR payments is expected to reach $3 trillion in 2025

Whether a small taxi company, a luxury resort, or a street vendor, businesses always strive to provide a better payment experience. Each of them can benefit from using QR codes.

Are you interested in QR code payment app development? Do you wish to integrate QR codes into your online check-out? Do you need advice on leveraging the benefits of QR codes for your business? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Alternative-spaces!

Frequently Asked Questions

What applications of QR code mobile payments are popular now?

Traditionally cash-based businesses where POS equipment would be impractical adopt QR code payments to take mobile wallet and card payments.

QR codes are widely used for facilitating fast and safe payments in industries like hospitality, brick-and-mortar and online stores, e-ticketing, and travel and public transportation.

What are the benefits of QR payments?

  • The greater variety of payment methods appeals to customers.
  • QR code payments are fast, convenient, secure, and hygienic.
  • Businesses can implement QR code payments simply and cheaply. 
  • They are convenient and efficient.
  • Faster service and payments enable businesses to serve more customers better.
  • They help improve a business’ marketing strategies.

Are QR codes a safe payment method?

QR payments provide one of the safest payment methods. However, users shouldn’t scan unknown QR codes or enter personal and financial information into unknown web pages.

Content created by our partner, Onix-systems.

Source: https://onix-systems.com/blog/how-to-implement-qr-code-for-payments

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